Enough

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By United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed

Marches for racial justice and equality are filling the streets of cities and towns around the world.

The most recent trigger for these protests was the killing of George Floyd in an appalling act of police brutality.

But the violence spans history and borders alike, across the globe.

Today, people are saying, loudly and movingly, “Enough”.

The United Nations has a duty to respond to the anguish that has been felt by so many for so long.

This cause is at the heart of our Organization’s identity.

As UN Secretary-General António Guterres recently said, “The position of the United Nations on racism is crystal clear: this scourge violates the United Nations Charter and debases our core values.”

Equal rights are enshrined in our founding Charter.

Just as we fought apartheid years ago, so must we fight the hatred, oppression and humiliation today.

We must also never forget the crimes and the negative impacts, in Africa and beyond, of the transatlantic slave trade, one of history’s most appalling manifestations of human barbarity.

Across the world, Afro-descendants continue to be trapped in generational cycles of poverty created by unfair obstacles to their development.

They receive unequal services and face unjustifiable housing and employment practises. Racial profiling is widespread.

And because of poverty and structural racism, they are also among the communities most impacted by COVID-19.

As we recover from the pandemic, returning to these systems is out of the question.

We also need measures that will genuinely re-set law enforcement.

After all, the battle against racism did not end with this or that legislation, and racism was not vanquished by this or that election.

The poison of racism still rages, and so the fight must still be waged.

A peaceful march takes place in New York City in June 2020.

This was underscored in a statement by UN Under-Secretaries-General who are African or of African Descent.

As they put it: “Not enough can ever be said about the deep trauma and inter-generational suffering that has resulted from the racial injustice perpetrated through centuries, particularly against people of African descent. To merely condemn expressions and acts of racism is not enough. We must go beyond and do more.”

On a personal level, as a woman of Nigerian descent studying in the United Kingdom through my career across the private sector, civil society and now international public service, I have grown a thick skin.

I have even become numb, to the extent that one has forgotten how to feel the injustice of racial slurs and my human right to live a life of dignity and respect.

When I consider the beauty of my diversity and the amazing diversity of race, when I reflect on the truth that we are born equal, only to find that the colour of one’s skin sentences us to a life of discrimination and injustice, I ask myself and I ask people everywhere:

How can we possibly continue to turn the other way?

Enough is enough.

The world must rise to end racism in all its obnoxious forms.

Let us turn the page of history today by making this a turning point when we agree that all humans have the right to thrive with dignity and freedom from racism and discrimination in all its forms.

I too, like Martin Luther King Jr, have a dream where my granddaughter Maya will grow up in a world where she will not be judged by the colour of her skin but by the strength of her character.

Lasting peace and sustainable development can only be built on the equality, human rights and dignity of everyone.

The United Nations, its leadership and staff, stands with all those who are pursuing the end of the scourge of racism in all its forms.

This is today’s sacred battle.

This post was excerpted from a statement delivered at the 43rd Session of the Human Rights Council: Urgent debate on Racially Inspired Human Rights Violations on 17 June 2020.

Amina J. Mohammed is the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations.

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