ABUSE OF INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
We must recognise racism in order to end it
8 Jan 2014
In the wake of the attack on Indian student Manrajwinder Singh, Australians need to reflect on the continuing scourge of racism and what they can do to end it, writes
'Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!'
As I was researching the recent bashing of Manrajwinder Singh, a 20-year-old Indian student
who has emerged from a coma after he was brutally bashed in the streets of Melbourne, I came across an internet forum titled
"Indian students: How to not get bashed in Australia".
Here is a sample:
... best way to not get bashed as an Indian?
DON'T FUCKING COME HERE.
You are not welcome. Whites, Asian and islanders all hate you. You come over on a student visa but after you enrol in some
dodgy course, your out trying to scam a job. Hint - no one believes you have a Degree in anything.
it is Illegal to sleep
20 to a room and it stinks.
We actually look at bashing Indians as a sport. The majority of the bashings you see on TV
are by African refugees or Pacific Islanders.
You have to accept your second class and thinking you have a sense of entitlement
is going to get you a smack in the mouth.
Mr Singh is the latest in a long string of Indian students who have been attacked in Australia, and it seems to me that not much is being done about it. Mr Singh was allegedly beaten with a stick and punched
in the face, and as a result was taken to the Alfred Hospital and put in an induced coma with serious injuries. This latest
attack on an Indian student left me wondering about race relations in Australia.
Racism is not confined to one race - all communities need to join hands to end it. The sad
reality is racism can be found in any group in Australia. No group is exempt. The culture of racism in Australia needs to
be addressed without targeting one race or community. At a loss to know what to do, I have begun to reflect on my own experience.
My story in Australia is similar to that of so many others - arriving as an Indian migrant
child with my family in the mid-1980s to a culture where having a go at people is a social pastime that does not spare anyone.
Into this attractive new home I arrived, trying to make a life, trying to fit in, and more importantly, trying not to be different
and avoid being the butt of insensitive jokes.
Within three years, between the ages of 12 to 15, I learnt to play Aussie Rules and I learned
to talk with an Australian accent. Sure, I encountered racism. Name-calling was the start: Boong, Buddha, Wog, you speak funny.
The food you eat smells different. I put up with it and assimilated quick smart, but I saw it take its toll on my parents:
the new ways, the aggression, the occasional put down.
Gradually, I have seen Australia grow up, but I think it was partly this ambivalent attitude
to race and racism amongst many Australians I met in my teenage years, as well as a sense of curiosity, that took me to the
heart of Australia to live and work with the First Australians whose land we live on.
I moved to Alice Springs in 2004 when I was 28. I noticed the place was different. I noticed
some people living in conditions similar to that I had seen in India. I saw people without jobs. I saw people with limps.
I noticed clusters of people who did nothing. When I asked people why this was the case, it was explained to me: "These people
have every chance in the world. Most choose to live the way they do."
As a writer, educator and researcher, I noticed that the levels of literacy in the Northern
Territory was much lower than what I had seen in other parts of the country. For a while I worked at the Alice Springs Correction
Centre teaching basic literacy and numeracy, and there I saw first hand a jail chock-a-block full of Aboriginal men. What
shocked me more was the fact that many of these men could not read, write or count. They could not fill out basic government
forms, nor did many know simple addition or subtraction. When I asked why, it was explained to me that they were not native
English speakers. I met one man who was doing eight years in jail. When we rolled two dice, he could not add up four plus
four - the same number of years he was serving.
"English is their third or fourth language, and an adherence to their old culture holds them
back," was the common mantra I heard. It was suggested to me that it is best that "those people get over their culture and
language and adapt".
For a while, I believed this to be a solution. After all, it was what I did.
Over time, I noticed other things that were not quite right ... the town camps, the attitudes
of some of my friends, the instances of bashings, violence, deaths in custody, poverty, Basic Cards, royalty money, break-ins,
stabbings, broken arms, black eyes, yelling, identity checks, the need for more police, drinking, boredom, car accidents,
mining, rubbish, smashed glass, empty bottles, suicides, funerals, sadness, court room dramas. A gulf exists, but no one it
seemed was acknowledging it. If you spoke up, you were labelled as a troublemaker, a do-gooder, or a whiner.
There were few occasions when society mixed. Mostly people live in segregated areas. If you
think I'm exaggerating, try approaching a real estate agent as I did with my Indigenous male friend and ask to inspect houses
for rent. In one example, on seeing the client, the real estate agent immediately claimed to not have keys to the house. In
Alice Springs, boundaries are rarely crossed.
This place is a microcosm of Australia. It is polarised but gradually even I turned a blind
eye to the segregation. After 10 years in Alice Springs, you stop seeing. You stop noticing that the big fish in the little
pond syndrome is a dynamic that exists here, and one can become immune to how the rest of the world is seeing things, which
can be markedly different.
Racism exists in Alice Springs as it does in the rest of Australia.
This is seldom acknowledged and almost never so by those in public office. It is an issue ignored, downplayed and denied.
It seems to me when bad things happen in Australia it simply gets "white washed" over.
Since this problem is not recognised, it cannot be solved. And in the absence of its recognition
it grows in strength. This debate polarises people. That is not my intention. I hope to bring people together, get things
out in the open, and acknowledge we might just have a problem, and that problem might be racism. Silence only drives the issue
Essentially, we should aim to provide all Australians with simple things they can personally
do to help end racism and discrimination by making an individual stand that collectively can effectively address the greater
Let's move forward. Let's end racism. A collective recognition that racism exists in Australia
will not weaken us: it will strengthen us. And from this we will grow in stature.
Chris Raja is a writer based in Alice Springs. View his full profile here.