The slave trade’s “legacy of racism” haunts the world to this day, according to UN chief Antonio Guterres.
“We can draw a straight line from the centuries of colonial exploitation to the social and economic inequalities of today,” Guterres said in a message on Saturday to mark the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
“And we can recognize the racist tropes popularized to rationalize the inhumanity of the slave trade in the white supremacist hate that is resurgent today,” he added.
The “evil enterprise of enslavement lasted for over 400 years” and has a “history of suffering and barbarity that shows humanity at its worst,” said the UN secretary-general.
“Millions of African children, women, and men were trafficked across the Atlantic, ripped from their families and homelands – their communities torn apart, their bodies commodified, their humanity denied,” he said.
There is also “a history of awe-inspiring courage that shows human beings at their best – starting with enslaved people who rose up against impossible odds and extending to the abolitionists who spoke out against this atrocious crime,” he added.
Today, Guterres asserted, it is “incumbent on us all to fight slavery’s legacy of racism.”
Education ‘most powerful weapon’
The International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade is marked annually on March 25 since 2007.
This year’s theme is: “Fighting slavery’s legacy of racism through transformative education,” which is what Guterres alluded to in his message.
“The most powerful weapon in our arsenal is education,” he said.
“By teaching the history of slavery, we help to guard against humanity’s most vicious impulses. By studying the assumptions and beliefs that allowed the practice to flourish for centuries, we unmask the racism of our own time.”
He said commemorating the day is an attempt to “restore some measure of dignity to those who were so mercilessly stripped of it.”
“Today and every day, let us stand united against racism and together build a world in which everyone, everywhere can live lives of liberty, dignity, and human rights,” he concluded.
A separate UN statement also focused on the “racist ideology” behind the slave trade.
“The enslavement of over 13 million Africans during the Transatlantic Slave Trade was driven by the racist ideology that these women, men and children were inferior because of the color of their skin,” read the statement.