The term “racism” identifies a form of prejudice linked to a misconception according to which the human species is a set of genetically different and hierarchically unequal races. Therefore, this expression is used to indicate any discriminatory action that some people exerts on individuals with a different physical appearance mainly due to the colour of the complexion, the different type of hair and the shape of the eyes or even because they belong to different countries, cultures, religions and social classes.
Racism arises ideologically from the fear of the other and has a specific development. Over the centuries, this phenomenon has resulted in dramatic events that have also affected recent times. Among these we remember the forced civilization and process of colonization carried out by the Europeans on the African, Asian and American peoples during the period of colonial imperialism which occurred at the end of the 19th century; the black trade with which many Africans were sold as slaves on plantations in America in the late 1400s; racial discrimination against black Americans that ended with equal rights only in the 1970s, thanks also to the commitment of anti-racist movements; the “apartheid”, a policy enacted against the black majority in South Africa by the white minority in power, through which black people were not entitled to the same rights as white people. Let’s think of a normal action such as going to the same school, playing on the same team or sitting together in a restaurant or on a bus: what sounds natural to us wasn’t allowed at the time. And again, the horrifying persecutions against the Jewish, a crime against life, carried out by the Germans during the Second World War.
Fortunately, over time there have been great personalities who have stood up for freedom and the civil rights and they are still taken as an example today such as Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, a South African activist and politician who vowed his life to fight against violence and racial segregation. His political and social commitment led to the end of “apartheid” and the birth of the new “rainbow” South Africa, where “the White” and “the Black” can have the same rights.
Seemingly, Martin Luther King, an African American pastor of a Baptist Church, led the non-violent protests against the segregation of blacks in the United States and became interested in the case of a young black seamstress, named Rosa Parks, who was arrested for not giving her seat on the bus to a white man in December 1955 in Montgomery. Thanks to the boycott of public transport, Martin Luther King was able, together with other leaders of the African American community, to stop segregation on the means of transport and to write important pages in the struggle for civil rights, becoming famous around the world until he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Unfortunately, even nowadays, we can see acts of racism that are a repetition of history. One of the most recent is the case of George Floyd, in Minnesota, a black man arrested and killed by a white police officer for being wrongly accused of using fake banknotes. During the arrest, the agent, with the help of other colleagues on the scene, pinned him to the ground by putting his knee on his neck and continuing to press, despite the fact Floyd was begging to be freed, he could not breathe. After a few minutes, the poor Floyd had no more reactions; he was taken to the hospital and the doctors declared his death one hour later.
Being aware of the fact that today this kind of tragic events can happen fills our heart with sadness and frustration: the sacrifices made in the past by many people to fight all kinds of violence and intolerance seem to make silent their message and actions.
In our hyper-globalized world where individuals of different ethnicity, culture, religion, customs and habits co-live, the phenomenon of racial discrimination should not even be an option.
Racism is a real form of threat to human freedom, to peaceful coexistence as well as being a clear demonstration of inhumanity. To fight it, it is certainly necessary to eliminate the prejudices that often arise from misunderstanding, ignorance, meanness and make things appear different from how they are, so it is easy to fall into the horror of violence, moving away from the truth.
Therefore, it is increasingly necessary to spread, especially among the new generations, the culture of the “different” and that the word “different” is not associated with the concept of “bad” or “wrong”. Above all, we should raise our human consciences about the idea that all men, regardless of the colour of their skin, their religious beliefs, their opinions, their ethnic origins, are equal to each other and have the same “right to life”. It is our job to make Martin Luther King’s “dream” come true and honour his memory and actions.