Many people witness unfair racial comments about what they look like and where they come from (AHRC, N.D). According to the oxford dictionary, racism is the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially to prove it as inferior or superior to another race or races (Oxford University, 2018)
A mental illness is a health problem that significantly affects how a person feels, thinks, behaves, and interacts with other people. It is diagnosed according to standardised criteria. The term mental disorder is also used to refer to these health problems (Department of Health Australia, 2014). The act of racism can be a big cause of this and can lead victims to having a mental illness. It can either cause a mental illness or worsen an existing mental illness sufferer.
7 in 10 students experience racism in their childhood, and the majority of it is at school (Mansouri and Jenkins 2010). The most frequent style of racism is students telling other students that they don’t fit in, this is demonstrated through calling names, teasing, excluding and physical aspects such as spitting, pushing and hitting (Killen ; Mulvey ; Hitti, 2013).
Figure 1 shows a table representing a survey taken by 6000 Australians that were asked to show their feelings about certain groups (shown on the LHS of table). When asked about their feelings towards these groups, 32% of participants claimed to have ‘negative’ feelings towards Muslim Australians, and 22 percent claimed to have ‘negative’ feelings towards Middle-Eastern Australians (see Table 1). The participants feelings towards Anglo-Australians and Asian Australians were the most positive at 60% and 53%, respectively. However, a large distribution (37-46%) of participants selected ‘neutral’ regarding their feelings for all seven of the specific groups (Western Sydney University, 2016).
Racism is split into two ‘categories’, invisible and systematic racism. Invisible racism is less obvious acts of discrimination that is not common or less often addressed and talked about (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2017). An example of invisible racism is, say a young man from an African background is followed by security guards because they assume he will steal something. Systematic racism is where groups or organisations have rules that everybody believes is fair but really, they make things harder for people with a cultural or ethnical background (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2017).
As stated earlier, racism can be the cause of, or can deal more damage to someone’s mental illness. This can lead to depression, anxiety and stress, which are very common mental health issues. There are three million people living with depression and anxiety just in Australia (Beyond Blue, 2018). Depression is a much more intense experience of feeling sad, low or moody and lasts for months or even years. Anxiety is when certain anxious feelings don’t go away, are on going and sometimes happens without any reason or trigger. Over two million Australians are affected by anxiety in just a 12-month period (Beyond Blue, 2018).
In 2012, the government launched The National Anti-Racism Strategy. This was put in place to focus on public awareness, education resources and youth engagement, which is how young people feel about different people. The aim is to provide an understanding of what racism really is and how it can be prevented or reduce it (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2015). To achieve this aim they would firstly, create awareness of what racism is and how it affects an individual, secondly work out ways to prevent racism and promote them, and finally entitle communities and individuals to act to prevent or reduce racism (Australian Human Rights Commission). I think that the government is doing a lot to stop and are taking action against racism, but I think they could be doing something even more with the power they have. I think that they could do something such as putting laws in place with larger consequences for racist acts.
An organization that is also trying to stop racism is All Together Now. This organization is doing many things to reduce and hopefully one day erase racism. These include their own app that can be downloaded and programs that all educate people about racism. For one program they teamed up with Football Federation Australia (FFA) and the Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) to fight against racism in Australian sport (All Together Now, N.D). I believe that All Together Now are doing everything that they can to put an end to racism because they have a number of different programs helping out. I don’t think that they should be doing any more than what they are as they’re doing enough for one organisation already. Around 50 people join to help All Together Now every year and anyone can also help (All Together Now, N.D).
In conclusion, racism is a bigger issue than everyone thinks, it is having negative affects on many different people. It has affects on their mental and physical health, causing or worsening depression, anxiety and/or stress. The government, volunteers and organisations are making a difference to put a stop to racism and finally come to peace with different cultures.