A possie in Aussie

March 22, 2010

Are police racist? A Sudanese view

Filed under: race relations,racism — Nayano @ 7:26 am
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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
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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
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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 11, 2010

Don’t be afraid of asylum seekers: mammoths are the real worry!

People like to be scared. Otherwise how would ghost trains and roller coasters make money?

John Humphries takes this one step further to explain why immigrant issues are such big vote winner. The problem with democracy Humphries’ idea is that fear is hardwired into our brains – otherwise we would have all ended up as mammoth fodder – and as the big risks, like large wild animals, disappear from everyday life, we transfer the fear to new and less serious problems.

Humphries claims that because ‘fear’ is hardwired into our brains, as the really big problems disappear, we shift our fear onto new, less-serious, problems. Effectively, we are becoming risk-averse to more and less dangerous things.

Humphries quotes the thesis of Bryan Caplan’s book, The Myth of the Rational Voter, that most  people are not informed about politics, political philosophy or public policy, but vote instead from their ‘preferred beliefs’. Caplan outlines four areas where the average voter gets politics wrong, including “overly-negative impressions about the impact of foreigners”.

It makes sense to me that ‘fear’ can be free-floating, that is, just ‘there’ until it finds something to land on and to be afraid of. And that is why I feel very strongly about public discourse – those of us who speak publically, politicians, journalists, and even bloggers with a handful of readers like me, have a responsibility not to offer ‘straw mammoths’ as a landing pad for fears (anyone care to illustrate that mixed metaphor?), and not to turn one mammoth into a herd.

But in recent weeks I have discovered how difficult this can be. Partisans interpret careful speech as a vote for the other side. And then I get sucked into discussing the mammoth as if it really exists.

Don't be afraid: it's in a cage

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 31, 2010

How are racists made?

How are racists made? Through stereotypes.

How are stereotypes made? Through:

Reducing complex information to one idea, and

Using one example to represent a pattern

For example, a Korean backpacker is killed in Australia.

Here are a few patterns of thought that could be elicited by this small piece of information:

Koreans are violent people

Australia is a violent place

Backpackers are easy targets

Where do the patterns come from? In most cases the media.

But it is not that the media is conspiring to create harmful stereotypes. It’s just that they are perpetually in the hunt for a ‘story’.

One Korean backpacker killed would probably feature only in state news, and not on the front page, unless it’s a very slow news period, or the killing was macabre.

Two backpackers killed in close succession is a ‘bigger’ story, and gives writers more to work with, i.e. ‘Is this a pattern?’ ‘What is it with backpackers/ Koreans anyway?’ ‘Are we a violent state?’ and so on.

The Korean Association speaks out – even better story opportunities.

From now on, any violence involving a Korean is reported, even minor incidents. And no matter whether the numbers of violent incidents hasn’t increased, or have even decreased, it will seem as if there are more and more incidents, just because they are being reported.

The Korean government speaks out? Even better story. Now we are on the front page, not only in Australia, but in Korea, and possibly in most of Asia.

If ‘Australians are racist towards Koreans’ hasn’t been thrown into the mix, it certainly will be now.

(And if Australians hadn’t thought of being racist towards Koreans before now – they may feel left out ;-))

And if Koreans have never before thought of Australians as racist – they will now.

This cycle of stereotyping is completed.

And for fun – here is a stereotyping test:

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 14, 2010

Earthquake: Will the US still refuse Haitian refugees?

Filed under: asylum,asylum seeker,boat people,racism,refugee — Nayano @ 7:23 am
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via Twitpic

Thousands are feared dead in Haiti in the aftermath of the massive 7.0 earthquake that struck near Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince yesterday, and Change.org’s immigration blog is calling for Temporary protected Status for the 30,000 Haitians currently in the US, and who are facing deportation. Demand Temporary Protected Status for Haiti

You may well think that protection of these Haitians would be a given, but the treatment of Haitian asylum seekers is one of the United States most shameful aspects.

The US welcomed Cubans fleeing after the Cuban revolution in 1959, despite the fact that they were unauthorised arrivals. When Haitians began to flee the Duvalier regime in 1971, however, the US denied them asylum, despite strong parallels with the Cuban situation.

Guantanamo Bay was used as an off-shore detention centre in 1991 court order prevented the forcible return of asylum seekers to Haiti, preventing the asylum seekers from accessing the judicial appeals process.

Refugee claims of El Salvadorians and Guatemalans during the same period were not as easily accepted as those of Cubans, but the US meted out especially heinous treatment to Haitian asylum seekers.

Human rights groups then waged a campaign of civil disobedience to enable refugees from these countries to enter the US illegally, called the ‘sanctuary movement’.

In 1990, a new entrance category of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) was instituted as solution for the tens of thousands of people who had gained entry and support from the sanctuary movement. Under this system, nations (or parts thereof) can be periodically designated as eligible for TPS, and people who are granted this status may live and work freely in the U.S. for the duration of the designated period, but  are not eligible for permanent residency (US Citizenship and Immigration Services 2009).

You can join the petition for TPS for Haitians at http://www.change.org/actions/view/end_all_deportations_to_haiti_and_grant_tps_status_to_haitians#letter_form

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