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Deepa D. ([personal profile] deepad) wrote2010-01-10 01:32 am
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The attacks on desis in Australia

On 29th December, 2009, the burnt body of a 25 year old Indian national was found near Griffith, in Australia.

On 9th January, 2010, a 29 year old Indian was set on fire in Melbourne, Australia.

It is true, as the police say, that we do not know that either or both of the attacks were racially motivated until the culprits are caught (and even then, how do you verify the intent of a murderer?)

But minorities do not have the luxury of extending the benefit of the doubt to their potential assailants. And when the Australian acting Prime Minister describes an Indian cartoon that says as much as "deeply offensive" and Bob Cameron, the Victorian Police Minister, says, “We are a tolerant place and Victorian police are very tolerant and this business about racism is just wrong," it is very clear that they are speaking to their White constituents, who would like their outraged astonishment at being accused of racism to be pandered to.

Fire Fly has an excellent post here about the academic-industrial complex in Australia and its relationship to violence against Indian students.

People being set on fire is outragous. A comic speculating about intent is not.

ETA: A comprehensive, albeit dense article about the intersections between racism and educational capitalism in Australia.
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[personal profile] bravecows 2010-01-10 10:35 am (UTC)(link)
We are a tolerant place

Yeah, tolerant of violence, apparently.

(Not that I can say much better of my own country, ahaha.)
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[personal profile] applegnat 2010-01-10 06:38 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you for saying this so clearly. Many Indians criticised the broadcast media for being inflammatory in their reports of the first phase of these killings with no solid proof to back them up. Journalistic clarity is important, but not more so than this pattern of fatal anti-minority violence.
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[personal profile] monanotlisa 2010-01-10 07:46 pm (UTC)(link)
People being set on fire is outragous. A comic speculating about intent is not.

(deleted comment)
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[personal profile] spiralsheep 2010-01-11 01:19 pm (UTC)(link)

lilacsigil: 12 Apostles rocks, text "Rock On" (12 Apostles)

[personal profile] lilacsigil 2010-01-12 05:45 am (UTC)(link)
Personally, I think that if students make use of University shuttle services at night, and are careful to walk in well lit places, preferably in company, they will be ok.

University of Sydney shuttles take students right to their door? And to work, at any hour? Wow, that's astonishing service! If only Nitin Garg had gone to your university instead of a crummy old Melbourne college!
Edited (typos!) 2010-01-12 05:45 (UTC)

[personal profile] moorspede 2010-01-12 06:57 am (UTC)(link)
I apologise, I assure you my comment was not intented to be offensive. I have deleted it.

(Anonymous) 2010-01-11 04:56 am (UTC)(link)
I'm currently at the University of Sydney, pretty involved in international student activism, and I can say from experience that what you're talking about is only 1/8th of the story. Not sure why you felt so entitled to share your opinion on a stranger's journal, but USyd seems to produce a lot of graduates who think the entire world wants to hear their ill-informed opinion.

None of the 3 men recently killed were students at all, and only a minority of the Indian students who've been victims of violence were university students. The majority of issues have been faced by students in the private sector, students that white Sydney Uni graduates would hardly ever come into contact with. So I don't think your second-hand experience is really relevant.

I'm not sure if you're trying to say that you think that prejudice against full-fee-paying international students is justified, or you think that it's news to anyone that universities and colleges lower their academic standards in pursuit of fees. Papers have been talking about the issue for a long time. It's pretty naive to assume that the federal government doesn't want it this way.

Nitin Garg was stabbed in a park in Footscray, yes, but the motive that police ascribe (theft) is unconfirmed. I've heard reports that none of his belongings were missing. It's negligent and disingenuous of the police to continually deny racism when it's clear that the denial is both ideologically motivated and contradicted by fact.

I think that if students make use of University shuttle services at night, and are careful to walk in well lit places, preferably in company, they will be ok.

