On this International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, we honour the memory of the sixty-nine peaceful anti-apartheid protestors who were mercilessly gunned down by police officers on 21st March, 1960 in Sharpeville, South Africa. Sixty-one years after this tragic incident, discrimination on the basis of racial or ethnic origin continues to perpetuate inequalities, hatred, misunderstanding and violence here in Trinidad and Tobago and around the world.

This year’s observance celebrates “youth standing up against racism” and aims to encourage greater participation of younger generations in challenging racial prejudice and intolerance. Despite the various Covid-19 restrictions, last year millions of young people around the world mobilised, in person and online, to engage in anti-racism and social justice campaigns; the Black Lives Matter movement is but one example.

We witnessed our own eruption of bigotry in the aftermath of the 2020 General Elections with hateful rhetoric inundating social media leaving many to question the validity of the popular refrain “all ah we is one”. Regrettably, the vitriol was not unprecedented or even unexpected as racism often rears its ugly head during everyday political debate and discussion.

Putting to bed the spectre of racism once and for all requires all hands on deck, but young people can play an important and critical role. Their passion, energy and activism, noticeable during local protests last year in support of the broader global anti-racism movement, as well as during the more recent demonstrations against gender-based violence, are evidence of their capacity and desire to effect the necessary changes. They can reject the prejudice and bias of older generations and set the tone for frank and constructive conversations about race and ethnicity in this country.

I encourage all young people to push back against racism, from the seemingly innocuous but offensive comments to blatant acts of discrimination. You can dismantle the structures of racism which still dog our nation 59 years after its Independence. Let every citizen stand up and #fightracism so that Trinidad and Tobago can one day become the land in which every creed and race truly enjoys an equal place.