“It Depends How You’re Saying It”: The Complexities of Everyday Racism

  • Jessica Walton McCaughey Centre, The University of Melbourne
  • Naomi Priest McCaughey Centre, The University of Melbourne
  • Yin Paradies McCaughey Centre, The University of Melbourne

Abstract

While racism is widely recognised as a complex social phenomenon, the basis for defining and identifying everyday racism from a lay perspective is not well understood. This exploration of factors used to frame everyday racism draws on seven cognitive interviews and four focus groups conducted in November 2010 and January 2011 with Australian adults predominantly from Anglo ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The study reveals lay theorising centring on tropes of intentionality, effect of speech, relationality and acceptability. Participants were more likely to think of racism as having negative, overtly offensive and emotional connotations. Racialised speech that was not considered to be blatantly racist was more contested, with participants engaging in complex theorising to determine whether or not such speech constituted racism. The study also highlights the potential of qualitative research to inform survey development as an unobtrusive method for in-depth participant reflection. The ambiguous nature of everyday racism demonstrated in this paper indicates a need to foster more nuanced lay understandings of racism that encompass the subtle, rational and complementary expressions that can be situated within institutions and society.

Author Biographies

Jessica Walton, McCaughey Centre, The University of Melbourne
Research Fellow at the McCaughey Centre, Melbourne School of Population Health, The University of Melbourne
Naomi Priest, McCaughey Centre, The University of Melbourne
Research Fellow at the McCaughey Centre, Melbourne School of Population Health, The University of Melbourne
Yin Paradies, McCaughey Centre, The University of Melbourne
Senior Research Fellow at the McCaughey Centre, Melbourne School of Population Health, The University of Melbourne
Published
2013-04-04
Section
Focus: Qualitative Research on Prejudice