Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance attack the most basic notion of human rights — that everyone is equal in dignity and worth. They are an affront to basic human dignity. Nevertheless, they occur in every country of the world.
When people are socially excluded, the possibility of securing commitment to constructive participation in civil society is significantly diminished. This leads to assumptions that ethnic stereotypes are the determinants of an individual’s character. What is worrying is that certain individuals believe that race is the primary determinant of human abilities and that a certain race is inherently superior or inferior to others. It is appalling that people should believe that their fellow human beings are to be treated differently according to their racial designation.
Aside from the Action 3 EU Youth Programme, stating “All different. All equal” whose aim is to target the younger generation, further steps must be taken to increase the participation rate of students especially from disadvantaged and marginalised communities in the formal educational system. It is the right time for respective competencies to seek to extend and promote among young people more active learning, focused on the needs of civil society in facilitating their engagement in voluntary activity and their involvement in cultural, sporting and recreational activities and validate their work, while taking into account the needs of the labour market.
We must increase efforts to combat racism and xenophobia, promote the full integration of immigrants and ethnic minorities into our society, whilst respecting cultural and religious diversity, recognizing and building awareness on their positive contribution and potential, and help bring about solidarity and mutual understanding.
Though actions started being taken, we are still miles away from being effective. It is time to adopt more efficient and direct policies on migration and integration in our educational system in the interest of the current and future population that is based on the recognition of fundamental social rights of current citizens as well as newcomers, and that is embedded in strong development policies.
Most educational institutions are ill-equipped to step up the fight against racism and xenophobia. Information pertaining to these is limited and not generally available to all students. Educational systems do not strive to break down misconceptions held by students about irregular immigrants, ethnic minorities and other socially excluded people. The issue of racism and xenophobia is very often ignored in our educational institutions and not enough is done to make students aware of these social ills. If our educational system truly believes in the importance of holistic education and lifelong learning, it is imperative to stress that racism and xenophobia only serve to increase intolerance and narrow minds.
We are convinced that these efforts should also include the promotion of dialogue and cooperation between the different segments of society at the local and national levels, including dialogue and cooperation between different cultural, ethnic and religious communities.
Unfortunately, students, mainly post-secondary and tertiary ones, are not given precise information on the matter and for many inciting racial hate is a right, which if stopped is an infringement of the basic human right. In fact, whilst expressing concern over the rise of extremist and xenophobic parties and growing public acceptance of their views, the European Parliament, in a resolution adopted on the 27th of January 2004, welcomed the declared intention of the Luxembourg Presidency to restart the stalled discussions on the proposal for a Council Framework Decision on combating Racism and Xenophobia, and urged the Council to reach agreement on a ban on incitement to racial and religious hatred throughout the EU while preserving legitimate free speech.
As youth, we are appalled at the racist and xenophobic comments we come across. Racism and xenophobia need not be as direct as the harassing of irregular immigrants, ethnic minorities or socially excluded people and can be as subtle as the circulation of offensive material.
The mass media should ensure that these messages also pass through to the general public and not merely seek sensationalism which leads to misconceptions on such a fundamental matter. As Francis Bacon once said:
“Men’s thoughts are much according to their inclination; their discourse and speeches according to their learning and infused opinions; but their deeds are after as they have been accustomed.”
Holistic education is the only key to success. Is action going to be taken now or are we willing to risk the consequences not taking this essential step?