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ANU researchers to investigate Covid-19 ‘prejudice pandemic’


Project will record experiences of racism related to the coronavirus

A global research project that aims to record and analyse experiences of racial prejudice during the Covid-19 pandemic has been launched by a team of psychologists at the Australian National University in Canberra.

The study, called the Prejudice Census, will allow participants to log in to an ANU webpage and document their experiences. It will be led by Michael Platow, associate director of science education with the ANU research school of social sciences.

“People can record their experiences of racism if they are the victim, perpetrator or witness. We want to know what people are experiencing. When we understand more about these experiences, it helps us fight them,” he said in a university statement.

“Coronavirus is enabling a prejudice pandemic. The racism it is enabling is also life threatening. It is not just happening in Australia; there is a likelihood that Covid-19 will serve as a rationale for racism around the world.” 

Platow said the study would reveal attitudes and perceptions about prejudice, and help researchers collect data about the diversity of experiences.

“The Prejudice Census will also allow us to learn what, exactly, people think prejudice is in the first place. This is important because, if people believe their own attitudes—even negative ones about other people—to be correct and appropriate, then anti-prejudice appeals will obviously be rejected,” the study’s website says.

“What is needed, then, is an analysis of what people believe to be prejudice or not in the first place, and how and why these beliefs are changed and maintained.”

The study is funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant. It coincides with reports by the Australian Human Rights Commission of an upsurge in racial discrimination complaints linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A group of 16 prominent Chinese-Australians has published an open letter on the AHRC website expressing concern at “a marked escalation in racial abuse towards Asian Australians”. The group includes popular television presenter Adam Liaw, doctor and women’s health advocate Cindy Pan, and Su-Ming Wong, a business professor at the University of New South Wales.