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Racism is treating someone unfairly simply because they belong to a different race or culture. It is illegal to treat people differently because of their race and no one has the right to make you feel bad or abuse you.

What is racism?

Two boys threatening each otherRacism is when someone is treated differently or unfairly just because of their race or culture.

People can also experience prejudice because of their religion or nationality, for example, calling a Muslim person a terrorist. This is wrong and untrue.

It is illegal to treat people differently or unfairly because of their race and nobody has the right to make you feel bad or abuse you.

Racism can include: 

  • written or verbal threats or insults
  • damage to property, including graffiti
  • personal attacks, including violence.
  • Why some people are racist

    Someone who's a racist can feel threatened by anyone who's from a different race or culture.

    Our views and beliefs develop as we grow up. If you grow up within a racist family, or have friends who are racist, you may believe that racism is normal and acceptable.

    Prejudice of any kind is often based on ignorance and fear of things that are different. Don't dislike what you don't know. Find out more by reading, learning about things online, talking to people who might have a different perspective to you and getting lots of different views before you make up your mind.

    Imagine being someone else and what this would be like. Think about how you'd like to be treated.

    Being bullied because of your race

    Being bullied or treated differently can be hard. It might seem easier to avoid situations where the racist abuse might happen, like not going to school. This usually won't help it go away. And it can make you feel worse.

    Things you can try to help stop the bullying

    • Accept that it's not your fault - It can be tough if you're having a hard time, but remember you're not the one to have caused the problem.
    • Tell someone what's happening to you - This could be a close friend or an adult you trust.
    • Keep some evidence - This could be a diary of events, saved messages and a record of when things happen. This can be useful to show others that you need help
    • Keep yourself safe - You could walk home with someone you trust, change privacy settings online and block users who bully you. 

      Young people have told us:
    • ''I get called a terrorist because I'm from Pakistan. It makes me feel bad.''
    • ''Boys at school call me horrible names because I look different to them.''
    • ''They told me to go back to where I came from. I don't know what to do.''

    Whatever you're going through, you can talk to us. You can also contact us if someone you know is worried or being treated badly. 

    • Who can be affected by racism?

      Unfortunately, racism can exist in all races and cultures. If someone is abused or treated unfairly just because of their race, background or culture, this is racism – no matter where they are from.

      You can also be affected by racism which isn’t directed at you. For example, if you hear someone discriminating against someone else’s culture, you might still find it offensive even if you’re not from that culture.

    • What is racial discrimination?

      Racial discrimination means someone has been treated unfairly because of their race. It can mean not having the same opportunities, respect or support as other people because of your race or ethnicity. It can also mean people from certain ethnic backgrounds are blocked from achieving their goals in life. Discrimination is illegal.

      Sometimes racial discrimination can happen if there are rules that only affect one racial or religious group. For example, if Jewish boys are not allowed to wear a yarmulke or if a Sikh person is not allowed to wear a turban, this is racial discrimination. However, teachers may ask someone not to wear religious clothing if it is a reasonable request. For example, if the clothes could be dangerous to wear during PE.

      Sometimes people discriminate against other people without meaning to – this is still wrong.

      Prejudice of any kind is often based on ignorance and fear of things that are different.

      Learn more about discrimination.

    • Racial stereotypes

      Stereotypes are used to describe the behaviour of a certain group of people – like people from the same race, religion or type of job. Stereotypes are often wrong because they assume that everyone from a certain group acts in the same way. For example saying all men like football, all Muslims are terrorists or all lesbians have short hair.

      Racial stereotypes often bring out racist attitudes. Even if it wasn’t your intention to be racist, using racial stereotypes can subtly change the way you behave with someone from a different race.

    • What if it's a joke?

      Even if it’s not meant to be offensive, a racist joke can be hurtful to someone and their culture. It could also be offensive to people they know and care about. A racist joke is still racist and going along with it gives people the impression that racism is okay.

      Sometimes people make impressions of people from other cultures or tell jokes about different races. If people around you are doing this, it’s important to think about whether you want to be a part of it. If someone doesn’t show that they are upset at the time, making racist jokes towards them could still have a negative impact. Imagine if you heard jokes about your race, culture or background all the time. Making racist jokes is a form of abuse and eventually it will have an impact on how people feel about themselves and their culture.

    • I'm being called a terrorist. Is this racism?

      Being called names like terrorist, extremist or bomber is wrong. It could also be racism or a type of discrimination. Someone might say things like this because of your race, religion or how you look. They might make fun of your accent or the country you're from. Or they might call you names as a joke or a dare. This is wrong. It's never your fault and you don't have to deal with things alone.

      You could try asking an adult for help or talking to us. Our counsellors are here to support you and help you find ways to cope.


    Are you being bullied because of your race or culture? Get support from the ChildLine community on the message boards.

    Bullying message board

    Your views on the news

    Visit the world/current news board to chat to other young people about lots of things including people's rights

    Go to the message boards

    Did this page about racism help you? If so, tell us how.




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