This animation was produced in partnership with Studio Gilay. Article written by Jacob Hunter, a proud Gumbaynggirr man living on Dharug land, passionate about all things media, Esports and mental health advocacy.
Dealing with casual racism might feel like you’re stepping into a lion’s den. Like we see with Wickie’s experience, it can be pretty subtle and might appear as simple banter or ‘just a joke’. But when you’re on the receiving end, it certainly doesn’t feel that great.
Racism, whether it’s casual or not, is just not on. While it can be really hard to handle, it’s good to know there are helpful ways to manage it, get support and stay deadly – just like Wickie does.
Wickie’s resilience in the face of racism
Wickie is a 17-year-old Murrawarri and Gunditjmara Aussie who absolutely loves AFL. She’s set on playing for the Swannies in the AFLW after she finishes school and always gives it her all when she’s on the field. But during a recent match, she narrowly missed a crucial kick and her team lost.
Later, two of her teammates reacted by making hurtful comments that played on harmful stereotypes about Aboriginal people. While the comments might initially have seemed like playful banter, it’s important to recognise that they were actually a disguised attempt to bully Wickie.
Wickie felt upset and then angry, but before the situation escalated, the team coach stepped in and took her aside to talk about what had happened. The coach assured Wickie that racism was absolutely not tolerated and that she could always come to her if she experienced it or any other trouble. Later, we see Wikie’s teammates being kicked off the team as a consequence for their actions.
... there's no place for it in our game, our school or anywhere.
What to do if you’ve experienced racism
If you’ve experienced racism, whether it’s casual or direct, the first thing you should remember is that it’s not your fault and it’s never acceptable. Nobody should be made to feel ashamed of their background; your cultural identity is an important part of who you are. The most powerful thing you can do is take the action that feels most comfortable for you.
For Wickie, having someone she trusted that she could talk to helped her manage her anger and stay deadly, which also led to consequences for her teammates. Whether it’s your teacher, a close friend, an Elder or someone else from your community, chatting with someone you trust can help you to process whatever you’re going through and feel supported.
Here are some other strategies you could try:
- Take a step back. Identifying the negative feelings you have and clocking why you’re upset can be a helpful way to ground yourself. Remember that it’s not your responsibility to change someone’s opinion or to fix anything, and that it’s totally okay to walk away from racial abuse.
- Speak up if it feels safe to do so. If you feel comfortable responding, you could tell the person who made the comment that you disagree with them, and explain why. Or, you could ask them an open-ended question, such as: ‘Why did you make that comment?’, to try and understand their perspective and offer them a new one.
- Get some extra support. If you’re having a tough time handling the stress and anxiety caused by racism, help is available. Check out our article on support services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to find professionals who’ll understand what you’re going through.
- Take care of yourself. It’s a horrible feeling to be on the receiving end of racism. But it can help to take some time for self-care and the things you love doing. Whether it’s journalling, getting creative, disconnecting from social media or news, doing some meditation, or just kicking back with friends, looking after yourself will help you to clear your mind, let go of frustrations and build resilience.
- Engage in activism. Learning from and connecting with people who share your cultural background can be a really empowering experience, whether it’s by helping to raise awareness at community events or getting involved in NAIDOC Week. For tips on where to start, check out our article on ways to connect with community if you’re a First Nations young person.
What can I do now?
- Check out our Yarn Up collection for more stories about young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people staying safe and deadly.
- For tips on dealing with racism, including how to report it, read our article on what to do if you’re experiencing racism.
- Read Meissa Mason's tips on what to do if you're dealing with a racist teacher at school.