What is Racism?

Do something about racism.Racism is the expression, through attitudes, words or actions, of the belief that all members of a race have the same characteristics, abilities, or qualities and that these are inferior or superior to another race or races.

Much of the racism that occurs can be characterised as casual racism (opens in a new window) – everyday incidents of racism that aren't necessarily violent or consciously malicious, but that 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 they actually 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 beliefs

  • that people of a certain race do not fit in Australia
  • that everyone in Australia needs to be the same
  • that people who migrate to or seek asylum in Australia need to assimilate

Racist behaviour

  • Offensive, humiliating and  intimidating verbal expressions or actions towards somebody because of their race;
  • actively avoiding or excluding people of a specific race;
  • denying people of a specific race goods and services such as education, housing, and retail assistance

Video on racism in Australia

All Together Now (opens in a new window) has a video and more information on racism in Australia.

Frequently Asked Questions about Racism

The most common questions about racism are covered on All Together Now Frequently Asked Questions (opens in a new window).

Do something about racism

This is the name of our bystander anti-racism campaign because it calls on members of the Western Sydney University community to act when they witness racism – that is to be active anti-racism bystanders.

As part of the campaign the University ran training/workshops, a social marketing/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 the University of Western Sydney (UWS)?". The results of this research are summarised in the report "Evaluating the Effectiveness of Three Organisational Bystander Anti-Racism Strategies" (DOCX, 87.34 KB / PDF, 403.17 KB).

In the second half of 2016 the Equity and Diversity unit will again be conducting the Bystander Anti-racism Training.

Types of bystander anti-racism action

There are many types of bystander anti-racism action that can be taken, including:

  • Reporting the incident to someone in a position of authority (e.g. teacher, supervisor, referee)
  • Reporting the incident to police
  • Reporting the incident to anti-discrimination agency/authority
  • Seeking the help of friends, passersby or colleagues
  • Confronting or disagreeing with the perpetrator
  • Calling it 'racism' or 'discrimination' (if it is safe or productive to do so)
  • Comforting or supporting the person(s) targeted
  • Expressing upset feelings
  • Interrupting or distracting the perpetrator
  • Using humour or making fun of the perpetrator

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, accessed 7 May 2014)

Racism on public transport

Find out what to do if you witness racism on public transport (opens in a new window).