I hate going on trains. I’m an Indian and people always stare at me. Sometimes they get up and change seats if I sit near them. I really feel bad and it ruins the rest of my day.
Firstly, thank you for raising your concerns in regards to this matter, feeling discriminated against is something that many people feel, yet often do not talk about. So, it is great that you have spoken up on this. Unfortunately, overt and hidden racism can be a part of the fabric of any multicultural society. While it is beyond my role and expertise to address the broader social issue of how racism can be addressed in Australian society, I will try to offer a few suggestions about how you may be able to cope with the difficult emotions that come up for you when you feel discriminated against. I want to emphasise that this does not mean that feeling discriminated against is something that is your sole responsibility to manage or just “put up with”. For instance, if you have experienced or witnessed any incidences of racism, I would like to encourage you to report this to your local police. In addition, an online initiative called ‘Report Racism’ allows people to report racism online to Victoria Police or the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission. If you experience or witness incidences of racism on campus then you can report this to the Safer Community Program on campus. The University of Melbourne has a zero- tolerance policy on racism.
But back to coping strategies you could implement:
- Acknowledge the feelings that you experience in these moments, but try not dwell on them for long periods of time. Talk to your family or other like-minded students about your experience, or express yourself in a journal. You could also practice meditation or relaxation exercises on a regular basis.
- Attempt to distract yourself by focusing on music or reading so as not to get into a loop of a self-fulfilling prophecy, for example: expecting to see acts of racism and therefore spending a lot of time looking around to see if anyone is acting in a discriminatory manner.
- Try to be pro-active in your social life by reaching out to people from other cultures and to local Australians (also from diverse cultural backgrounds!) by joining extra-curricular activities according to your interests or work. The university offers a range of clubs and societies that may offer you a good opportunity to do this. Surrounding yourself with people of diverse backgrounds that you feel safe with may help you to feel more connected to others and remind you that not everyone holds racist views.
If you would like to explore this further, or if you find this all too hard to implement by yourself, feel welcome to talk to one of our counsellors at Counselling and Psychological Services.