A possie in Aussie

March 22, 2010

Are police racist? A Sudanese view

Filed under: race relations,racism — Nayano @ 7:26 am
Tags: , ,

Just as we don’t see our own racism, we don’t see our own culture, and so we learn about these things if at all. (See South Australians know ‘they’ are racist: Racism Survey.)

I have been working with Sudanese for four years, and slowly slowly learn more.

In recent conversations with police and Sudanese new settlers in meetings together I have learnt:

In the Southern Sudanese traditional culture from which the people I know come (there is of course more than one cultural group in South Sudan) there are no institutions such as police and courts and prisons, and order depends on interpersonal respect.

Everyone in a group must show respect to the elder, and when given an order, carry it out. This extends down the hierarchy to individual families.  Respect is also vital between peers, and if someone disrespects another, they will be ostracised.

We protect our police and justice system from politics and to a varying extent from the media, and are expected to show respect to the police and judiciary by obeying their directions and symbolically through silence in court, and obeying the protocols. We do this because they are vital for us to be able to live together.

‘Respect’ has the same place in Sudanese society. So much so that one man told me that it is less offensive to physically attack someone than to verbally abuse them.

So, imagine that a car driven by a Sudanese young man is stopped by the police.

The police officer has been trained to be polite, but also to be on guard. Politeness will not be at the top of their agenda, and will disappear under even a small stress.

The cop expects respect because they are the police. The Sudanese man expects respect, because he has learnt from birth onwards that it is of the utmost importance between all people.

The cop may feel uneasy because this guy is an unknown quantity, and may have fallen for the media beatups that (wrongly) portray Sudanese as gang members.

Add to this mix that fact that the Sudanese accent is very difficult for a native-born Australian to understand.

The mix is explosive. The result confirms things the officer has heard about Sudanese youth. The Sudanese man loses respect for the police force.

Is this racism?


March 20, 2010

South Australians know ‘they’ are racist: Racism Survey

Filed under: race relations,racism — Nayano @ 7:30 am

Where there are people, there is racism.

And, like bullying in schools, the places that don’t acknowledge its existence in their midst are the ones where it is most likely to blossom.

That’s why I think that the finding that South Australians have the highest rate of acknowledgement of racism and Anglo privilege than any other Australian states is something to be proud of and encourage.

The South Australia Racism Survey, a part of the ‘Challenging Racism Project’, a ten year study of the geographic spread of racism in Australia was released last Friday, and found that 88 percent of South Australians recognise that racial prejudice is present in Australia

This suggests that among residents of SA there is the strongest public acceptance of the need for anti-racism.

Less positively, however, only 12% of respondents were willing to identify themselves as being racist. (The great majority of respondents were of Anglo background) suggests that respondents, while recognising racism as a problem, do not attribute that problem to themselves, but see it as being caused by other people.

It is very hard to see one’s own prejudices: for a test of your own see Not a racist? You are a fool or a liar – you will be surprised.

“The findings of the ‘Challenging Racism Project’ indicate that South Australians are generally tolerant people, who are accepting of cultural and racial difference,” says Professor Dunn, who led the project.

Other cross state comparisons found that South Australians are more tolerant of cultural diversity than the residents of the states of Queensland and NSW, though less tolerant than those in the ACT.

Other results:

* 85 percent of South Australian residents believe all races are equal.

* 82 percent are not opposed to people of different races marrying each other (this is a key indicator of acceptance)

* 40 percent believe there are cultural or ethnic groups that do not belong in Australian society.

* 12 percent identify themselves as being racist.

Sports get a thumbs-down from the project:

“Most SA respondents reported mixing with members of other cultural groups, but the least amount of crosscultural mixing occurred in sporting circles, with one in five SA respondents never mixing with members of other cultural groups in their sporting circles”.

March 12, 2010

Should black dolls be cheap?

Filed under: African,race relations,racism — Nayano @ 5:17 am

This display in a Walmart store has caused controversy in the US.

