'Hysterical' Indian media speak the truth


Shame AustraliaGeneral Peter Cosgrove's Sunshine and Shade Australia Day address last week could represent a turning point in our maturity as a nation if we can join him in admitting the existence of a 'strand of racism' in Australia.

Officially racism ended with the election of the Whitlam Labor Government in 1972. But in practice it went underground. We are delusional when we think of Australian society as egalitarian. If we can acknowledge racism, there is a good chance that we will be able to manage it.

Cosgrove said attacks on Indian students have become 'a major problem'. He added that the nature of the attacks makes it clear there has been racial motivation.

Following the speech, Victorian police chief Simon Overland agreed that racism has played a part in the attacks.

However there remain skeptics in high places. Victorian premier John Brumby was perceived to be in denial of the racist motivation after he criticised Cosgrove's speech as 'factually inaccurate' and wide of the mark.

We need a chorus of political leaders to back General Cosgrove. The fact that they have not yet supported his remarks could reflect their reluctance to speak hard truths in a year of multiple elections.

It's self-evident that no social ill can be tackled until its existence is acknowledged. Historically major breakthroughs have been made when the community recognised certain fundamental associations, such as smoking and lung cancer, and drink-driving and an unacceptably high road toll. Conversely, there will be little progress in slowing climate change while there remains significant denial that it exists.

The spokesman for the Federation of Indian Students of Australia, Gautam Gupta, was overjoyed that the police chief had admitted racism against Melbourne's Indian community played a part in the attacks on Indian students.

'It is a breakthrough, it is an endorsement of what we have been saying for so long,' he told The Australian. 'This is what we have been fighting for, they have acknowledged it. They have been in denial, I don't understand why. I am so glad he has come out.'

It is easy for Australians to focus on complaining about the 'hysterical' nature of coverage of the attacks against Indian students from sections of the Indian media. Hysterical or not, there are speaking a truth about us that we do not like to hear.

Michael MullinsMichael Mullins is editor of Eureka Street.

Topic tags: peter cosgrove, Sunshine and Shade, Australia Day address, indian students, racism, racial violence



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Existing comments

I agree that a chorus of political leaders are needed to back General Cosgrove, but sadly, there are not enough with sufficient spine. I'm happy to be numbered among what I hope will be a swelling tide of ordinary folk on the eve of Australia Day to support the General.

Already, the significant slide in the number of Indian students coming to Australia has been verified as a consequential response to the victimisation of Indians in Australia but our politicians ... especially Premier Brumby, can't bear to admit the shock reality of this.

As to the case of the stabbing killing of Indian student Nitin Garg, I have some challenges for Victoria's Chief Commissioner of police, Simon Overland ... why has it taken some 3 weeks for the police to bring out an information-seeking caravan to the murder scene and to do a 're-construction' so long after the murder? Why have police feet dragged?

Most vitally of all, why hasn't the Chief Commissioner not urged the State government to put a significant reqward on the table to really flag its determination to catch the killer?The victim's family has already offered $10,000 ... a fortune for it. The Brumby government should offer at least $250,000 dollars. The federal government could also make a contribution if it wants to move from words to action.
Brian Haill | 25 January 2010

Inhabiting those years beyond 70 gives one a broad look at life and its idiosyncracies.

I am a socially active individual with friends and acquaintances in a wide range of age groups. My activities are intellectual, physical and social, so include a wide ranging carpet of philosophies and values.

Racism is alive and well in these groups, at all levels of intellectual rigour (or lack of it). I find it frightening.

and often completely lacking in factual information...prejudice is rife!!

Peter Cosgrove is wise to address the issue and we would be wise as a community to join him in bringing it into the public arena.

Becoming the communities we aspire to needs a truthfulness and vulnerabilty that will change attitudes and values.
.............thank you Michael.
Judy | 25 January 2010

I have three questions.

First, why Indians? Why, suddenly, do we have these apparently unprovoked attacks upon Indians? What has now set them up as a 'racist' target?

Second, who are the attackers? We know the attacked, Indians, but who is attacking them? What other group (race?) has now defined them up as the enemy, or are the attacks more or less random?

Three, is being "racist" an all-or-none phenomenon - either you are or you aren't? Surely we are dealing with some sort of continuum here, ranging from the very mild and mostly harmless to the severe and decidedly harmful. Similarly, how many racist individuals are needed within a society for the whole group to be labelled racist?

It puzzles me that these questions seem not to have been canvassed by the media in its coverage of the attacks. I believe that General Cosgrove is essentially right - but we need to know why he is right.
John R. Sabine | 25 January 2010

When I hear 'good Catholics' refer to Aborigines as 'abos', I am saddened to hear such racist words from such supposedly Christian people. Will our pulpits preach a radical message?
Ray O'Donoghue | 25 January 2010

I agree with your article. I work with refugees - mostly African. 'Tho most of the community is supportive and generous with resources to assist their settlement, there are many examples of racism when seeking housing, employment and social interaction.

It is evident also in schools where
bullying is is not addressed satisfactorily. We experience racism within church organisations where individual workers try to protect their service for the 'poor'!

Oftentimes people do not recognise latent racism which hides under the cloak of social ineptitude. 'I don't know how to talk to them. They wear funny clothes. They smell different. Their food is yuk'; We must all come to terms with individual difference and recognise that each person reveals some dimension of the infinite creativity of God. We must respect and cherish difference rather than fear and shame those who seek peace and refuge among us.
Elizabeth Brown | 25 January 2010

I'm in agreement with the author's general point here but I'm curious about one of his early remarks, that racism in Australia officially ended with the election of the Whitlam government.

