Taking action in public
If you see someone being racially targeted in public, a powerful symbol of support is to go and sit or stand next to them and check if they’re ok. This also sends a message to the perpetrator that their actions are not acceptable.
You can say something to the perpetrator if it feels safe. This doesn’t have to be aggressive – in fact it’s much better if you stay calm. It could be as simple: “Why don’t you leave him/her alone?”
A useful tip is to avoid calling the person racist, because this will only make them defensive, and they’ll probably stop listening to you. Better to criticise the comments, not the person.
Asking open-ended questions is often a good way to make the perpetrator think about their actions. For example:
- “Why did you say that?”
- “Why do you think that’s funny?”
- “What do you mean by that?”
You might also feel comfortable offering your own thoughts or feelings about the person’s actions, such as:
- “I don’t agree with you”
- “I don’t think that’s really fair”
- “I find that pretty offensive”
Allies can be important in public settings. Often, if you speak up others will support you. When a few people come together as strangers to speak against racism, it sends a powerful message for change.
It’s also good to video the incident on your phone if you can. This can help authorities follow up afterwards in case the incident requires further attention. It can help them identify the perpetrator and ensure that appropriate action can be taken in response to their behaviour. If recording the incident is not an option, you could make a few notes afterwards to help remember the details.
This might simply involve telling someone in a position of responsibility. If the incident happens on public transport, you could tell the driver or train guard. If it happens at a public venue, you could tell a security guard or member of staff.
You should always call the police on 000 if you think you or somebody else may be in danger. You can also report behaviour that you think might be a criminal offense by phoning the police on 131 444.
Anyone who experiences racism or discrimination can also make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission. You can phone the Commission for advice on 1300 656 419 04 or (02) 9284 9600.