In the midst of COVID-19, Australians are also facing another threat: a rise in racist incidents affecting both children and adults. It’s important to reach out to people in our communities who have been targeted, and ensure they feel respected and supported.
In particular, many people from Asian backgrounds have experienced racist treatment since COVID-19 was detected. Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner reported a spike in complaints during February and March, one in four of these related to COVID-19.
And when Kids Helpline surveyed young Australians about going back to school after COVID-19 isolation, one of the concerns students raised was fear of racism.
Racism takes many forms. It includes prejudice, discrimination or hatred directed at someone because of their colour, ethnicity or national origin. It can range from violence and intimidation to name-calling, ‘jokes’, or excluding people from things like education or employment. Children and teens can be exposed to hate speech online, or to racist bullying at school, where a student is repeatedly and deliberately harmed, threatened, humiliated, belittled or left out of things on the basis of race.
Of course, these problems existed before COVID-19. For example:
To change things, we need positive bystander action. If you or your family know someone who’s experienced racism, you can:
Make contact with the person who has been harassed. For example, you might:
Every situation is different, and you’ll need to decide whether it’s safe for you to intervene. It’s important not to put yourself or other people in danger.
If it’s safe, you might decide to approach the person doing the racist behaviour and try one of the following. Where possible, keep your manner calm and respectful.
Other tactics might include:
If the incident happened at school, you can help your child report it to a teacher. Keep a record of what happened – e.g. where, when, who was involved – and see if other witnesses can back it up.
If the incident happened online, you can report it to the website, or to the eSafety Commissioner if the person harassed was aged under 18 and being cyber bullied.
If the incident involved racial discrimination or hatred, you can support the person to make a complaint under the Racial Discrimination Act or contact the equal opportunity commission in your state or territory.
Encourage your kids to enjoy diverse friendships, expose them to multicultural experiences, and keep talking about racism and why it’s not OK.