This suggestion is meaningless to most international students, since nowadays most international students are in the private sector where such infrastructure is unavailable. Typical of the ill-informed attitude of the privileged white students of Sydney University to assume everyone has the same conveniences they do.
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[personal profile] lilacsigil 2010-01-12 05:43 am (UTC)(link)
I keep failing to understand why the politicians are so invested in denying racism, rather than going for another perfectly acceptable political narrative, such as Blame Disaffected Youth. It just makes them looking like they're supporting the violence. Then I think about the very few rape victims who have ever been treated with dignity in the Australian press - the Anglo women raped by Lebanese men in Sydney - and it all becomes clear.

It's very, very important for white Australians to deny racism in the face of all evidence. I've done it myself, and I know the urge to say "isolated incident!" "out of context!" "if the victim hadn't..." "probably someone the victim knew!". Any of that may be true, but it's irrevelant.
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[personal profile] secondsilk 2010-01-12 12:36 pm (UTC)(link)
My first reaction was "I'm not sure if it's 'irrelevant'," which pretty much proves the point of your post. (I totally bought AM and PM's reporting of the bashings of Indian students in the middle of last year as opportunistic).

Perhaps it's a misunderstanding/denial of what racist means on the part of the politicians? Things can be also racist. Racist as well as opportunistic and out of context and by someone the victim knew. None of that changes the racism inherent in cultural understanding in Australia. The fact that racism goes unnoticed and unchallenged and excused.
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[personal profile] lilacsigil 2010-01-12 10:37 pm (UTC)(link)
Things can be also racist.

Or also opportunistic, also copycats, etc. Definitely, and there's no real reason that wouldn't fit in a soundbite!
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[personal profile] lilacsigil 2010-01-13 02:00 am (UTC)(link)
Yes, I think so too - sorry my sentence was too convoluted to make that clear. I'll try to get my thoughts in order rather than sorting them as I comment next time!
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[personal profile] secondsilk 2010-01-12 12:24 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm am so sorry.

No, no, Australia really does have race problems. Problems. Plural. They're different from the race problems in the UK and the US, but they're real. I only know that much about it. I've had that conversation several times since leaving Australia to travel.

(Even if the beatings of Indian students in Sydney were opportunistic (late night travellers, suburban trains, etc) the fact that Indian students were the ones in that position of vulnerability is the result of racist policies. Just because the attackers aren't KKK-like, doesn't mean there's no racism in the attacks or the situation of them. (This is OT, me working my way through my own thinking in public.))

And a part of me still wants to think, "I thought this was a Sydney problem."

Thank you for the links. (I came via [personal profile] coffeeandink)
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[personal profile] aquaeri 2010-01-14 11:43 pm (UTC)(link)
Yes, this also horrified me. I can understand the police's reluctance to consider at least some of these crimes carefully pre-planned, but really? Australians are not set on fire on any kind of regular basis. When two are set on fire within a month of each other, and both 'just happen' to have Desi ancestry, I call racism.
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Larger context of Australian racism

[personal profile] aquaeri 2010-01-14 11:36 pm (UTC)(link)
Yes, Australia is racist. As others have mentioned, I think it's a slightly different flavour of racism than other white-anglo places but it certainly exists.

There is this construction of white, Anglo-Irish descended Australians as 'normal', baseline Australians. Politicians pander a lot to these 'normal' Australians. Most of them aren't racist enough to set fire to someone, but they are racist enough to see themselves as 'normal' and I think more importantly in this context, get defensive and protective of other 'normal' Australians who are that racist.

I just did a bit of web-searching for ethnic composition, and it suggests to me that Anglo-Irish descended Australians are now about 2/3 of the population, as part of a gradual decline from the 1950s. Reports talk a lot about 'recent immigration policies' but of course there were no Anglo-Irish Australians before 1788, and many Asian and Pacific, particularly Chinese, Australians can trace their Australian heritage to the second half of the 1800s, to the gold rush and subsequent expansion of Australian farming and mining and thus population*. During the first 2/3rds of the 1900s, Australia had a "White Australia" policy (oh, the shame!) but many non-Anglo-Irish whites arrived during that time, particularly from Italy and Greece after WWII.

Anyway, it's very intriguing to me, this 2/3 figure. Because I believe it's the same 2/3 that has been found in studies of previously-male only workplaces: when the men drop to 'only' 2/3, they start to feel overwhelmed by women. So not only do I think Australia is racist, the 'normal' population might be suffering actual racist panic around now.

