Stupidity and Racism Go Hand in Hand

Posted on June 8, 2009

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Melbourne has been witnessing a sickening spate of attacks targeted towards Indian nationals, the latest involving a man who was bashed unconscious while walking home from a train station in St Albans and cars belonging to students torched outside their home in Springvale. The government has been quick to manoeuvre a public relations strategy to control the damage on the lucrative international students’ market, up there among Australia’s biggest export earners besides coal and metals. Australian leaders could have shown more concern by perhaps visiting the injured students at hospital, or having roundtable discussions with student leaders, but no, export revenue comes first and so they spent more time assuring prospective Indian students that Australia is still safe.

The police meanwhile, fending off accusations of indifference towards the attacks, have religiously maintained that the crimes are largely “opportunistic”, rather than racially-motivated. This despite the fact that only Indian students seem to be so consistently robbed and punched and threatened and stabbed over the past month. Thankfully, the Victorian Attorney-General has used the occasion to expedite the creation of hate-crime laws which would cover harassments based on race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. It is quite clear that the legislation is aimed at preventing attacks against any race, so it came as a bit of a surprise when a concerned Don Bruce of Watsonia sent a letter to the The Age (June 4, 2009) claiming that “your hate crime legislation seems to cover everyone except white Anglo-Saxon males, Rob Hulls. Apparently my safety and that of my son is considered to be of less importance”.

The wording of the proposed legislation made public so far goes along the lines of “”hatred for or a prejudice against a particular group of people”; it doesn’t actually highlight any race, so how is it that this legislation would not cover white Anglo-Saxon males? One gets the impression this particular Don Bruce is feeling a bit left out from all the media attention and public sympathy the Indian victims are getting. I could almost hear him cry “Oh poor me and my white Anglo-Saxon heritage! Take pity on me!”

And there has been widespread condemnation of those attacks by Victorian politicians, from both left and right, as well as the general Victorian public. The state has a long and proud history of multiculturalism and while there is an undercurrent of racism in Australian society, it is not unique to the country alone. What is interesting is that a significant portion of criticism hurled towards Indian students – while they are being the target of attacks – come from Indians themselves. They are usually Indian Australians hailing from upper middle class backgrounds who perhaps, through their criticism, wish to reaffirm that they are distinctly different (read: better) than their foreign counterparts. One Rahul Kapadia, from the millionaire’s suburb of Toorak, wrote in (June 7, 2009) to blame Indian students for the attacks, due to “their loud talking habits, lack of etiquette and lack of courtesy to fellow passengers, coupled with loudly playing iPods and shoving themselves into trains and trams in a “me first” attempt”.

I don’t know how much of it is true and how much is simply his own distorted stereotype of Indian nationals, but that can hardly justify the senseless bashings and stabbings being committed against them. The rude behaviour that Rahul lists could easily be ascribed to anyone in Australia, not just Indians. He further declares that “when such students, who also flaunt their wealth by wearing gold chains around their necks, decide to walk from desolate stations at odd hours in the early morning, hoodlums would attack such people regardless of whether they are Indian or not”. That’s not true. The closest thing to bling I see Indians sport are religious gold chains; they’re not flaunting their wealth, they’re affirming their faith. And no, they are not choosing to walk from desolate outer suburb train stations at odd hours in the early morning, they are forced to because that’s the only work shifts they can afford to do without clashing with their classes. But I wouldn’t expect Rahul from Toorak to understand the circumstances faced by people living without the luxury of private automobiles and an inner-city address.

Posted in: Melbourne