Saturday, June 13, 2009

No, we are not racists

Article from: Herald Sun

Neil Mitchell

June 11, 2009 12:00am

THERE'S no real point to worrying about being politically correct when that will aggravate a situation already dangerous and misunderstood.

It is fact that Australia's reputation for decency is now threatened by racial tension and the fear is that this could be a glimpse of the future.

The predicament is built around Indian students, the attacks on them, their response to those attacks and the ugliness the subsequent tension has provoked.

If there was any doubt about how seriously the problem is viewed, it was dispelled yesterday when the state's three most powerful people tried to quell the fears and end the stupidity.

The Prime Minister called for calm, but with a degree of passion not normally considered Rudd-like. He deplored racial attacks on any person - "Chinese, Indian, Callithumpian, Queenslanders".

He reminded the world that Australians are also bashed and die in India, which does not provoke parades of chanting ocker backpackers in the streets of Mumbai.

The remaining members of the power trio, the Premier and the Chief Commissioner of Police, met at a railway station and pledged a police campaign supposedly directed at street robberies, but really designed to reassure angry Indian students.

It was a stunt, albeit a worthy one, but let's put the spin aside and look to some basic truths.

It is true that there are gangs operating in this country. Some are racially based and racially motivated.

Some do attack particular ethnic groups.

It is also true that there have been attacks on Indian students described as "curry bashing", an awful term Indians themselves say is a motivation for the attacks.

But there have been far more attacks on Indian students motivated by brutality and theft.

In Sydney, there are dangerous racial undertones to the tension. On the streets at night it has been Middle Eastern versus Indian. That's ugly - and frightening.

The media in India has been hysterical about all this with little concern for the facts and less understanding of this country.

Australian political leaders have been quick to react and overreact, partly because they are concerned about Australia developing a reputation for racism and partly because the education of international students is big business.

And the final truth is that the Indian students have harmed their cause and there is no point pretending otherwise.

Student leaders have portrayed their members as docile, which in itself is a racist generalisation.

Some are gentle, some are not, and the aggressive protests have shown that.

Burning effigies of the Prime Minister makes for good TV, but it incites tensions and alienates decent people.

Worse, the protests seem based on the assumption that Australia's leaders and police somehow endorse this violence and could end it if they had the will.

That's rubbish, on both counts. It's unfair to blame the people and the leaders for the brutality of a few street thugs who are at times just as likely to attack fourth-generation Australians as they are visitors from the other side of the world.

Some of the students have had a rough time, and that is deplorable. But it is the fault of a few criminals, not the society, and not the culture.

Neil Mitchell broadcasts from 8.30am weekdays on 3AW


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