Us-Feeling Together towards a shared sense of community

Talking about racism is never easy, but it is (unfortunately) still necessary. Since 1966, 21 March has officially and globally been dedicated to the “Elimination of Racial Discrimination”. To mark the occasion, we would like to talk about why we should also take a stand for a shared sense of community on all other 364 days of the year and how to do exactly that. 

The origin of the “International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination” is — how could it be — not a pretty story: On 21 March 1960, 69 people were killed by police and another 300 injured during a protest in Sharpeville, South Africa. The protesters’ aim was to peacefully oppose the Apartheid regime’s so-called “pass laws”. These laws were intended to “ensure” that whites could live largely “undisturbed” in “their” areas: BIPoCs (black, indigenous and people of colour: a term used to describe individuals and groups that aren’t considered “white”) would only to be allowed to enter white residential and commercial districts at certain times in order to work. The rest of the time, they would live in distant “townships”. 

To commemorate the protests, the United Nations declared 21 March as the “International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination” in 1966. 26 years later, Nelson Mandela proclaimed South Africa’s new and democratic constitution in Sharpeville, declaring the day the “Day of Human Rights.” 

The causes of racism are manifold (and equally fatuous): Racism arises from prejudice against people who are considered foreign and from the perceived fear that one’s own culture or social prosperity might be threatened. Interestingly, racism occurs mainly where “strangers” are hardly encountered in everyday life.

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Conversely, encounters between people of different cultural backgrounds can help ensure that “foreign” is no longer equated with “scary”. As human beings, we are all different — and yet somehow the same. Our goal is to recognise, appreciate and live this. 

With Valeriana, we want to make such encounters possible. We want to reach out and join hands, for integration is never just a one-way street. We help people from different cultural backgrounds to get out of the social isolation that keeps them separate from the rest of the community and to experience real integration. We promote the development of interpersonal relationships because we believe that all forms of inter-cultural exchange enrich lives, thus enabling exactly what society needs: a pro-active and shared sense of community, 365 days a year. 

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