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How to Deal with Racism

It’s one topic not discussed by many international students, and it’s still a prevalent aspect of life that nibbles and gnaws.

“Go back to your country,” yells someone from a scrappy car zipping past at full speed.

This isn’t an uncommon occurrence for many international students, in fact, it can happen anywhere in the world. Racism, be it severe or casual, is something that seems to be an issue that gets hidden by the glistening opportunities of studying and living in a foreign land.

In fact, casual racism, which is the perpetuation of negative stereotypes about people based on their ethnicity, is fast becoming a common problem for international students.

Granted, while casual racism comes in the form of comments and seemingly harmless quips, it can be a thorn in the sides of students who simply seek a platform for growth and progression.

There are some who simply dismiss the harassment and slights as light-hearted banter, as part and parcel of living in a city so different from one’s home country. Also, some dismiss the discrimination as nothing personal and ultimately, life goes on.

For some, those are good enough answers and they do possess the ability to shrug off discriminatory comments. That’s commendable but the culprits would not only get away scot free, they’ll also derive satisfaction from it all.

Ultimately, someone’s insensitivity should never contribute to the desensitisation of one’s reaction to a racist joke, comment, etc.

While the initial reaction for most international students can be one of shock or surprise, such a situation can end up as a game of silent endurance, of showing indifference, of trying to close one eye and be the bigger person.

There hasn’t been a winning formula to tackling this cloud of negativity, the discrimination – no matter how subtle – is still a problem in countries like Australia and the UK. It’s just more obvious when the emotion gets turned into a tirade or a curse.

The thriving, fast-evolving multiculturalism of cities like London and Melbourne can be seen as a means to dampen the boldness of perpetrators – who so often are unwilling to embrace the fact that the world is changing.

As societies become more entwined, they become diverse and international students are simply part of a global exchange of perspectives and cultural ideologies. Above all, this exchange ought to be one lined with respect and tolerance. It’s just that a small minority is still stuck in a rut.

Alas, how can international students deal with casual racism? Here’s a couple of tips by past and present students:

1. Control your emotions

Don’t react. You might be tempted to yell back just to show you’re not a pushover, but such reactions would only serve to backfire. Not only will the culprit have succeeded in getting a reaction from you, you’re letting the situation ruin your day and stress yourself out.

2. Stay calm

Sometimes, you might encounter a rowdy group in a public setting – like in a bar or even a restaurant. If the group spots you (often already fuelled by alcohol), they might make racist comments or jokes about you. What should you do? Simply stay calm. Most establishments have security, and more often than not, if things get really unruly, they will step in. If not, calmly request to move to another table.

3. Walk away if things get rowdy

Another solution is to walk away if you think the situation is going to escalate into a physical scuffle or threat. Some might challenge you, but it is always beneficial to keep a cool head. There’s no need to talk sense or negotiate – simply move away if you sense danger.

4. Don’t try to reason

It is difficult to reason with racists in a public setting – especially when they know they cannot afford to lose or be embarrassed in front of others. They might become even more aggressive. So, in all circumstances, as above, stay calm and don’t let the mockery of others affect you. It is not you, it is them. Your life is not defined by what others say, but by how you fulfil it.


If you plan to find out more on how to effectively tackle the issue of casual racism, simply make an appointment with a counsellor today. Most of them have experience studying abroad and they’ll know how to guide you!

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