Is Australia a racist country? Are Australians racist? These are two different questions. Recently many Indians in Australia and in India have highlighted the feeling of being racially singled out for physical abuse. As a result, following mass media reports, surely many people in the world are questioning to what extent is racism being practised in Australia. Here is my take.
First, is the government racist? The fact that Kevin Rudd's effigy was burnt in India shows that some people believe the government is racist. I have observed Kevin Rudd from the time he ran for leadership of the country until now and I have never detected any racially-based remarks from his lips or any action that can be seen or felt as racist. If anyone cares to look at the number of Indians working in government departments here, he or she will quickly find that there is a highly disproportionate number of Indians working in many offices of the public sector; from the immigration office, to Centrelink, to VicRoads, to the Australian Taxation Office, etc, etc. All this came about in just the last few years. In comparison, Malaysia has 35% of Chinese and Indian population. It has only a sprinkling of Chinese and Indian workers in almost every department in the public sector. I can only surmise that the Australian government can hardly be accused of practising racism.
The second question is: are Aussies racist? No doubt many people perceive an Aussie as typically white. According to statistics, in 2006 25% of Aussies were born overseas. Indians, by 2006, had already overtaken the mainland Chinese as the third largest migrant group (after Britain and New Zealand), and they number more than white Aussies some public schools I know of. A typical "Aussie" is increasingly becoming less white and more Asian. As we ponder over whether Aussies are racist, we should also think who are we calling so.
The fact remains that recently there has been a significant number of Indians in Melbourne and Sydney who were attacked by presumably white youths. Curiously, there has not been many reports from non-Indians being singled out for abuse on the same scale. I think this is probably triggered more by the economic downturn, than by KKK-styled hatred. Chinese-faced migrants have been around long enough to be assimilated into the society, while Indians are the more recent migrants arriving in huge numbers. Naturally they have become obvious targets for disgruntled youths in tough economic times. Of course, this does not alleviate the ugliness of racially targeted attacks.
So, what should one do to win the hearts and minds of the locals who have made it possible for the migrants to come and share in the wealth of this country? Are public demonstrations and show of strength in numbers the best thing to do? I think not. When you go to somebody's house, do you lay down your terms on how to be treated? What do you do to be invited to stay? Instead of laying down demands, a new migrant group should try to integrate into the fabric of society and "doing life" together with the locals.