‘Common’ racist attacks are sadly reflective

We’ve heard this week that racist or discriminatory incidents are likely under-reported in Tasmania.

This statement comes from Ella Dixon, head of the Migrant Resource Centre in Launceston.

Ms Dixon’s comments were made in response to perceived low complaint numbers of race discrimination, lodged with Equal Opportunity Tasmania.

Ms Dixon said the complaint numbers (17 in the 2016-17 financial year, down from 19 the previous year) did not reflect the “commonplace” racism in Tasmania.

The Examiner has, unfortunately, seen first-hand that racism still exists in Launceston and greater Tasmania.

Last month, a competitive dancer of Asian appearance was racially abused in Launceston, while he was in the city for a dance championship.

This story opened the floodgates – on social media, many comments shared their own similar experiences of being harassed or targeted because of race. But scarily, many commenters jumped to the defence of the abuser.

It’s no wonder that racially motivated attacks go unreported - not only are the victims being attacked, they’re being accused of imagining or over-exaggerating their experiences.

Ms Dixon said there was a “negative mindset” forming, creating an environment where migrants could be viewed with suspicion. There were a mix of factors, she said, that were informing the country’s attitude towards immigration, including the increasing popularity of far-right parties.

At the 2016 federal elections, the polls showed that voters are more disillusioned and disengaged with traditional, mainstream political parties than ever. Voters are looking to the fringes to cast their votes.

It’s happened in other countries, particularly in Europe, where debates around tightening immigration have formed the backbone of policies for right-wing parties that have ended up in power.

Researchers found that in those countries, the language used around immigration and migrant issues became looser, meaning things said in the public medium were well beyond the politically and socially correct language lines that were once never crossed.

The more behaviour and language we see trickled down from the top, unfortunately, the more we are going to see it accepted in everyday society.