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Strategies for coping with racist behaviour

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello everybody,

With coronavirus, there has been a spike in racist behaviour against people of Asian ethnicity in Australia. I’m sure there are people in our community who have been on the receiving end of such behaviour. You may also be Indigenous or of other ethnicities, struggling with the emotional impact of racism directed against you over the years. This could include anxiety, depression and reduced sense of self-worth. I though we could open up this forum as a way of sharing coping strategies when facing prejudiced behaviour.

I’ll start by listing some ideas:

  • Build a network of people around you who can make you feel good about yourself
  • Identify the behaviours that have led you to internalise the idea that you are 'not good enough' for society and work on accepting yourself as you are
  • Reminding yourself that the actions/words of racist people stem from their own insecurity rather than you

What are your strategies?


For those seeking more information on racism, its impacts and what you can do about it, here are some links that can help.

BB article: Respond to racism (https://www.beyondblue.org.au/who-does-it-affect/the-invisible-discriminator/respond-to-racism)
BB campaign: The Invisible Discriminator (https://www.beyondblue.org.au/who-does-it-affect/the-invisible-discriminator)
BB article: Educate yourself about racism (https://www.beyondblue.org.au/who-does-it-affect/the-invisible-discriminator/educate-yourself-about-...)
Forum thread: Racism (https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/online-forums/staying-well/racism#qgLmI3HzvGGEbv8AAOnT_A)

Sending love,

51 Replies 51

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi Emmen

I’m 64yo and sadly, part of the baby boomers (born between say 1948 and 1966. That means my teenage years late 60’s at school in a western suburbs school in StAlbans meant lots of racism.

However, I was s 5th generation Australian and all the other students in my class had parents born overseas. The German boys stuck together as did the Poles and Italians why? Because they spoke their home language and their families were friends. This was all fine until a conflict with me began with one of them and the gang mentality started. Many times I was labelled “Aussie garbage”.

Thankfully since then things have improved. However on a personal basis I was far too fragile to work as a warder in a jail at 21yo, far too emotional to tackle general nastiness and the need to escape society was always my desire right up till 2009 when diagnosed with bipolar and dysthymia. Appropriate meds subdued mist symptoms...I made it alive!

So in response to those feelings I found ways of justifying escaping situations rather than confronting them. This is based on survival rather than choice. Hence my written threads on the topic of weeding out the destructive toxic people from my life has helped...even if I get it wrong at times

Google beyondblue fortress of survival (also part 2)

beyondblue topic want to be a hermit?

beyondblue topic wit, the only answer to torment

So they are my strategies. I should imagine those people from overseas would develop similar strategies to survive the alienation of racism.


Hi TonyWK,

I'm sorry you had to experience that. It's terrible to feel like everyone is ganging up against you because of what they perceive to be your difference. While racism itself is a larger structural issue that is linked to power and therefore experienced by minorities, everybody can experience racial prejudice as you have. Prejudice is a result of the assumptions that are held about people, and it truly is upsetting that they could label you with that term.

I'm glad to know that your journey has been one of recovery and that you have shared your experiences with us. I'm sure too that others who have come from abroad, as well as everyone who is born or identify as Australian but face racially prejudiced behaviour have other strategies for coping, which I hope they will share with us as well.

Take care,

Community Champion
Community Champion

Dear Emmen~

Thank you for this thread, Your links above are indeed useful.

While I think most people are fundamentally good intolerance prejudice and racism are unfortunately far too common and do untold damage. If one adds to that the fact there are so many targets knowing what to do can be hard. Not all can go on a march, or even defend someone on a tram.

I've lived a long life (even longer that TonyWK's :). I guess I think the only thing I can do is try to see everyone as an individual, and while I might look for common threads such as kindness, recognize each is entitled to specific beliefs and try not to offend.

I doubt I'm always successful as I do not know the finer nuances of different cultures, but politeness and consideration can normally be recognized by most as an honest starting point to be at one with equals.

There will inevitably be cultural differences, and some of them may be hard to reconcile, again seeing those involved as individuals seems to me the only way. In the same way it is people that make these divisions It is people that can make harmony, each in their own little sphere of influence.

I believe that harmony starts with education and respect.

Not perfect, some things will inevitably be missed unless the circumstances are special, but the thing to strive for.


Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi Croix
I really agree with ur posts

I do think racism does untold damage

The racism i have seen against different people in my life really disturbs me

I'm sorry for anyone experiencing racism at this time, it can hurt so much.

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi Emmen

Thankyou for starting this thread. Racism has affected myself & my family deeply.

