I hail from a tiny city at the bottom of the world—and I mean that literally. Dunedin, New Zealand is the last stop for expeditions that visit Antarctica. And it is very, very White: I remember being shocked when I visited other cities – the streets were full of people of all nationalities. I was flabbergasted to discover that New Zealand wasn’t actually a sea of dour Scottish stock. Walk along any street in the north and the face of the country could be Maori, Pacific Island, South-East Asian, Maori, Indian, African – a whole spectrum of people from all corners of the globe that I had literally never come across before.
At university, we were taught that racism was an inevitable part of being human—that we’re all wired to automatically look down on groups that we see as “other.” And the research does mostly back that up—even if you think you’re the least racist person in the world, you will still show inherent racial biases when tested by tricksy psychologists.
So what with my Whiter than White upbringing (and my unfortunate state of being human) I have always harboured fears that I am secretly racist. That’s why I jumped at the chance to test out a world-first app, Everyday Racism.
What is the Everyday Racism App?
Everyday Racism is an app developed by an anti-racism group in Australia, in collaboration with three universities. The app shows you what a week is like in the world of an ethnic minority. Everyday Racism is based on the real-life experiences of Aboriginal men, Muslim women and Indian students in Australia.
Don’t let that “Australia” part put you off though—the experiences here really do seem to be universal for any person with a darker skin-tone than the norm.
How does the Everyday Racism app work?
You can choose which of three players you want to be for the week: Patrick Redford, a 31 year old Aboriginal man who works for local government, Aisha Karim, a 29 year old Muslim teacher, and Vihaan, a 22 year old Indian man studying at university.
Every day, you receive a number of texts, tweets, radio messages, and videos of things happening to you during your daily life. For each encounter, you have to choose what you would do, with feedback about how that person would respond to you.
What can an app about racism really teach you?
I was sceptical at first that the app would really teach me anything. I don’t make a habit of yelling “go back to your own country!” at people out my car window. I figured that I would swan through the app feeling morally superior, safe in the knowledge that I would never do any of the racist things, and I would always know how to respond.
Well, how wrong was I! There were so many instances when the Everyday Racism app made me stop and pause. Would I ever “forget” to invite someone out because they didn’t drink? Do I assume all women in hijabs are repressed? Do I speak up when I hear people complain that all these “foreigners” are taking the jobs? When I’m tired or distracted, do I revert to seeing someone as “an ethnicity” rather than “a person?”
And as it turns out, I often had no idea how to respond to the scenarios I was given. I can only really talk from my experience as a woman, but when people yell things out the car at me, my go-to response is to pretend I didn’t hear it and do nothing. So for most scenarios, I did nothing – and nothing changed.
It was demoralising, and incredibly sad. When I sometimes went against my natural instinct and shared photos of people harassing me on the street, or contacted my HR team about racist comments about my manager, the response was usually thoughtful. Things didn’t necessarily change, but the app would give me little facts about how people need to have racism pointed out to them for it to change. Well played, Everyday Racism.
Why everyone should use this app—even if you don’t live in Australia
I am not from Australia (yes that’s right, New Zealand is a whole other country), and I found the Everyday Racism app eye-opening.
While the app is based on Australians’ experiences, the things that you face in the app are truly universal.
You could substitute in “woman” or “black person” or “gay person” and your eyes would be opened up to the blatant, insidious and casual biases that are part of everyday life when you’re a minority.
Teeny tiny things I didn’t like about the Everyday Racism app
Like I said, I am White, and I come from a city of Whiteys. I kind of felt like the Everyday Racism left my group off the hook by placing all the onus on the abused people to speak up, rather than educating us majority groups about what we can do to help.
I believe that combatting racism is everyone’s responsibility, no matter where you come from or what you look like. It would have been great to have a White player, and to see what kind of racist things their friends would say to them, and to have options of how you respond.
The final word
This is without a doubt, the best app I have ever used. It made me snigger, cringe, feel sad, despondent, and, sometimes, hopeful. It made me realise how much abuse people in ethnic minorities have to deal with, and how powerful it can be when they speak up and say that it is not OK.
It made me look at my own behaviour —how I go quiet when my older family members say racist things because I want to be polite, my assumptions about other cultures, and how I need to start seeing people as having things in common with me by default, rather than zeroing in on ways they’re different to me.
I can’t recommend the Everyday Racism App highly enough – you should definitely add it to your app library.
Come tweet with us at #everydayracism