By Anish Saini, CAPA Vice President (National Operations Committee)
“Everyone belongs” are two simple words but they give out such a strong message.
To spread that message around, Harmony Day has this as its punchline. Harmony Day is a celebration of our cultural diversity – a day of cultural respect for everyone who call Australia home. It is held every year on 21 March and coincides with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Harmony Day is widely celebrated across all university campuses and is usually a very festive day and students from all cultures and faiths get involved to make the day a success. Such display of unity in diversity re-enforces my faith in humanity. To me it says that we are all human beings before we are divided by our beliefs, religion, faiths, nationalities and even colour. This is something that we should never forget wherever we might go or with whomever we interact.
Days that celebrate diversity have become even more important in the current political atmosphere. From controversial leaders being elected as heads of state, to the resurgence of nationalistic parties in several countries, we are seeing more countries becoming insular. The travel ban which was brought on in the United States has caused heightened animosity which led to increase in the number of racial attacks and a vast number of people being told to go back to ‘their homes / countries’ and several others being shot at point blank range.
These racial attacks are not just limited to the US, but we have also seen a rise here in Australia too. First, there were reports of a Chinese woman being attacked in Sydney, then an Indian student was attacked in Tasmania and more recently are the offensive and racist flyers which were found in several universities in Melbourne. One of the news reports claim that the reason behind the resurgence of racial attacks in Australia is the ‘Trump effect’. Such racial attacks just re-affirm the views of racist leaders and encourage them to make more controversial and racist statements. And the cycle goes on and on.
Are we that naïve that the enforced viewpoint of one person makes us hate the person who does not look like us or believe in the same things as us? This rise of xenophobia needs to end and the responsibility to do that is on us. Universities are not only places of education but also places which promote and foster diversity. I believe every student and academic across campuses are wise enough to know the difference between right and wrong. No one needs to a superhero to take on racism head-on, but the need of the hour is to fight xenophobia one step at a time. The simplest that one can do is become more accepting towards the next persons’ thoughts, beliefs, culture, etc. If you see someone being racist towards someone, take it upon yourself to help the victim and educate the attacker.
These may all sound like very basic things that everyone is already aware of, but ask yourself how many times you have done any of the above or how many times have you shied away from a situation, just because you did not want get involved. Hence, begin with taking a pledge today that you will not be quiet anymore – but that you will fight racism in the loudest way possible, i.e. by showing solidarity. Brick by brick, hand in hand we will be able to cage racism. I leave you to ponder upon the great words of Nelson Mandela – “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”