Racism in schools or universities provides a unique set of challenges – but schools and universities also provide useful structures and opportunities for addressing racism. It’s often a place where good responses can be modelled in a safe setting.
Peer pressure can contribute to racism in schools, but it can also present part of the solution. Having allies is important, so you should seek them out and make sure you are a good ally to others. Allies might include friends or other students in your year group, school leaders or older students, or teachers.
If you feel comfortable talking to someone about their offensive behaviour, many of the strategies outlined in the section on addressing racism in social situations(above) can be useful: You should stay calm; consider taking the person aside privately; appeal to their sense of empathy; criticise the comment and not the person; listen to their perspective; and you may want to ask them questions, or tell them how their words have impacted you.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking to them directly, there are other options. You could approach a teacher, explain the situation and ask them for assistance. Many schools have support services for students, and teachers should be able to explain the options available to you.
Talking about racism is part of the curriculum in Australian high schools. If racism has been an issue in your school, lessons dedicated to racism can be a good forum for addressing it.
Some Australian schools even have a designated anti-racism contact officer, and specific systems for reporting racist behaviour. You should find out what systems your school has in place to deal with racism.
Most schools have student leaders, who may be able to offer support or advice. At universities, the student union will be able to direct you to support services.
Many schools and universities also run dedicated anti-racism campaigns, led by students or teachers. Initiating a campaign within your school, or talking to others about creating this kind of campaign, can be a powerful way to tackle racism on a larger scale. A really great example is the anti-racism pledge, where students and teachers sign their names to pledge they will speak out against racism if they ever witness it.
- There are some excellent resources for students and teachers on the Racism. No Way website, and there’s information about taking the anti-racism pledge.
- The NSW Department of Education has published a detailed guide to help teachers and principals eliminate racism from their campus.