Racial inequities are no longer hiding in plain sight. They have been laid bare by a global pandemic and recent police violence in the U.S., South Africa, and throughout the world. The systems and policies that cause health and economic disparities sprung from and are entrenched by the deep and enduring legacy of racism.
Peaceful and violent global protests have ignited over hateful abuses of power and routine oppression of people of color and other marginalized communities. The issues are complex, the signs and chants diverse, but they all boil down to this: Take action. Inspire change.
While this has long been the call to action on July 18 – the day the world celebrates the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela – this year I have newfound hope in these words.
Much of the world remembers Mandela as a leader in the fight against South Africa’s legal system of hate (apartheid) and as the country’s first democratically elected President. His ultimate goal, however, as he said at his 1964 trial, was "a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities."
His dream has yet to be realized, as South Africa remains one of the most unequal countries in the world, with extreme wealth and poverty and with urban areas starkly divided along racial lines. Still, Mandela inspires us during a challenging and painful year because he committed his life to dismantling barriers to equality and to insisting on the social justice that many are marching for today.
We can make every day a #MandelaDay by vowing to address racial inequities and their inevitable outcome: poverty. Here are 8 ways to take action and inspire change so that once and for all, we can create the peace and equality Mandela dreamed of:
- Register to vote and help others do the same.
- Examine and correct your own biases.
- Have conversations about race.
- Read to understand the history and impact of racism.
- Support anti-racism organizations.
- Advocate for laws that dismantle barriers to economic opportunity.
- Volunteer to improve the health, education, and financial stability of people living in poverty.
- Use your influence within your workplace and other organizations to address racial inequity.
The fall of apartheid showed that institutionalized racism can end. Recent attention to racial inequities calls us to push for more. The legacy of Nelson Mandela and the celebration of Mandela Day inspire us to take action and inspire change, every day.