RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Epsy Campbell, the vice president of Costa Rica and the first woman of African descent to hold a position at that level in Latin America, believes that young people around the world are driving a new era in the fight against racism.
“It is a generation that is not waiting for others to do, but is doing,” said Campbell in an interview with Efe in New York, where on Thursday she spoke before the UN General Assembly.
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The Costa Rican vice president was one of the most prominent voices at a meeting to review the situation of Afro-descendant communities, in which she denounced how even today “systemic racism” is a global reality that requires immediate action.
In her opinion, the great hope right now is with youth, in whom she sees an “absolute change”.
A GENERATIONAL CHANGE
“I am certain that we are in a generational change,” says Campbell, who believes that young people are showing themselves to be “much more compassionate and much more committed people,” capable of demanding justice on issues that do not affect them directly.
“Women and men who wear the T-shirts of the demands of others, who feel the pain of others in a totally different way, who take to the streets in the most unlikely countries to raise the voices of racial equality,” she says.
For this reason, she considers that the fight against racism is at “a crucial moment, because for the first time its banner is being raised by people who are not the victims of the problem, but by many others.”
“The situation of systemic racism has already reached the limit of what is not acceptable,” insists Campbell, who sees a surge in response to that situation that is not going to stop.
“I think it’s going to grow, because today’s children are more aware. They are willing to make a peaceful revolution to build the dream of a humanity where diversity is not a reason to discriminate,” she stresses.
The effects of this movement, in her opinion, are already being felt, for example with a more committed private sector that understands affirmative action and the need to incorporate people with different identities.
A PULSE WITH THE PAST
At the same time, she acknowledges that the voices of racist and xenophobic movements are becoming louder, something she attributes to a reaction to the change that is taking place. “Those who are losing power, those who feel displaced, today are coming out and happily taking off their masks,” she says.
Campbell compares the current situation to childbirth, when the most painful moment occurs as the woman is about to give birth.
“This is a time of great contradictions, of course, because we are in a dispute over the new society,” she explains, remarking that there is a “real pulse” between those who want to return to the past and those who seek a “transformation.”
RESOURCES FOR AFRO-DESCENDANTS
From governments, she argues, change must be promoted with “commitments, actions and resources” in favor of Afro-descendant communities, who still suffer today, in the case of the Americas, the aftermath of the enslavement of millions of their ancestors.
“Here in Latin America the situation is tremendous. The situation of Afro-descendants in a country like Brazil, to give an example, is unacceptable,” she points out, highlighting the number of violent deaths of young people from these communities or the attacks against leaders who defend human rights.
In her opinion, the public authorities have to undertake a “profound change”, educating sectors that are making decisions and perpetuating racism often without being aware of it; ensuring that universal services also reach the historically excluded and, in addition, putting money on the table.
“Distribution of economic resources for Afro-descendant communities is required. This is a fundamental issue. There are no public policy actions that are not coupled with money,” she insists. In this sense, she defends the need for “reparations” that include both financial support and structural reforms for governments to repair what they have “made invisible”.
“Various human groups globally have received economic reparations and I don’t see why, when talking about the issues of Africans and Afro-descendants, the issue of money cannot be mentioned,” she points out.
Among the actions that Costa Rica is promoting at the United Nations and that Campbell addressed in several meetings this week are the creation of a permanent forum for Afro-descendants, the promotion of an international coalition against systemic racism and for reparations, and the implementation of a joint strategy of African and Afro-descendant women for inclusion.