We are all peas in a pod
Amy-Ann Nolan | 26th May 2017
On Tuesday the ABC reported that a passenger on a Sydney train earlier this month was on the receiving end of a tirade of verbal racial abuse from another commuter.
The video footage sparked a heated debate on Facebook about mental health and racism. Two questions that divided the public response were:
- Is it really racism when the perpetrator is mentally unstable or is mental illness used too often as an excuse in cases like these?
- Was it unethical of the ABC to publicly “shame” a mentally ill person?
While it appears from the video footage that the woman may be living with mental illness, does this make the abuse any less harmful or hurtful for the victim?
It wasn’t only the perpetrators aggressive behaviour that was cause for debate. Many of the Facebook comments questioned why none of the other commuters intervened or showed their support for the victim. Many argued passengers should have done more to support the victim and stop the abuse. Others said this would only agitate the situation and make it worse. The reality is that if you are witness to racial abuse and do nothing in response you are a spectator and an enabler.
So what can people do to support the victim when a situation like this arrises?
Western Sydney Universities ‘Challenging Racism Project‘ suggests ways people respond to racism:
- Confronting or disagreeing with the perpetrator
- Calling it “racism” or “discrimination” (if it is safe or productive to do so)
- Interrupting or distracting perpetrator
- Comforting the person(s) targeted
- Expressing upset feelings
- Seeking assistance from friend, teacher, manager, coach etc.
- Reporting the incident to authorities
However, there was one comment on Facebook that struck me as possibly the best way to avoid being a spectator in situations like this. Simply stand between the person and the victim, no physical or verbal interaction is needed. Create a wall and show your support for the person being targeted. Show that you do not accept racial abuse!