Becoming anti-racist involves pushing through fear, and learning so that we can grow.
- Dr Lilla Watson
First Nations activist, academic, and artist
BLM is part of, but does not cover, the efforts of Blak people in Australia to achieve sovereignity and justice. It is primarily American, but has been included as it teaches us some valuable lessons and ideas relevant in Australia.
Aside from the resources provided within this section, the existing guides acknowledged in the ‘About’ section also provide additional resources.
As we’ve learnt at the start of the kit, racism is a system founded on racial prejudice, which translates to how its institutions and practices privilege a group and disadvantage others. We often see racism as something external – a shadow that is created and cast upon us by the structures in our society. We are within it, but we forget that it can be within us.
Racism can be internalised. For people of colour, it is a construct that we can mistake as an unquestionable feature of the world we live in.
Why would someone accept a system that subjugates them?
It’s a fair question to ask. One way of thinking about this is to consider how our society looks at Whiteness. It’s easy to internalise racism when you are immersed in an environment where Whiteness is seen as the “default” or the “standard”; any other culture is seen as some exotic anomaly that’s inferior and less valid.
This can affect the relationship that people of colour have with themselves and their heritage. It can also create this pressure to “act White” to be included and taken seriously by others.
When we talk about Whiteness, it’s important to keep its status as a dominant culture in mind. We aren’t just talking about it as a racial group - but also as a system of power.
When we inhabit spaces where Whiteness is the unquestionable ‘standard’, the belief that White people are legitimately superior to others can then become deeply ingrained within the way people of colour view and navigate the world.
For a lot of young people of colour in high school, this could range from possibly feeling embarrassed when wearing traditional clothing or hearing your family speak your mother tongue in public, to having a preference for White people when it comes to dating, to having issues with body image as our peers value Eurocentric standards of beauty.
We can also see it manifest within our wider communities when we see Islamophobic or anti-Black sentiments, dividing people of colour from supporting other people of colour in their struggles.
There are traits associated with Whiteness, but that’s not to say they are exclusive to White culture! Some of these traits include:
Unlearning internalised racism can empower people of colour to define themselves on their own terms, speak up, and support others. And as we people of colour come to understand this, we can also connect our experiences with the harm inflicted by societal systems on others, such as people with disabilities or LGBTQIA+ people.
Unlearning racism can start off with understanding it better, as we see in the 'Read and Learn' section!
To heal is to address the root causes of whatever you are facing and to strive for long-term change; to cope is to manage your experiences in the short-term.
Healing is a non-linear process, and having a professional with you on this journey can be helpful! In terms of convenience and accessibility, counsellors or psychologists at your school can be great.
The process can get confronting. For some, unlearning racism can mean engaging with difficult past experiences and traumas. So, this can coincide with finding ways to heal from, rather than cope with the past.
Seeing professionals outside of your school can also be an option. If you are especially interested in finding someone who is a person of colour, can speak in your preferred language, or is culturally competent, The Tena Therapist and Our Directory can help. They provide a directory of practioners who have experience working with people of colour; your local GP may also be aware of any mental health professionals who could fit your criteria.
Unlearning is an ongoing process – and that’s ok!
It can take time to unpack and change the way we think and feel about certain issues. There isn’t necessarily a ‘finish line’ when it comes to unlearning racism; what matters is that we don’t become complacent. Focus on continuous self-improvement, and constantly challenge and question why you think a certain way about particular issues.
For some, connecting with their culture – from learning their history or language, to engaging with the work and voices of people from their community – is a way of reshaping their relationship with their background. It can help with understanding how racism has impacted their community, building a love and appreciation for where they come from, and consolidating their cultural identity.
Stand up and speak out to defend a victim or yourself. Whether you're in school, at work, volunteering or at the local supermarket, challenging accusations, assumptions and stereotypes is a good way of letting people know it’s not okay to be racist.
Remember, sometimes people can unintentionally make comments that are racist. Standing up to these comments can be a great way for people to learn about the negative impact they’re having. Here are tips on standing up both for yourself and for others. Bystander intervention is all about creating a safe public space by supporting each other when we’re harassed.