* I feel I have to include the 'Blackbirds' in this: Pacific Islanders who were captured to be slaves on sugar cane plantations.

[Personal disclaimer: I am a white Australian citizen, but an immigrant from Denmark, first arriving as an eight-year old. Because I learnt English before puberty from Australian children I have an acceptably Australian English accent and generally pass (based on accent and appearance), although I am personally aware that 'normal' Australian culture is not my culture. I think I sit in the doorway between 'normal' and 'ethnic' Australian.]
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2/3 theory

[personal profile] aquaeri 2010-01-15 07:11 am (UTC)(link)
I'm trying to chase down some references for my own interest. I will pass them on to you if I find them. (It is so frustrating because I'm sure I've seen it discussed in several places!)
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Re: 2/3 theory

[personal profile] spiralsheep 2010-01-15 09:11 pm (UTC)(link)
The refs I've seen are for Dale Spender. The research I've seen wasn't exactly solid. Quoted often by U Le G.

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Re: 2/3 theory

[personal profile] aquaeri 2010-01-18 05:48 am (UTC)(link)
Thanks. Dale Spender fitted in nicely to the stuff I was discovering otherwise. As far as I can tell, Dale Spender has made two specific 2/3 claims:
1. That teachers in classrooms devote 2/3 of their time to the male students, 1/3 to the female students.
2. That perceived "balanced" conversations between a man and a woman actually involve the man talking 2/3 of the time.

There is certainly a body of research and evidence relevant to each of these claims. Neither is necessarily 2/3, but I think the gist does hold up.

1. (Western) Teachers without specific training do in fact devote more time to their male students without being aware of it, usually believing they are completely fair (and they can and do become aware of it with training). Most of the US research seems to have been done by or summarised by David and Myra (now deceased) Sadker. It's unfortunately not really available online, being either in books or academic articles.

2. There is a pop-cultural (Western) belief that women talk significantly more than men which is completely untrue; in fact men, if anything, talk slightly more than women. In other words, for women and men to be perceived as talking equally much, men would have to talk more than women. This belief was crystalised by a book called 'The Female Brain'. The claim was noticed and debunked particularly by the blog Language Log, but also in other places. This page has a long list of Language Log posts about the issue.

I cannot find anything relating to my original claim that workplaces with 1/3 women are perceived as gender-balanced or 'the women are taking over'. I will continue looking, and avoid making the claim in the meantime.

In an attempt to re-rail a bit, I do think there is a core issue here which does not seem to be solidly researched (based on my googling, admittedly) and would apply equally to issues of racism, particularly in majority-white countries like Australia. That is the extent to which privilege distorts the perception of balance, fairness or normalness.

Solid research would be a matter of comparing people's perceptions of situations to hard data: show pictures or video of classrooms or other settings, and afterwards ask subjects questions about the male-female ratio in the room, or the white-PoC ratio (or any other dimension of privilege of interest). Compare the actual ratio with the (range of) subjects' perceptions of the ratio, taking into account the subjects' own status with respect to whatever is being investigated.
spiralsheep: The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity (ish icons Curiosity Cures Boredom)

Re: 2/3 theory

[personal profile] spiralsheep 2010-01-19 12:30 am (UTC)(link)
You're welcome.

Your 2 is the one I remembered.
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Re: 2/3 theory

[personal profile] aquaeri 2010-01-25 04:54 am (UTC)(link)
I've just (in the course of something unrelated) come across this paper by Kanter which looks relevant, although somewhat old (1977). She describes groups as Uniform 100:0 ratio, skewed 85:15 ratio, tilted 65:35 ratio, and balanced 50:50 ratio. What I'm interested in is the tilted case, but unfortunately this paper is about the skewed case.

Nevertheless, I think her description of tilted is relevant: Minority members are potentially allies, can form coalitions, and can affect the culture of the group. They begin to become individuals differentiated from each other as well as a type differentiated from the majority. "Affecting the culture of the group" sounds like a bingo for challenging the privileged majority and making them uncomfortable.

It looks to be quite the classic citation. I hope to find something interesting and more specific in all those links eventually.