ABC News (the American version) reports

“To prepare for (s)pring inventory, a number of items are marked for clearance, ” Wlmart spokeswoman Melissa O’Brien said. “Both are great dolls. The red price sticker indicates that this particular doll was on clearance when the photo was taken, and though both dolls were priced the same to start, one was marked down due to its lower sales to hopefully increase purchase from customers.”

“The implication of the lowering of the price is that’s devaluing the black doll,” said Thelma Dye, the executive director of the Northside Center for Child Development, a Harlem, N.Y. organization founded by pioneering psychologists and segregation researchers Kenneth B. Clark and Marnie Phipps Clark.

“While it’s clear that’s not what was intended, sometimes these things have collateral damage,” Dye said.

Come on! Shops have to be politically-correct when they price items?

Walmart didn’t refuse to stock black dolls. The dolls didn’t sell, for whatever reason.

The reason probably was that people of all races prefer light skin over dark skin, even among their own ethnic group. True! I don’t understand it, personally. I would swap my mottled pink-bluey version any day.

Sociological Images says that “Walmart, however, could have chosen, in this case, to opt out of profit maximization.  The market isn’t physics; a company doesn’t have to follow its laws.”

The laws of physics? No. But the laws of profit making are just as unforgiving.

March 3, 2010

Angry Anderson and friends: please share your statistics!

I’m not Angry, but I am frustrated.

Gary ‘Angry’ Anderson yesterday added some petrol to the fire of racism in Australia by telling a Parliamentary Inquiry that there were racial and cultural reasons behind increases in weapon assaults.

(And gave “Aussie Kids’ a strange commendation: “Aussies use their fists”.

How does he know? How does he get the confidence to make such claims? Does he have access to sources the rest of us don’t?

Of course, Andrew Bolt is always there when there is a sniff of fuel being added to a fire.

Bolt ‘just’ raises the issue, and then lets the moral panic do the talking:

“Peter of Adelaide’:

“Angry is 100% correct.

“The Vietnamese were the first in Adelaide to use weapons and the machette seemed to be the weapon of choice.

“Today it’s knives, machettes (sic) and anything else available.

“Vietnamese, Sudanese, Lebonese (sic). You name the immigrants and you will find weapons within their gangs.

Another reader supports Peter of Adelaide:

“Peter of Adelaide makes points about the propensity of ethnic groups to use weapons. Supported by statistics.”

PLEASE PLEASE tell me, where are these statistics? I really want to know. Every time I have asked police for an idea of which groups are committing crimes I am met by silence. (As it should be.)

The only statistics that I know of that are publically available are from the ABS, and they are currently from 2005, and only of ethnicity of prisoners. (If you know of any others, please tell me).

And, unfortunately for those of us who would l.ike a quick answer to these things, the frequency of incarceration does not equal the frequency of crimes committed.

To take just one example, the wealthy can hire QCs to represent their children, as in a case of friends of mine whose sons didn’t like someone’s attitude in a street one night, and ended the night by killing the guy with a tyre lever.  The sons were ‘Australian’, of Anglo-Saxon descent, by the way.

‘Atatistics tell the story’ also turned up in recent discussions of the crimes against Indians. Commenters told me that the ‘statistics’ showed that the crimes were racist. But the ‘statistics’ turned out to be media reports.

Angry Anderson is clearly an idiot to say such things, and we could just write his comments off as so much hot air. But there is nothing like a ‘devil’ to increase sales of tabloid press and listeners to talkback radio. Especially if that ‘devil’ has a machete.

February 5, 2010

Muslims overwhelmingly support educating girls and boys equally

Filed under: race relations,racism — Nayano @ 9:05 am
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It is a pity that this is a news item. It only is ‘news’ because of stereotyping  of all Muslims that we in the West construct from the behaviour of a few public figures like Bin Laden.

Do your bit to fight the stereotype, and disseminate the following everywhere you can:
Across predominantly Muslim nations, there is little enthusiasm for the extremist Islamic organizations Hamas and Hezbollah, although there are pockets of support for both groups, especially in the Middle East.

A survey conducted May 18 to June 16, 2009 by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project of six predominantly Muslim nations (Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan and Turkey) and the Palestinian territories, as well as the Muslim population of Nigeria and Israel’s Arab population also finds there is limited enthusiasm for most of the Muslim political figures tested on the survey, with the exception of Saudi King Abdullah, who is easily the most popular.

