It’s been almost 2 months since I’ve been in Australia and I’m having the time of my life! I’ve been to some amazing places, met a lot of fascinating people and have made a few good friends.But ever since I got here, I’ve been bombarded, by people from back home, with questions regarding the issue of racism. In light of the events that have occurred in the recent past, I couldn’t really blame them for their concern.
Now, enough publicity has already been given to the issue by all sorts of media outlets and I’m not going to repeat the entire story here. Two months is hardly any time for me to form and pass judgements; especially on a highly sensitive subject such as this.
But have I made a few observations? Yes.
Is everyone going to agree with me? Not sure.
Am I going to tell you anytime soon? Yes. Lol.
To begin with there is no denying that many of the attacks were indeed racially motivated. Former premier Jeff Kennett, singer Kamahl, Australian neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Teo, former Australian Medical Association president Dr Mukesh Haikerwal and ex-police commissioner Christine Nixon have all said that racism exists. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the twentieth century had glorified in the fact that Australia was a White Man’s Country. In fact “White Australia” was a proud policy of the Australian governments. Although racism has considerably diminished over the last 50 years, it still lingers in some way, shape or form. It is therefore incorrect for Australian politicians to be assuring Indians that racism doesn’t exist at all. But is the entire country to be labelled “unsafe”? Of course not, because even in Melbourne, where most of the attacks took place, a lot of people were unaware of the issue until it was reported in the papers.
Why are “brown guys” targeted?
Most Indians come to Australia to pursue their higher studies; financed by loans and by families keen on sending their kids abroad to seek fortunes for themselves. The word has got around that brown guys – which include Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Sri-Lankans and even Middle easterners – are new to the place and unsure of how the system works, which make them perfect targets compared to their white counterparts. They have phones, laptops and often ready cash from their long-hour jobs. They wouldn’t register a complaint with the impression they have of the Indian police and also in fear of breaching their visa conditions.
This contrasts with students coming from China who have been coming to Australia in huge numbers for the past few decades.
The role of the media:
There are two sides to every story. But to me it seems like one side was completely ignored.
Now, when the alleged incidents had taken place, I was in India. Every media outlet was talking endlessly about the attacks and every newspaper ran articles about it. But being a media student, I’ve learned not to take everything the media throws at you, at face-value. Now that I’m in Aussie land myself, I’ve had the chance to speak to people and understand their perspective.
When I spoke to my Indian friends here, they said that the Indian media had given a lot more hype regarding the issue, than it deserved. And I completely agree. For instance, when an Indian student was bashed in a Melbourne train, the Indian media was more than ready to use the “R” word and splash it across the front pages of every leading newspaper. But when students were bashed up on Delhi Metro, they never made the news. As of late 2008, as many as 71 offenders were fined or punished in one month for crimes ranging from sexually harassing women passengers to bashing and mugging male passengers at night. However none of these were even talked about, let alone make headlines.
I guess the final straw for me was when I read an article two days ago, in the Times of India, where an Indian student in the US, had accused two elite American universities, Harvard and Princeton of racial discrimination in their admission policy. And as usual this made headlines!
Hey kid! Maybe there were students smarter than you with better grades, did you ever think about that?
Racism is a two-way street:
Indians complain about every other nation (UK, Australia, US, Middle-East!!) being racists but let me tell you something, we’re no different.
I was born and raised in Dubai, been to New York, and have been living in India for the past several years now.
I had never witnessed any form of racism growing up in an Arab country, surrounded by a lot of Arab friends. However, I’ve heard a lot many Indians accusing Arabs of being racists, rude, aping the west, difficult to work with etc etc. Just one question, then why not go back to India, for crying out loud? Nobody’s forcing you to stay in a foreign country? Leave if you want to. But no, we want the money, the education, the jobs, and the quality of life that country has to offer whilst continuing to trash-talk them.
Having lived in India for the past 8 years now, I’ve seen a lot more discrimination on the basis of race, class, gender and sexual orientation. Words like “mallus”, “golutis”, “chappatis” and “madrasis” were coined by Indians themselves against people of each state. Why don’t we put a racist tag on that? The “We just use it for harmless fun” argument is both pointless and pathetic.
And let’s not forget the Kerala- TamilNadu issue. These two South Indian states have been at loggerheads regarding the Mullaperiyar Dam, for quite some time now. People in Tamil Nadu have taken to the streets, closing down shops owned by Keralites, bashing them up on the streets etc. And we “preach”, unity in diversity!
Even after all of this, can we honestly claim that we’re any better? No.
Can racism be erased completely from a society?
As much as I hate to admit it, the truth is that racism cannot be completely erased from a society. Traces of it will still be left behind, at least for a while. However, we can definitely make a difference by simple things like creating awareness, integrating with the mainstream culture of the foreign country we live in (in this case Australia) and creating a positive understanding in the minds of the foreigners about our own culture.
So this is my perspective on the whole issue. Let me know what you think. And please, I would like it to be civil.