What is racism?

Racism takes many forms and can happen in many places. It includes prejudice, discrimination or hatred directed at someone because of their colour, ethnicity or national origin. People often associate racism with acts of abuse or harassment; however, it doesn’t need to involve violent or intimidating behaviour. Sometimes racism can occur in more subtle ways. The Human Rights Commission provides further definition of what is racism?

Much of the racism that occurs can be characterised as casual racism – everyday incidents of racism that aren't necessarily violent or consciously malicious, but perpetuate stereotypes about different cultures through jokes and offhand comments.

Racism can also be systemic – that is, some groups and organisations can have rules that seem to be fair to everyone – but in actual fact these rules often make things more difficult for people from particular cultural or ethnic backgrounds.

Racism also includes treating someone less fairly because of their ethnic identity, religion, cultural practices or nationality.

Racism is more than just words, beliefs and actions. It includes all the barriers that prevent people from enjoying dignity and equality because of their race.  Experiencing racism can have a detrimental effect on people’s health and welfare and this impacts the individual as well as our communities.

Video: Elevator - Racism. It stops with me

Source: Australian Human Rights Commission

Frequently asked questions about racism

The most common questions raised about racism are answered on All Together Now.

Do something about racism

Do Something About RacismThe “Do Something About Racism” bystander anti-racism campaign calls on members of the Western Sydney University community to act when they witness racism – that is to be active anti-racism bystanders. When bystanders don’t speak up to support the target of racism, this displays a lack of support for the person/s who is the target but also implies alliance with the perpetrator.

As part of the campaign the University ran training/workshops, a social marketing and communication campaign and a series of culturally and linguistically diverse community dinners. A research project was conducted in conjunction with the campaign asking the question: "Does participation in organisational bystander anti-racism activities increase knowledge about responding to racism and confidence to undertake bystander anti-racism at Western Sydney University?". The results of this research are summarised in the report "Evaluating the Effectiveness of Three Organisational Bystander Anti-Racism Strategies" (Opens in a new window)

What is Western Sydney University doing to combat racism?

Periodically the University holds Anti-Racism training workshops for all staff to understand the impact that racism has on the workplace and how to contribute in creating an inclusive workplace. There are also many research projects and anti-racism initiatives currently in place across the University such as: Celebrations of Cultural Diversity, provide accurate information to dispel ‘false beliefs’, everyday Anti-Racism and more.

Bystander anti-racism action

Western Sydney University Challenging Racism Project provides some tips for action that can be taken when witnessing anti-racism:

  • Reporting the incident to someone in a position of authority (e.g. staff member, supervisor, student representative)
  • Reporting the incident to WSU Security 1300 737 003 or Police 000
  • Reporting the incident to anti-discrimination agency/authority
  • Seeking the help of friends, passersby or colleagues
  • If it is safe to do so, challenging or disagreeing with the perpetrator
  • If it is safe to do so, naming it 'racism' or 'discrimination'
  • Comforting or supporting the person(s) targeted
  • Expressing upset feelings
  • If it is safe to do so, interrupting or distracting the perpetrator
  • Using humour to distract the perpetrator or highlight the inappropriate nature of their behaviour.

The best course of action to take will depend on the specific situation. Bystanders must make an assessment of the safest and most productive course of action.

(Source: Bystander Anti-Racism)

Racism on public transport

Find out what to do if you witness racism on public transport.

Racial discrimination

Race discrimination is against the law. The law provides for protection in the workplace, in universities, and in the community amongst other places. If you feel you have been discriminated against, speak with the appropriate person in the circumstance. If you need further assistance you can contact the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW.

Video: The Invisible Discriminator

Source: Beyond Blue