• An Invasion Day rally in Brisbane. (AAP)Source: AAP
As people took to the streets all over the world for Black Lives Matters uprisings last year, Australians also took to the internet – pondering questions like, 'what is white privilege?' and 'how not to be racist?'
Keira Jenkins

12 Feb 2021 - 1:48 PM  UPDATED 12 Feb 2021 - 1:48 PM

Australians are turning to the internet to ask 'how not to be a racist?' and 'what is white privilege?' in increasing numbers.

In June, as people took to the streets all over the world, turning out for Black Lives Matters rallies, Australians also took to the internet pondering questions like 'what is white privilege?' - a question which spiked more than 300 per cent that month - and 'how not to be racist?' - searches for that phrase increased four times over.

Searches for books on racism and books by Indigenous authors have also doubled month on month.

Barkandji woman and managing director of consultancy organisation Source Nation, Dixie Crawford, said this surge in race-related searches and the increase in sale of race-related books shows a desire for Australians to self-educate.

"There's a desire and interest to learn more," she told NITV News. "People who may not know enough about it to feel confident engaging in a conversation about it, are instead engaging through buying books or through race-related searches."

Social media was also a hotbed for these conversations to occur, with data from software company Semrush showing 74 per cent more conversations on Twitter related to 'Invasion/Survival Day' (14,483) compared to the 8,567 conversation relating to 'Australia Day'.

The use of '#Changethedate' increased 510 per cent in the month leading up to January 26, and was used 32 per cent more frequently than '#savethedate'.

But Ms Crawford said this trend is bigger than what is happening on social media, and was heartened by the actions of organisations like Cricket Australia, who removed the 'Australia Day' branding from their January 26 matches.

She said race-related conversations had been building in momentum since the beginning of June and had carried on through to January 26 - a trend that didn't look like it would dissipate anytime soon.

"I was skeptical," Ms Crawford said.

"Some of my migaloo friends said 'this is never going to go away' early on, and I was just like 'we'll see'. This isn't my first rodeo, I've seen this happen before.

"But I have to admit, I was wrong."

'We can't unsee what we saw'

Ms Crawford said the momentum from those Black Lives Matter rallies has remained, as has the spotlight on the issue of Indigenous deaths in custody and the over-incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in this country.

Something was different this time. Ms Crawford puts it down to the horrific video the world saw of George Floyd being killed, and the social circumstances brought on by COVID-19.

"We can't unsee what we saw," she said.

"Just as we can't unsee the systemic oppression of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here. 

"I think in the context of 2020, the experience of literally seeing someone die - we literally saw George Floyd dying - and we have to remember we saw videos that were eerily similar of Aboriginal people dying here.

"I think that raised the level of consciousness about these issues."

But one issue remains - how do we bring those race-related conversations into the real world so Australians can stop asking the internet how not to be a racist.

Mr Crawford said it comes down to confidence.

"You have to know that you'll make mistakes," she said.

"You will offend people, you will get it wrong, but you have to build resilience around it and be able to bounce back.

"Sometimes we word things wrong, or we say the wrong things, but we have to start integrating these conversations into our everyday life.

"That's how you become a good advocate or ally. All we ask is for you to do better. 

"It's not enough to have one Aboriginal person in an organisation. We have to challenge people so we can do better."

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