There is also a widespread perception among Muslims that conflict between Sunnis and Shia is not limited to Iraq’s borders, and many Muslims are also convinced there is a struggle between groups who want to modernize and fundamentalists.

Also of note, Muslim publics overwhelmingly support educating girls and boys equally.

Read the full report at pewglobal.org

February 3, 2010

Indians jump to racist conclusions and get burnt

I caught a lot of flack because I objected to all the crimes involving Indians ion Australia being branded as ‘racist’, and said that there was no proof that they had been. People took this to mean that I was on ‘white Australia’s side’ and against the ‘Indian side’.

I tried to explain that I was not denying any suffering of the Indians involved, and was worried that racism could be created by crying ‘racism’ – but my words seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Perhaps the following news stories will help my case against jumping to conclusions?

  • The NSW police have arrested three persons in connection with the murder of a 25-year old Indian man, whose burnt body was found in the NSW town of Griffith on December, 29, 2009. Gurpreet Singh, 23, and his 20-year-old wife Harpreet Bhullar faced the court on January 29. A third man was arrested on the same day and will also be charged with Mr. Singh’s murder. Burned Indian man ‘faked attack in insurance scam’

It is clear that racism was not a factor in this crime, even though it has been widely reported in the Indian media as a racist attack.

Concerning the same case, in January The New Indian Express reported the Victorian police as saying “there is no reason at this stage to consider this racially motivated” and commented:

“If the statement had been calculated to enrage, it could hardly have been more provocatively phrased. Perhaps, in Australia, opportunist crimes also involve setting the victim ablaze. In any other country, this would prima facie be considered a hate crime, in this case racist.”

with making a false report to police and criminal damage with a view to gaining a financial advantage. He allegedly burned himself while torching his car for an insurance claim, police allege. A man suffered burns when he tried torching his own car in an insurance scam, police say

Concerning the same case, in January The New Indian Express reported the Victorian police as saying “there is no reason at this stage to consider this racially motivated” and commented:

“If the statement had been calculated to enrage, it could hardly have been more provocatively phrased. Perhaps, in Australia, opportunist crimes also involve setting the victim ablaze. In any other country, this would prima facie be considered a hate crime, in this case racist.”

January 22, 2010

What are your earliest memories of people from other countries, or other ethnicities?

Filed under: Integration,migration,race relations — Nayano @ 3:20 pm
Tags: , ,

What is your earliest memory of meeting someone from another country or of a different ethnicity?

I was intrigued lately by a couple of posts on Larvatus Prodeo.

The first one that got me going was ‘What are your earliest political memories? People responded and talked about knowing the names of Prime Ministers and that they were ‘bad’ or ‘good’, of hearing of the death of famous political figures, of the ‘Dismissal’ (the event, not the mini-series!)

This was followed a few days later by ‘What are your earliest Computer memories?’

That got me thinking about my earliest memories of people from other countries.

I remember my best friend in school who was Greek, and discovering olive oil and garlic and all sorts of delicious things at her house – and also discovering the institution of arranged marriage from her mother, who told me that husbands and wives simply learned to love each other in these situations. I also learnt that if a house had its front garden cemented over, there were Greek living there.

I remember the twin girls who wore long blonde plaits and some sort of clothes like German dirndls, who turned up in grade one.

I remember people calling Italians ‘Ities’ quite un-self-consciously – and of course we knew ‘wogs’ and ‘wops’ but were not so casual about those words – until the fabulous Wogs Out of Work loosened us all up.

I remember the boy from Malaysia who came to live in our house and go to high school, with me when we were both in our early teens, and discovering  the magic of prawn crackers cooked from those strange plastic looking chips. (His parents sent him care parcels – there was no-where to buy Chinese ingredients in Adelaide in those days).

My memories are quite cosy – and certainly benign.

Perhaps yours are too – or not? My friend told me that his memories of growing up in Singapore were of discrimination and insults because of his dark skin.

