Zero Discrimination Day: Defining Issues and Taking Action

Zero Discrimination Day is observed to promote equality before the law and in practice of the law – throughout all the member countries of the United Nations. Launched by UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé, the first celebration of Zero Discrimination Day happened on March 1, 2014.

In order to truly promote the message of doing away with ideas of segregation that place human beings into unfair and hurtful categories of perceived or made-up notions, we must first learn the difference between the terms that are both connected to yet commonly confused with discrimination. These terms are bias, prejudice, and racism.

  • Bias – A preference that prevents impartial thinking. 
  • Prejudice – A pre-judgment formed without fair examination of relevant information which can result in an unjustified opinion towards or against someone. 
  • Racism – A widespread social system of beliefs, practices, and at times laws that gives privilege to one or more groups and denies rights and privileges to others, based on the assumption that racial, ethnic, or cultural characteristics makes some groups superior to others. 
  • Discrimination – Actions which treat members of one group as better or worse than another group. 

Once these terms are defined, it’s evident that while the other terms are more about preconceived notions (not based in fact) and systematic oppression of certain groups, discrimination is about the personal actions some people take that either value one group or tear another one down, unjustly. So, how can we eliminate these unfair day-to-day actions?

LSBS participants engaging in an activity to reduce bias in the classroom

As Legacy’s LivingSidebySide® Program values inter-ethnic and inter-religious understanding for youth and adults, we have thought about and discussed this topic in great detail. From LivingSidebySide®, we understand that the road to coexistence starts with two primary elements: changing the way we think about those around us and taking action to promote the equality that they deserve.

Changing Thoughts:

  • We choose whether to focus on those elements in faith, history, ethnic identity, or culture that provide the excuse for preference, exclusion, oppression, and cruelty, or provide the rationale to honor difference, affirm the oneness of the human community, and unveil ways to live together in peace.  It is our choice.
  • Positive relations across boundaries of difference are not accidental.  Effort is required at every level to build new perspectives and ways of interacting: in government, in local social organizations, in public education, in economic development initiatives, in religious activity, in the media, and in the daily choices that neighbors make in how they live together.  Every positive action at any level makes a difference.

Taking Action:

  • Break outside of the box. Seek out opportunities to spend meaningful time with people who are very different from you, in situations where you can associate as equals.
  • Put into words your own core belief/values about why other human beings deserve your respect.  Then carry those words with you wherever you go.
  • In situations of cultural tension, follow the Golden RULE:

R = recognize what is happening and be able to separate facts from feelings.

U = use patience and your best communication skills.

L= lean into the discomfort, to get beyond it.

E = educate yourself, during and after.