Racism is when someone dislikes, unfairly treats, harasses or vilifies another person or group because of a difference that they believe makes themselves or their own group superior. It can be open or hidden, intentional or unintentional, conscious or unconscious.

Racism occurs when social structures and practices limit, exclude, oppress or discriminate against individuals and groups based on their race. Race can mean ethnicity, nationality, skin colour, ancestry or cultural background and practices (or sometimes religion).

Racism is unacceptable and we don’t tolerate racist behaviour here at Monash. Federal and State anti-discrimination legislation also prohibits it.

Individual or interpersonal racism

This type of racism involves the beliefs, attitudes and behaviours of individuals. Individual or interpersonal racism may be obvious, but it also includes what’s referred to as casual or everyday racism. These more common incidents may not be violent or malicious, but they perpetuate negative stereotypes through jokes and offhand remarks.

Examples of individual or interpersonal racism include:

  • avoiding contact with members of a target group
  • ignoring, silencing and belittling individuals experiencing prejudice and racism
  • offensive jokes, graffiti, emails and posters
  • insults, name-calling, verbal abuse and threats
  • hate crimes or violence based on skin colour, cultural group, nationality or ethnicity
  • comments that perpetuate negative stereotypes.

Institutional or systemic racism

Institutional or systemic racism lies within the laws, policies, practices, rules and procedures of organisations, societal structures and the broader community. It works to the advantage of the dominant group (or groups) and to the detriment of other groups. Institutional or systemic racism may be intentional or unintentional.

Examples of institutional or systemic racism include:

  • stereotyping all members of a particular group
  • failing or refusing to provide services to a particular group, or providing culturally inappropriate services
  • assuming that members of a particular group would not be interested in certain positions based on stereotypes, and not offering them
  • promotion, mentoring or professional development opportunities
  • ignoring important cultural differences that may affect learning.

Cultural racism

Cultural racism is the social production and reproduction of values and standards which privilege one group’s cultural heritage and identity over those of another. It views conformity to the dominant culture as normal and desirable. This bias results in people from non-dominant cultures, and their customs and practices, being viewed as unimportant, inferior, or nonexistent.

Examples of cultural racism include:

  • advertising and media representing only white people
  • omission of different cultural perspectives and contributions (such as those of Indigenous Australians) from academic fields of study
  • an expectation that the dominant culture’s language will be used
  • an expectation that people will dress like the dominant culture.

Internalised racism

Internalised racism occurs when targeted people come to believe that the stereotypes and prejudices are valid. They may act on this belief by oppressing others in their own group, or by devaluing themselves through feelings of shame, self-hatred, isolation, powerlessness, self-doubt and despair.

Examples of internalised racism include:

  • expressing rage, hatred, indignation and powerlessness towards one’s own group
  • criticising and invalidating one’s own group, creating divisiveness and disunity
  • attacking or criticising a member of one’s own group in a leadership role
  • feeling ashamed of anything about one’s own group that differs too much from white middle-class skin colour, language, dress, music, etc.

What to do

If you feel safe and comfortable enough to do so, tell the person you find their racist remarks or behaviour offensive and inappropriate.

If the situation becomes threatening or potentially dangerous, call:

  • Monash Security on 03 9905 3333 (for immediate help on campus)
  • 000 (for immediate help on or off campus).

If you experience, see or hear about any racist remarks or behaviour, we encourage you to make a report online to the Safer Community Unit.

Racist attitudes and behaviour poison the work and study environment, and they won’t change unless we challenge them.

Getting support

If speaking to the person about their behaviour has not stopped the racist remarks or behaviour, ask the Safer Community Unit for help. Or you may prefer to talk to a trusted supervisor, colleague or the head of department – someone you know who will listen and offer constructive support. You might also wish to contact respectful-communities@monash.edu.

If someone you know is experiencing racism, you should encourage them to contact the Safer Community Unit, or email respectful-communities@monash.edu.

For more information, see getting help and support.