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Systemic Racism – and how to educate yourself on it.

This blog is part of a series for Be A Better Human at UNE and has been contributed by student, Sara Perry, Media & Communications 3rd year.

Many say that talking about race is unhelpful – but this is a conversation that needs to be had. Because this is also our history. 

Recent events in the news have shown huge support from people on social media as they try to come to terms with the emotions they felt by hearing and watching the death of George Floyd in the U.S, and the recent death of Rayshard Brooks who was shot dead by a police officer in Atlanta. Although the saturation in the media surrounding the Black Lives Matter protests has dissolved considerably over the past few weeks, it is still a topic of importance that should continue to motivate people to further their understanding of racism.

So, what is systemic racism and what does it mean to Australia?

Mary Frances O’Dowd put it perfectly in her article in the Conversation when she wrote how “Racism is more than an individual issue. When systemic injustices remain unspoken or accepted, an unethical white privilege is fostered. When individuals and groups point out systemic injustices and inequities, the dominant culture is made accountable.”

Systemic racism or “institutional racism” is not one-on-one interactions – but rather, white superiority at a systems level, or looking at the “larger picture” of how society functions.

The institutional systems can include laws and regulations and unquestioned social systems that can stem from education, hiring practices, or access.

Most people will not see themselves as racist (and we aren’t saying you are) but what is surprising is to realise how much white people still benefit from systems that have been created by other white people. We know that everyone is different, and that everyone has difficult times in their lives, but unfortunately, skin colour and race can make a person’s life easier or harder.

Check out this video on white privilege…

Next time you watch TV, take a moment to notice how many televisions ads feature only the white demographic… becoming more aware of things like this is an important step towards becoming aware of the inequality within Australia’s systems.

A new documentary on ABC, In my Blood It Runs by filmmaker Maya Newell, touches on important issues surrounding the disconnect between White Australia and its Indigenous history through the eyes of a 12-year-old Arrernte and Garrwa boy from Alice Springs called Dujuan Hoosan.

It’s up to all of us to step up, there are many ways people can inform themselves of systemic racism because it is an important topic to personally educate oneself with as it uncovers important truths of those who are disproportionately impacted by our institutions with Australia.

Ways to personally educate yourself include:

  • Start by learning about the Stolen Generation through the testimonies and videos on the Healing Foundation website, reading Bruce Pascoe’s book Dark Emu, watching the ABC TV program First Australians and NITV to stay informed on current affairs and history. Keep an eye out for In My Blood It Runs documentary (which premiered on ABC last Sunday).
  • Broaden your understanding of systematic racism on a global scale with the following reading list here.
  • Study a unit that will develop your cultural awareness with cultural connections with OORA units at Oorala  or if you’re a UNE staff member attend a Cultural Connections Workshop.
  • And, most importantly talk and listen to the Aboriginal community in your area!

We respect all cultures and invite you to Be a Better Human, look after your self and others, respect others, show empathy and compassion to others as you would wish to recieve yourselves.

If you have experienced any form of discrimination or discomfort during your studies at UNE, you can contact Advocacy & Welfare confidential services.

At UNE, we have various support systems for you.  If you feel like you have been the target of online harassment and you need to speak with someone, our experienced team at Advocacy and Welfare have confidential support for students in need and can point you in the right direction of whom you should be talking with for the correct support.

Feel free to come in for a cup of tea or you can contact us here.

Student Success also has confidential counselling for students, you can find them here.

Lifeline is also a 24/7 hotline and you can call them on 13 11 14