Prepare yourself for these moments. It’s scary to speak up, but if you don’t speak up, who will? You need to be the one that speaks up, and promise not to be silent.
Also, trust your instincts as there is no “right” or “perfect” response to harassment. However, studies show that having some kind of response (either in the moment or later) can reduce the trauma associated with harassment. Remember it’s ok to do nothing. It's even ok to smile and keep walking. You get to decide what’s right for you.
Prioritise your own safety at all times. First, try your best to feel comfortable, calm and assertive. This will often be very difficult to achieve, because it can be personal, or the racist incident might make you very angry.
However, approaching the situation calmly can change the attitudes of the offender more effectively. Take a deep breath, or buy yourself some time by saying something to stop the conversation - “oooh”, “hmm I don’t know about that”, or “can we pause for a second?” for example - to buy yourself some time to think of what to say.
There is no such thing as a perfect response. This is not your fault, and you are not alone. Take the time to recover and employ strategies for taking care of yourself. You could:
Ask things such as “Why did you do that?”. “What makes you feel that way?”. Follow up by saying firmly that you don’t agree with racist comments. Identify their behaviour. Sometimes, just point out the behaviour candidly. For instance, “Janet, what I hear you saying is that all First Nations people are lazy.” Or, “Janet, you’re classifying an entire ethnicity in a derogatory way. Is that what you are saying?”
You cannot control another person, but you can say things like, "Don't tell racist jokes in my presence anymore. If you do, I will leave." Or, "My workspace is not a place I allow bigoted remarks to be made. I can't control what you say outside of this space, but here I ask that you respect my wishes." Then follow through. By drawing the line, you can shut down bad behaviour, and fewer people will have to hear it or experience it.
People also often need to be reminded that standard policies and procedures apply to everyone. Call out those that ignore school or work policies and values. In doing this, be aware of what language will work best for your audience. For example, in a school less familiar with anti-racism, you may need to explain yourself more, explaining why the actions you are calling out are wrong. Understanding your audience’s history and demographic are also very important.
Typically people understand that street harassment is not okay and want to help. You will need to loudly announce to people around you what the harasser just said or did and identify them, like: “That man in the red shirt is following me. I need help!” Then tell people what you want them to do, like, “Can you wait here with me? Can you call the police?” Remember that it is ok to ask for help. It does not mean that you are weak. In fact, it means that you are strong because you’re acknowledging that street harassment hurts.
Recording the situation can prevent the racial harassment from continuing and also allows you to prove that harassment has occurred. However, judge the situation, and walk away if it can escalate significantly. Your safety is most important.
There are “5 Ds” or strategies you can follow when intervening for others.
Take an indirect approach to de-escalate the situation.
Start a conversation with the target of harassment or find another way to draw attention away from them. Ask them for directions or the time, or drop something.
Get help from someone else.
Find someone in a position of authority - like a bus driver, security guard, teacher, or store manager - and ask them for help.
After the incident is over, check in with the person being harassed.
You can say: “Can I sit with you? Can I accompany you somewhere? What do you need?”
Be direct. Speak up about the harassment, be loud and clear.
You can also talk to the person being harassed about what’s going on. Ask: “Are you okay? Should I get help? Should we get out of here?”
It can be helpful for the target to have a video of the incident.
Laws about recording in public vary, so check local laws first. Keep a safe distance, film anything that helps identify the location, film the perpetrator of harassment rather than the receiver, state the day and time.
Always ask the person targeted what they want to do with the footage. Never post it online or use it without their permission.
Put your money where your mouth is, and give to the organisations committed to racial justice.
Here is a full list of organisations for a wide range of anti-racism issues:
If you join multi-cultural or anti-racism organisations, you will be able to have a greater impact on the anti-racist movement and further your understanding of your own identity.
Here are some organisations.
See how you can create change within the communities you have to be in for 200 days a year: SCHOOLS