Do you feel safe in your home? Do you feel safe in your neighbourhood? Or do you feel attacked, vilified and unsafe because of the colour of your skin and the way you look?
These are the questions community broadcaster Vikas Sharma is asking after a recent spate of incidents of racism that have left himself and his young family feeling scared at home.
According to Vikas, what started off as a neighbourhood issue – including his home being the target of pranks such as ‘knock-and-runs’ throughout the day and in the middle of the night – quickly turned more sinister when he asked for the behaviour to stop.
“Some of the insults that were hurled at me I cannot even repeat and the door was slammed in my face,” he says. “I was called a Nazi and ‘a f–ing Arab.”
Vikas is visibly shaken and very emotional about these incidents.
“We’ve been at home doing the right thing [during COVID-19 lockdown], getting tested when we needed to, getting jabbed and disturbing no-one,” he says.
What’s most concerning is that this isn’t the first time Vikas has experienced racism in Canberra.
He’s resigned to having to accept ignorant comments such as being asked ‘if he’s a cab driver’.
He says he is always having to respond to constant questions about himself and his ethnicity.
“People want to know if I’m an Arab or Moroccan, for example,” says Vikas.
He took to social media on Tuesday, 28 September, to share his story.
The video (below) shows a visibly emotional Vikas, and it doesn’t make for easy viewing.
The 'I' in this video is not just me, it is on behalf of all the people who have quietly suffered or are suffering and don't know or have courage to speak up. #SpeakUp #SayNoMore #RacismStillExists #Respect #diversityandinclusion #inclusion #community #communitysupport #radio #voice #SayNoToDiscrimination #multicultural
Posted by ACT Desi on Tuesday, September 28, 2021
“Do I not have a right to live in my own house in peace?” he asks.
Vikas asked whether it is wrong for him to be part of the community, to work to create a better life for himself and his family, to own his own home, to pay taxes and strata fees.
He’s also critical of the fact that in recent weeks, migrants from different cultures have been praised as those who are standing up and helping the community in times of need.
“Do we [migrants] not deserve respect all the time?” asks Vikas.
“These are questions I have asked and I will not leave these topics. I’ve taken this up for people who cannot speak for themselves and I won’t be silent.”
Vikas is calling out what he describes as a system in which respect for migrants is conditional.
“If we are in a doctor’s or nurse’s uniform or visibly helping people, we are respected, but if not, we get harassed,” he says.
“When people look different, they get called names for it. It has to stop.”
Vikas is concerned he isn’t aware of any resources and support available for people who experience racism.
He tried to contact ACT Policing but isn’t sure any action has or will be taken.
But Vikas says the real reason he made the video was not to specifically share his own experience, but to reach out to other people who may have experienced something similar.
A separate Tweet from Vikas on the same issue came to the attention of Canberra Liberals MLA Giulia Jones who re-shared it alongside the message that racism is never OK.