It had been more than 20 years since I visited the United States, and this time, for various reasons, I came to dedicate some time to writing and investigating the importance of black women in the creation of Indo-American nations. In November, I received an invitation from Juan Jiménez Mayor, Peru’s permanent representative to the Organization of American States, to represent our country before the Committee on Legal and Political Issues at the OAS Permanent Council.
There, I was supposed to expound upon racism, discrimination and intolerance, as well as the critical actions necessary to reverse this legacy. As part of the discussion, I presented the following remarks: “Today when the airplane door was opened upon our arrival to American soil, an exchange of stares and a hidden smile toward an African-American worker made my heart tremble, reminding me of the voyage my ancestors took to this part of the hemisphere. But on the connection to Washington from Miami, I found myself in the same line with a white woman right next to me who immediately showed her racial intolerance. At that moment I remembered my mission, the purpose of my trip and the presentation that had been entrusted to me. I then decide to change my presentation by defining the meaning of the terms in question: intolerance, segregation, and racism.
“Firstly, intolerance is the lack of ability or will to tolerate something in a political or social sense; it is defined as the lack of acceptance of points of view, customs, and/or traditions of other people, groups, communities, regions, countries, races or entities, oftentimes becoming aggressive. Regarding segregation, this is the action of establishing differences that threaten equality, in that it implies hierarchical positioning among social groups – meaning that situation when a group is built up with more legitimacy or power than the others, protected by racial, political, and/or religious differences.
“For me, this is the breaking point and fine line that tenuously separates us from the racism that is defined as complete distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on motives of race, color, lineage or national/ethnic origin, which results in the nullification or lessening of recognition of the conditions of inequality in human rights and fundamental human liberties. Therefore, we arrive at the conclusion that these three terms, in their conceptual form, have the same value, becoming a trilogy that, without a doubt, we must attack.”
Upon finishing the presentation, I was immediately called upon to endorse a proposal to establish a project team that will develop an action plan related to the International Decade for People of African Descent, for which Peru endorsed Colombia’s position considering the tasks set to be carried out. A firm strike of the gavel solidified the proposal to create a commission presided over by Colombia’s sister country. At this time, it’s important to emphasize part of the introduction for the action plan proposed by the Colombians:
“According to data from the World Bank, the Afro-descendant population in Latin America and the Caribbean is made up of approximately 150 million people — approximately 30 percent of the total population — and it’s found among the poorest groups on the continent; this statistic does not include the more than 40 million African descendants in North America. The studies conducted reveal that race and ethnicity are integral factors in social measurement of social exclusion and poverty that African descendants face. At the same time, it’s important to emphasize that in spite of solid economic growth in the region, it’s estimated that Afro-descendants continue to experience disproportionate levels of poverty, social exclusion and discrimination at all levels. Approximately 80 percent of African descendants in Latin America and the Caribbean make less than $2 per day, which represents an excessive proportion of poor [people] in the region. It’s more likely that the average citizen in the region who is born in a poor neighborhood will receive a lower quality education, will encounter more difficulty entering and remaining in the work force, will earn a below-average salary, will be affected by violent and criminal activities, will be under-represented in the national political arena, will receive lesser coverage in formal pension systems upon retirement, and will die younger.”
Without a doubt, 2015 has seen significant changes in working for the rights of African descendants and in the continuity of actions against racial discrimination. In Peru’s case, the work of Juan Jiménez Mayor has been instrumental on this issue.
Without a doubt, 2015 has marked changes in the work for rights of African descendants.