Please share your memories in the comments!

January 18, 2010

The ‘Indian Issue’ is creating racism

These are reports of Indian taxi drivers attacked in Victoria in Melbourne newspapers. Passengers attack Indian driver and attempt to steal his cab) (Booze not race behind cabbie bashings in Ballarat: cops)

I am willing to bet, though, that if Afghan taxis drivers had been bashed, or Chinese, or other new settlers, the reports would not have made it to the Melbourne newspapers, and, if they did, they would have appeared without the ethic identity of the cab drivers.

An ‘Indian Issue’ has been created, and now created is being fed because reporters see a story in incidents that would otherwise not be news.

So now it increasingly looks as if there is a mass vendetta against Indians.

I do not believe that Indians were particular targets for racism in Australia before the ‘Indian Issue’ was created.

People in Australia seem to prefer people with darker skin to taunt and attack. As well as aboriginals and Africans, Muslims, particularly women wearing a head covering, are the usual targets.

Indians, particularly northern Indians, are just not black or Muslim enough.

But the ‘Indian Issue’ is, I fear, likely to cause racist behaviours directly targeted at Indians.

I reckon that if the Indian Issue is beaten up enough, even blockheads will hear of it, and this will trigger some fresh racist ideas- and action.

I am not a ‘racism-denier’. I have, however, studied how media can create and sustain issues of racism, however, and this issue seems to be rapidly heading in that direction.

January 10, 2010

Why Indian students are attacked in Australia: Having a go, part 1.

The murder of Nitin Garg has inflamed the debate about violence against Indian students in Australia. Nitin was  stabbed to death last week just before starting work as night manager at a Hungry Jack’s store in West Footscray, a suburb of Melbourne. (see also Yet another attack on Indians in Australia)

Then Jaspreet Singh, 29, was attacked in Melbourne’s north-west yesterday. He had come home from a dinner party with his wife in the early hours of the morning and was parking his car when four men poured fluid over him and set him alight.

The Indian Ministry of External affairs is urging journalists to show the utmost restraint in covering the story. Slain Indian student’s body arrives home

The Ministry says just what I have been worrying about: that irresponsible reporting could aggravate the situation and have a bearing on bi-lateral relations.

It is important that we debate what has happened, so I would like to have a go at looking at the situation as dispassionately as possible. Please let me know how I do!

1. Every society that has a mixture of ethnicities has racist incidents, including Australia. Racist incidents are a form of bullying, and there always have been and always will be people who bully others.

2. Australia is not racist. As far as I can see there is no officially condoned discrimination on the grounds of race, there are laws against any types of discrimination, and governments make positive efforts to encourage multicultural harmony.

3. Australians are not racist. I don’t like to apply that term to anyone, because I don’t think it’s useful. It’s more useful; (and less inflammatory) to talk about racially motivated behaviour.

In addition, from all the studies I have read, there seems to be less of this behaviour in Australia than most other countries.

4. The majority of these crimes appear to have occurred in Melbourne, in suburbs in high crime areas where ‘drugs, mental illness and poverty’ are the issue, late at night. International students in general must work to support themselves, and take after-hours jobs, and travel alone. They live in high crime areas because housing is cheaper. The Indian students I have seen look anything but ‘tough’.

Darkness + high crime area+ single person alone+ ‘looks middle class, not tough’.

Add in the factor that guys who hang out in groups at night looking for targets are probably people who will ‘have a go’ about anything.

Result: opportunistic crime plus racial abuse, but not ‘racism’.

The greatest worry here are the crimes, and the answer is better policing, not debating whether the crimes were racist or not.

In Part 2. I will have a go at how we should be conducting this important debate.

December 11, 2009

Lebanese, Vietnamese or Sudanese? We don’t want your business.

Filed under: African,race relations,racism — Nayano @ 7:56 am
Tags: , ,

Notes from the pointy end of settlement:

Speaking with an insurance salesman yesterday who is interested in selling to new settlers:

‘We are also obliged to manage our risk. That means evaluating clients as well as property.

For example, head office has told me not to sell to Lebanese, Vietnamese or Sudanese.’

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