What would be the basis for this assertion? Whitlam did not end the White Australia Policy, the credit for that goes to the Holt Government.

Likewise Malcolm Fraser did more to champion the cause of the Vietnamese boat people than Whitlam. Whitlam in fact was in record as opposing their welcome into Australia believing that their French Catholic background would make them more likely to support conservative politics. I'd welcome the author's clarification of his remark.
Michael Elphick.
Michael Elphick | 25 January 2010

Interesting corro on article
Yozi | 25 January 2010

It is a fact that there is racism in Australia. There's racism everywhere. Only an idiot would presume that Australia is the only nation in the world to have successfully eradicated it.

I'm sure some of the attacks on Indian students are racially motivated, and certainly some appear to be racially aggravated.

But who's to say that most aren't just a consequence of the fact that Indian students in Victoria are concentrated in poor areas where there's a high rate of crime generally (including racial crime). Indians also seem to be over represented in high risk professions like security guard, taxi drivers, night shift store keepers.

How else do you explain the lack of reportage about assaults on Chinese, Korean, Japanese or Nepalese students? Either racists are targeting Indians, and Indians only for some mysterious reason, or there is something about this demographic group that makes them more likely to be the target of violent crime.

And this is assuming that Indians are over represented in assaults anyway. The only statistic around is one given by the vic police, around mid 2009 saying that 1700 'people of Indian appearance' were the target of 'violent crime'; in the 2008-2009 period. I've scoured the web for the source of this stat, but as far as I can tell nobody knows how this figure was obtained, given that police don't log the ethnicity of crime victims. And recently, the stat appears to have been contradicted by Police Commissioner Simon Overland anyway, in his recent statement that Indians are 'not' over represented in assault stats (abc, 20/01/10).

Note that I'm not saying that there isn't any basis to the complaints of many Indians. I'm just lamenting the lack of any real information in this debate. In some people's book that will make me a denialist, but so be it.
Flavian Hardcastle | 25 January 2010

By way of clarification, the source of my assertion that the White Australia Policy 'officially' ended during the period of the Whitlam Government was retired diplomat Bruce Haigh (link here).

He qualifies his direct assertion to the extent that he provides a link to an account on the Department of Immigration website that presents the abolition of the policy as gradual.
Michael Mullins | 26 January 2010

I am a frequent visitor to the north and south of India, [eight times since late 2005] and I am aware of the internal racism and social divisions within Indian society. So they are not without some experience of these issues themselves. Outsiders have studied and written at length about issues between Hindus and Muslims, between Sikhs and others, between Brahmins and Dalits and others in-between. The Indians do not deny these issues.

It is strange that we have difficulty in recognising and then admitting to the racial issues that are clearly evident in Australia. We protest too much I think. Why so much denying? What is the bottom line? It is the loss of one of the oft-lauded and positive Australian characteristics - HONESTY.

I have watched and re-watched the Four Corners program on the Cronulla Riots. A blind person would hear it even if they did not see it. Try building a Moslem School in Western Sydney. Racism is there and everywhere else in pockets and Peter Cosgrove is simply telling many people what they know but do not wish to accept and say out loud.

The key issue is to accept the truth and then to try and do something positive to increase tolerance and acceptance of those, like the rest of us, who have recently come to this country to try and make something better for themselves and for the community.
Tony London | 26 January 2010

'Officially racism ended with the election of the Whitlam Labor Government in 1972. But in practice it went underground.'

I've very recently read that five men have been charged over an attack on two Indian men in Melbourne, so when this goes to court it will be interesting to see how valid Michael Mullins' white supremacist conspiracy theory actually is in reality.
Nathan Socci | 26 January 2010

Yes, many attacks on Indians are racially motivated. However, the racism is not usually 'white', as more often that not, the attacks are perpetrated by Australians of non caucasian background. This is something that Indians in Australia know full well, but those still on the subcontinent haven't fully come to grips with(yet). Their only knowledge of this phenomena is the Indian/Lebanese troubles in Sydney last year, where Indians protested Lebanese bigotry and racial violence(much as the Cronulla riots were meant to protest against, before getting out of hand and ugly).

It is unfortunate that the more multicultural a society is, the more prone to racism it is. It is a dynamic that is both obvious and puzzling. I feel that if I came to the British influenced monocultural Australia in 1950, i would be less prone to violence and intimidation than I am in American influenced multicultural Australia. At least back then then the racists were one colour and honest about it.

Nowadays the hate and suspicion comes from everywhere.
Sanj | 27 January 2010

The latest attacks appear to have been perpetrated by an Asian gang. Most of the previous attacks also have been but our political correctness forbids us from publishing the fact because ironically it would be seen to be racist.

The recent trouble at the tennis was racially based also and perpetrated by yet another ethnic minority. So the problems are brought about by "New Australians" rather than "Old Australians."

Who are the people in Melbourne most likely to be attacked? The easy targets, taxi drivers, 24hr shop assistants, people travelling alone on public transport, people living in poorer or underprivileged areas. Who are these people most likely to be? Indian students. The attacks are more opportunistic than racist.

That said, of course Cosgrove is right. There are racist elements, there are also bigoted elements, there are anti Catholic elements, there are anti Christian and anti Muslim elements and meny of these elements would perpetrate violence if the opportunity arises. And guess what? It was ever thus and always will be so and no amount of rhetoric will change it. Not even if the hysterical Indian media ever succeeds in eradicating the horrendous inter-religious and racial violence in their own country.
Peter Stokes | 28 January 2010


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