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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

Hi Sleepy21,

Thank you for sharing. Given that we're a society that appears to be highly concerned about racializing people, you must have faced challenges as a mixed race person, trying to make sense of your identity for others. You are different...in a good way. Being mixed race is about having the best of a few cultures with you - it's certainly an identity to be proud of 🙂


Community Member


i definitely disagree w thread consensus but its become impossible for me to write more than a paragraph. i wish i could tell you my reasoning what ive been seeing but i sit down to write it and my whole body starts screaming. im tired. dont really need an ruok or anything even if it wouldn't be incredibly useless to someone who cant talk there's no need

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

hi eight i wish i could be more helpful

if it's okay, just wanted to say I care and hope you are okay.. This sucks what's happening now. This sucks that vulnerable people are not being treated even like people. This sucks that power is being abused.

i hope you can take care of yourself and feel okay.

Community Champion
Community Champion

Dear Eight~

Sometimes sights live a long time.

I wish you peace and rejuvenation for another day. I look forward to talking with you again whenever you would like.


Community Member

On the main topic, my coping strategy is to recognise that racist behaviour seems to arise from a self-centred perspective or worldview, where everything a person is used to and comfortable with seeing/experiencing is considered normal and anything new or unfamiliar is considered "other" and to be actively deterred from having any unpredictable impact on that worldview or their life in any way.

So, as often as possible I aim to centre myself and my perspective as the norm and racist behaviour as some kind of mental/emotional disturbance in the other person. I take this approach to encourage balance and harmony within myself and with my life in general. Rather than seeking to achieve harmony in a situation, I try to enter all situations with the concept of balance as my foundation. Liyan.

I am mixed race, so is everyone if you think about it. This is an excellent development in human evolution, to isolate, develop and then recombine some really powerful traits and skills for survival.

We could easily achieve the most enlightened, forward thinking, caring and successful society here in Australia, given the basic elements we have available. But we are not mature enough as a society yet. And we started our constitution with the promotion of racism right up there on our main agenda. Lamentable but not insurmountable.

Sometimes I just tell people I can't. I can't engage with this right now. I'm going or you can go. I don't give people a label, even an accusation. In fact, it makes me quite sad that we have wasted an opportunity for a positive interaction.

If I am in fear because of aggressiveness or threatened violence, abusiveness etc, I stumbled on a very cool trick by accident. Just whip out your phone. Hold it up. People don't want to be videoed, photographed or have you call the police, so they generally retreat at that point unless they are too far gone and then you really should call the police.

Most group discussions seem to contain a lot of racist attitudes which I actively deconstruct in the moment. I don't let as much stuff slide by in group scenarios as I do in individual interactions. Not because I have any support, rather because the effect is exponential, plus I have overheard so many friends/colleagues refer to my lack of objections as tacit approval for spreading ignorance. (I've got a black friend.) Most common this year has been anti-chinese sentiment and I am hardcore about shutting that stuff down. It's ridiculous and unfair.

I had a pretty unsuccecssful attempt at confronting racism
A man in his 70s once made disgusting comments about living in an area with lots of people from xyzz....

He said disgusting things about those ppl, how he doesn't like them, then made up a story that "they all think like this... they all believe this..." attributing disgusting beliefs and opinions to these people. He said he would never date "one" and that he doesn't like them at all.

I am from this group of people.

I got angry and upset and told him he was racist. Since he was an educated, older man who had never been questioned he totally lost it at me.

He then started telling me that he one friend from this race... so he couldn't be racist. He thought telling me about that friend would negate all the disgusting things he said.

I would probably take Not so hot's approach in the future - and just say - I disagree with ur views but I can't deal with it now... and not get involved.
If a person has held these views for many mnay years, they are not going to change. The man also scared me with the anger he threw at me when I pointed out how racist he was being. So if the person has a temper you just can't win.

I don't know how we can change these beliefs... I think it's best to protect ourselves from such negativity.

Hi Not for Hot - I am mixed race like you but pass as white.
People don't know I am not fully Australian which means I sometimes hear ppl saying racist things about ppl from the country where one of my parents is from.
It's pretty disturbing!
I'm shocked sometimes at how easily the racism rolls off their tongue - they feel safe to share it with me because they assume most ppl would agree with their views? How disgusting. Little do they know I myself have mixed-race heritage and am from the very same country they are spewing racism about.

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

It's so sad to hear such evil stuff being spewed out.

I'm sorry this has happened for anyone and sorry it's happening around you Sleepy and Not so Hot.

For decades I was a vigilante AGAINST racism; racist comments and slurs.
I would go all out and dish the whole shebang out.

Now I'm exhausted and I felt my approach just wasn't helping. It was just making me internalise anger for a very long time after the confrontation.

Btw I'm also a very "mixed race" lol... up to and beyond 16 "races" in my family tree.
But I prefer to say "we're all one race - the HUMAN race".

I was at funeral on Thursday.
It happened again.
When the comments started I just said gently and lovingly "this is very sad to hear".
When they said "What is?"
I answered "the racism, it's very sad and makes me sad that people I love feel this way".

omg they apologised.

Knock me over with a feather.
They stopped cold.
There was silence.
They changed subjects.

Didn't go back while I was there anyway.

IDK if it will work next time.
Fighting fire with fire may not always work, IDK?

I think I'm beyond anger now about it all.
I just feel sad.

Love EM

Hey Sleepy21, how you doing?

Yep those 70yo's are flat out spewing vitriol sometimes. Surprises the heck out of me too.

As I was reading his story, I thought to myself, yes, he should just move if it bothers him so much. I am sure if I had been on the receiving end of that, I actually would have told him so. In a nice and caring way of course.

Telling people they are racist doesn't seem to get anyone very far. Telling them they are being rude, impolite, discourteous or aggressive (whatever the behaviour is) I think has a better chance of being understood as a request to modify what they are doing right now. If they can't, well, there's no point standing there being a garbage can someone dumps all his rubbish into.

There used to be a peanuts cartoon strip I had stuck on my wall for a while. Lucy was doing a maths problem and she reads out something like, a person goes to the store and buys 60 cantaloupes. The next frame she says, you're buying 60 cantaloupes...? what the hell is wrong with you?

Whenever I get a flash of that cartoon in my mind, it not only makes me laugh inside but also indicates I am pretty sure I'm wasting my time. The person's premise may be neither based in reality nor lived experience. More likely they are repeating an overheard or publicised point of view that isn't a result of their own deliberations. Hence, why they can't speak rationally about it.

So I guess I only bother to plant seeds in fertile soil. Some grow, some explode in my face, some wither and die. A few days ago a friend of mine actually repeated back to me verbatim my perspective on anti-chinese racism and China/Australia relations as his own. He had great pride in his tolerance and open-mindedness. In a way it's kind of funny.

The entire time I discussed it with him he fought and rejected every idea (and every fact) and said so many disgustingly racist things I thought I might never be able to look at him again. Seems like it was worth it. He'll never admit it. All good. Just so long as he doesn't keep spouting that rubbish he comes up with sometimes.

Don't give up. You can get through to some people, even if all you say is, omg that just turns my stomach to hear you speak like that. Then just leave it. Tell a joke, move on. No need to explain. The shorter the better.

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hey Em - how are you?
I feel like your approach helped. Sadness is easier to respond to than anger I think.

I almost get than being called racist is just too much for people to bear. It's a hard thing to hear about urself. So I guess being gentle and compassionate abotu how it makes you sad would get through better.
Good one!