Tag Archives: cultural racism

An Easy Guide to Cultural Appropriation

Cultural appropriation is when members of the dominant culture use symbols and elements of the minority culture, usually in a manner that is misinformed and ignorant of the cultural symbols purpose.

The following are some examples of cultural appropriation which we may encounter in our everyday lives.


Fashion fluctuates and designers love to seek inspiration from other cultures; such as symbols, colours or even from another countries landscape and heritage. While often these are considered inspired trends some fashion symbols are more in line with cultural appropriation. For example, the Bindi became a fashion trend in the 1990s by celebrities wearing them to parties and at movie premiers. However, the meaning behind the Bindi and its spiritual connection to the culture of Hinduism was lost. The Bindi is in fact worn by women who are married, and could be looked at more as the same symbol of a wedding ring worn in many other cultures.



When East met West new concepts of spirituality became more accessible to those in the West. While seeking spirituality in a religion not traditionally from the culture you were born into is not inappropriate, it is the way symbols have been used now as a commodity is culturally inappropriate. For example, Buddhist statues have become a commodity, as so many other religious symbols have. It is now fashionable to adorn the garden or other areas of the house with the Buddha statue, even though that person many not believe in the concepts of Buddhism or what Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) taught. This would be as inappropriate as say, a non-Christian hanging a cross in their house or placing a statue of Mary, Mother of Jesus, in their front lawn.



As children we all loved dress up parties, and is now often an excuse for adults to let loose and have some good ‘old time’ fun again. However, when someone presents the idea of a costume party or a culturally themed party what do people usually turn up in? Unfortunately, the cultural costumes we have are stereotypes and use cultural symbols in a misinformed way—cultural appropriation. For example, if someone suggested a Mexican themed party you would have many people turning up in a poncho, sombrero and shaking maracas. Yet do we know the significance of these symbols? The maracas are actually a spiritual item. They were used by the Arawak people (native people) of Jamaica and Cuba for various spiritual ceremonies.

It benefits all of society to take the time to research the symbols outside of your own culture before adorning them on your body, in your house or using them as costumes or inspiration at a party. This not only leads to a more harmonious culturally diverse local community and Global community but also a more socially considerate enriched self.


Now that you have an understanding of cultural appropriation take the quick quiz below to ensure you are on the right track to be a cultural appreciator rather than appropriator.


culturally appropriate

10 signs of casual racism

While everyone is quick to recognise overt racism when we see it—we share it on social media and read about it in the news—many of us overlook a subtle form of racism that’s often disguised as a joke, stereotype or subconscious decision we make. Here are 10 signs you might have inadvertently done something ‘casually’ racist:

1. You start a sentence with “I’m not racist but…”

Prefacing a potentially racist statement with “I’m not racist but” doesn’t make it less offensive. So next time you feel the need to start a sentence this way, remember: it’s unlikely anything good will follow those four words…

2. “I’m not a racist. I have black friends.”

Having friends from an ethnic minority background does not give you permission to make racist comments. What might be acceptable to your close friends, may be offensive to someone outside of your trusted circle.

3. “You speak so well for an Asian.”

While you genuinely think you’re giving someone a compliment, what you’re also saying is that Asian people (or other ethnicities) have an inferior grasp of English. And even as Australia continues to welcome new migrants into our society, the fact is many people of Asian backgrounds are Australians who were born or raised here.

4. “Yes but where are you really from.”

This innocent question stems out of curiosity, but also implies that people who don’t have white skin or an Australian accent can’t call Australia home or couldn’t possibly have grown up here. As a multicultural society, it’s important to respect every resident’s right to call Australia home. We suggest asking the less derisive question: What’s your cultural heritage or background?

5. You get nervous around Muslims or Hindus on airplanes.

Racial profiling happens every day and it’s not just by law enforcement officers or airport security staff; many regular Australians also hold prejudices towards people of certain cultural or religious identities. What you may call a ‘harmless stereotype’ often impacts the daily lives of entire groups of people.

6. You cross the road to avoid people of a certain race.

See number 5.

7. You don’t see color, just the human race.

While it may come from a well-intended place, this form of ‘colourblind racism’ dismisses society’s history of racism, system of white privilege, and the everyday experiences that people still face because of racism. Even if you can ignore skin colour, society does not.

8. You are more offended by “reverse-racism.”

Some white people get upset by what they call “reverse racism”. They believe white people are adversely affected by policies designed to help minority groups in society. If reverse-racism gets you upset and defensive, this educational video might help reverse the situation…

9. When someone’s offended, you tell them to “take a joke.”

With Australia’s laidback culture, it’s easy to dismiss those offended as uptight people who ‘can’t take a joke’. Instead, try to see it from their point of view or learn about their experiences. Remember: we don’t have the right to choose who gets offended by our jokes. Impact is more important than intent.

10. Avoiding somebody because of their race, nationality or ethnicity.

This is the subtlest form of casual racism but it can be as hurtful as calling people racist names. Avoiding somebody can make them feel as if they don’t belong in Australia.

What Exactly Is Casual Racism?

Casual racism is racially-insensitive behaviour that often goes unnoticed in everyday interactions. It’s often hard to spot, because casual racism is so commonplace and normalised that it sometimes forms part of our daily lives.

Casual racism can include jokes or statements that highlight (in a negative way) cultural differences such as physical appearance, cultural practices or accents. It can also be expressed through beliefs, prejudices or behaviours that we sometimes don’t realise we exhibit. To learn more, read Explainer: what is casual racism– a piece written by our academic partners Jacqueline Nelson from the University of Western Sydney and Jessica Walton from Deakin University.

How It Affects People

Casual racism is more than a ‘harmless joke’ or comment. It often leads to subconscious discrimination, marginalises those who stand up and ultimately helps real racists in our community validate their views. By normalising racial stereotypes in society, we also help to perpetuate the next generation of schoolyard and office bullies.
This evocative video, made by anti-depression organisation Beyond Blue, explains how casual racism can also affect people’s health.

Also Read: What is White supremacy and how do white supremacist groups operate in our community?

How Can You Help?

Empathise – Whatever your race, showing empathy is a good place to start. This means listening to people affected by racism, hearing about their everyday struggles, and understanding the effects of privilege. To put yourself in the shoes of someone experiencing racism, try our Everyday Racism app.

Speak up – Discover ways you can safely speak up against racism.

Keep the conversation going – One of the best ways to make casual racism more visible is to talk openly about it. We encourage you to share your experiences at work, in social situations and on social media. By speaking up together, we can work towards making casual racism unacceptable in our everyday lives. What do you think? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.