Let's stop all the noise, all the shouting, all the finger-pointing and all the condemnation for a minute and just think about it.
What is at the heart of racism?
Fear, war, displacement, loss, appearance, skin colour, history, family teachings, and above all ignorance - a lack of knowledge.
Racism is reflected in the eyes of the woman wearing a hijab who has to deal with comments about her appearance or beliefs as she takes the bus to and from work every day.
It is reflected in the eyes of the boy whose lunch is thrown around in the playground at school by other children simply because the food looks and smells different to what is deemed "normal".
It is reflected in the eyes of the student who dies a little inside each time the teacher gets her name wrong and does not make an effort to pronounce it properly even when gently reminded.
These are just a few examples.
What causes these things to happen on an ongoing basis?
Ultimately, a lack of knowledge, i.e. ignorance.
Who is at fault? We all are.
Every single one of us.
We are all a product of our family teachings, but we are also human beings with free will who can change how we act.
Who can make an effort to do things differently and learn something new?
Who can try?
Even the smallest of actions can have positive consequences.
As I write this, I am reminded of my very first teaching practicum at a low socioeconomic school in Western Australia in 1995, when I was studying at one of the local universities.
I was told about a particular student – in fact warned that he was a real handful and would disrupt my lesson given half a chance.
My curiosity was instantly piqued, so I asked around.
I found out that he was Muslim and from the Middle East – my memory fails me as to his name now and his country of birth, unfortunately.
Anyhow, I mulled the situation for a while and thought about what I could do to show him that he mattered.
That he was seen. You know, all it took was one word of Arabic – a very powerful, intensely spiritual word in the Islamic religion.
Assalamualaikum – Peace be upon you.
I did my best to pronounce it correctly and greeted him as he sat down at his desk, with his sister beside him.
His jaw literally dropped in surprise and he turned to his sister and whispered "She speaks Arabic".
Well, he was a model of good behaviour the whole lesson and thereafter in all the lessons I had with his class.
To this day, I wonder how differently my lesson might have gone if I had not made an effort to do what I did?
What impact would this have had on me as a teacher?
This was by no means the only experience I had with so-called "difficult" students throughout my 20 or more years as an ESOL teacher.
However, I can honestly say this experience and the ones that followed fostered my determination to make my language lessons student centred, to show students they mattered and were all special in their own way.
I truly believe that it made me a better teacher in the long run and also a better person.
To my mind, a single word can be a catalyst for change.
Yeah, right – I hear some of you saying and see you rolling your eyes. It's not that simple. What does she know?
Well, I believe it is actually that simple. Where one person goes, others will follow. It will take time, but it will happen.
Teach your children to be curious, smile at others, go over and say hello, compliment others on their clothes and ask questions in the right way.
Try new food, step out of your comfort zone at times to promote dialogue that will slow and hopefully eventually stave off the incidents of racism occurring in our country.
It all starts with us.
Why not be a beacon for change and take the first step today?
Who knows what you could achieve if you put your mind to it?
Napier-born Joanna Niederer is a freelance German-to-English translator and a specialist proofreader. She also used to teach ESOL for many year, and has lived in Australia, Indonesia and Switzerland.