A recent string of coronavirus-related attacks against Asian-Australians has prompted many people to share their experiences with racism and the psychological impacts it has had on their lives.
Recent incidents include a Melbourne home being spray-painted with racist graffiti, tenants being evicted from a Perth rental accommodation, and one man in Sydney who ended his relationship with a woman who returned from China because he did not want to catch the virus.
But, in addition to the high-profile racist attacks, there are also what are believed to be the more insidious forms of racism that go unspoken and underreported in communities across Australia.
Racism manifests in covert and overt ways in Australia, affecting people’s relationships, careers, health, and even impacting the way that people are treated by authorities.
Experts say many people often have to bear the psychological consequences of racism in private, processing the incident (or incidents) in the days, weeks, and even years after they occur.
So how exactly do people cope with racism’s aftermath in the short and long term?
Michael Platow, a professor of psychology at the Australian National University, told the ABC that coronavirus-related racism may stem from people’s beliefs being conflated with truth.
“The question is, how did they get to that belief?”
“Like the supposed ‘truth’ that COVID-19 is caused by China or Chinese people in some capacity,” Professor Platow said.
The Professor, who is inviting all Australians to share their experiences of prejudice in a wide-ranging ANU study launched last month,said these beliefs may have stemmed from their information diets, either from mass media, social media, or paying attention to statements made by world leaders.
Both the Brazilian and the US governments have blamed China for the spread of coronavirus, with US President Donald Trump repeatedly calling coronavirus the “China virus”.
However, Professor Platow said coronavirus is also providing people with ways to “express negative intergroup attitudes that people have already had”.
He cited a reader’s comment under a Fox News article about the US travel ban to Europe, which said it was “good to stay away from Chinese and Jewish establishments”.
He added this has also been observed in China, pointing to reports of discrimination against the African diaspora in China during the pandemic.
“It’s not as if Chinese are somehow also immune to the very psychological processes that everybody else has,” he said.
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