I'm bewildered, saddened & sometimes at a loss to help others understand it's vile impact...

I was born in Asia but not of obvious Asian heritage, sadly lol, I spent my formative years growing up there, I LOVE my culture dearly. I've been labelled many different "races" but there is only one race - the HUMAN race. Not my quote but from Professor Jane Elliott who developed the "Blue eyed brown eyed experiment". She is a Champion.

If EVERYONE in the whole world could go through this experiment or program, & FEEL it, then racism could evaporate.

I've sat each of my children 1:1 on my lap & done a modified version of this program the MOMENT one even suspected racist idea was formed in their precious little minds. Sure they end in tears. But so be it. Tough love extends to extinction of this dreaded disease in societies.

Myself & my own children have directly experienced racism. My eldest children were told to look at alternative education pathways because "everyone knows that they'll drop out...." because of their culture.... boy did I have A LOT to say about that! Unbelievable. They've all achieved tertiary quals now.

Before UPstanding was a word, I did this in the playground of my school as a child. I stood WITH the children being racially vilified & said "I'm not Australian (indeed I wasn't)… these others were BORN here, so they're far more "Australian" than me, and even if they WEREN'T they're Australian now! I'm not" & the discussion ensued.
The "White Australia Policy" omg.

I have a close black American friend living in America. I speak to him often atm just to let him know we love & support him & his family. He is younger than me & is experiencing the most horrifying things in his life. The systemic racism is another layer of this disease everywhere. I haven't told my children much at all about this, but my adult children ask, so I tell them. The brutality is too much for the younger ones atm.

My children are despairing. My youngest daughter was in tears last night over what she's seen on social media. I reinforced her justifiable anger & sadness over racism. "BE the change you want to see in the world" is about all I could offer her. Her psychologist may offer more.

What CAN we do? Our immense frustration & distress at racism, is so overwhelming for empaths like us, it's far worse for those directly affected.

Much love to all

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member


thanks for your lovely post and thank you to Emmen, for starting the thread, and to Tony and Croix for the comments.

A close person to me experienced a racist attack and it really upset me.
I have also been in a room where a man in his 70s spewed some racist spew about not liking to live near certain people because of their race. The worst thing was he was almost laughing about it, smirking, as if it was a sort of dirty little private joke that everyone could enjoy being racist. I've still been in pain from that.
I was able to stand up to this person and I think it can help to speak up, although it does take practise to get the words out. What if it wasn't just okay to be racist because it was offensive, or because it's the stuff you "don't say outloud," - what if we could understand how hurtful it is to human beings to here and how abusive it is to single people out for their culture and ethnicity.
I agree EM that empaths suffer a lot due to this.

Croix, you're absolutely right. Seeing people as individuals, looking for commonalities and respecting difference is what we should be doing. I often think it's not about succeeding 100% of the time, but rather, the willingness to accept when mistakes are made (as they inevitably will). I love that you said "I believe that harmony starts with education and respect". I cannot think of a truer statement for social cohesion to be achieved - not just in matters of "race", but in dealing with any kind of difference.

EM, it's terrible when the young ones get sucked into this world of prejudice. There's a sense of having lost what is pure to the follies of the world. I'm so proud of you for having done what you can to protect these children from becoming victims or perpetrators of racist behaviors. If only more people would stand up for others when they see them being targeted or discriminated against, the world would be a more beautiful place. A huge hug to you for what you and your children have gone through, and for having done what you can.

Sleepy21, I'm sorry you had to experience that. But thank you for speaking up to that person. I know it can take a lot of effort, and sometimes, speaking up can be a scary experience. You were brave to stand up to him and I hope you continue to do so. As you have pointed out, it does untold damage, not just to the people at the receiving end of this behaviour, but to people close to them as well. Take care, Sleepy21.

- M

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Here are some resources for anyone interested in learning more about racism.

Racism and what you can do:

REACH OUT Australia: 'Standing up to racism' (https://au.reachout.com/articles/standing-up-to-racism)

For people affected by racism:

Make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission (https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/race-discrimination/about-racial-discrimination)

or to Anti-Discrimination Australia (if it’s related to employment, housing, services etc.) (http://antidiscrimination.com.au/racial-discrimination/)

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

hey there,

Thanks for the resources. I'm considering making a complaint to the AHRC... i wander how it will go.

I think reading and watching material made by people of colour is also very helpful - trying to learn to listen.

Thank you for raising this topic.

Racism burns a really painful welt into people and makes them feel small, this is really bad for mental health and we all need to be astute to learn how to avoid hurting others