This is reflective of a broader issue, the fact that white identities are often seen as ‘the norm’ in Australia, with First Nations people and those from culturally and linguistically diverse communities routinely framed as ‘the other’.1 The result of this is that many white Australians do not think, or are not made to think, about how their own racial identity informs how they engage with the world.
Many First Nations children and those from culturally and linguistically diverse communities can identify personal experiences of racism from a very young age. In Australia, a 2017 school study revealed that over 40% of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students or students from culturally and linguistically diverse communities experienced racial discrimination from their peers, while over one third reported experiences of racism from wider society.2
Because of this, many parents of First Nations children and children from culturally and linguistically diverse communities have no choice but to start discussing race with their kids from a young age, preparing them for the reality of racism that they are likely to face. In contrast, studies show that white parents are far less likely to talk about race and racism with their children.3 Sometimes, when conversations about racism do come up, white parents perpetuate false ideas around colour-blindness, teaching children to ‘not see race’ or to ‘treat everyone the same’ in a way that ignores the reality of structural and institutional racism and discrimination in society. These ways of thinking can also deny people their racial identity and the significance of their cultures.
Instead of denying racism, or claiming that we don’t see race, we need to acknowledge that for many First Nations people and people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, race is not something that can be forgotten or ignored. We need to talk to children – early and often – about the role of race and racism in society.4
By reflecting on the impact of racism, and taking a stand against it, we can build a fair and equal society – for all.
It stops with me.
1 Luke Pearson, ‘What is racial invisibility, and how do white people benefit from it?’, The Guardian (online, 11 January 2022) <https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/jan/11/what-is-racial-invisibility-and-how-do-white-people-benefit-from-it>.
2 Western Sydney University, ‘The SOAR Project: Speak Out Against Racism’ (Web Page, 26 August 2019) <https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/challengingracism/challenging_racism_project/our_research/standing_up_to_racism_and_racial_bullying_among_australian_school_students>.
3 David Chae, Leoandra Onnie Rogers and Tiffany Yip, ’Most white parents don’t talk about racism with their kids’, The Conversation (online, 25 June 2020) <https://theconversation.com/most-white-parents-dont-talk-about-racism-with-their-kids-140894>.
4 All Together Now, ‘An Introduction to Discussing Racism With Children’ (Web Page, 2021) <https://alltogethernow.org.au/racism/racism-in-schools/how-to-discuss-racism-with-children/>.