Last Friday morning as I was eating my muesli, I was stupefied by the headline on the front page of The Age, which stated police warn Indians not to speak loudly.
I’m wondering what sort of education is undertaken by police officers, when this woeful and confused response is the best then can do for what is a very serious issue. Rather than telling innocent people to keep their mouths shut, they should be cracking down on the perpetrators of these attacks.
My alarm grew as I continued to read the article which referred to the high number of Indians that are being attacked and robbed in the Western suburbs of Melbourne.
According to the report a committee of Indian students and police was formed after a hundred Indian students marched to police headquarters last year demanding that the police take their problems more seriously.
Apparently, Indian students are seen as soft targets because they carry computers and MP3 players on trains late at night.
The advice given to the students was that they should not make themselves so obvious.
An Inspector Scott Mahony from the Brimbank police said the following:
“They need to make sure they walk through a well-lit route, even if it might be longer, and they are not openly displaying signs of wealth with iPods and phones, and not talking loudly in their native language,” he said.
I wondered if Inspector Mahony was having us all on. Is he seriously advocating in 2007, after 50 years of multiculturalism in this city that people should not talk loudly in their native language?
I don’t know about you, Inspector Mahony, but here in Coburg where I live, talking loudly is the norm. On the train last week, I was listening to two Italian women going hell for leather talking about a wedding that they had both attended. In the square where people gather to drink coffee, I have become familiar with the personal stories of several strangers who happen to be seated near (and not so near) to me. And in the library one morning, the laughter and chatter of the Greek women who gather for their book group could be heard two rooms away.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t consider Coburg a rich area and I see many people walking around with laptops and mobile phones. Even Chrisanthi, the pensioner next door has a mobile phone that she often asks me to help her with.
“What does this mean?” she asks and the screen says 23 missed calls. When I tell her she says “Who’s called me 23 times?”
I am totally bored and fed up with hearing the same old assimilationist line as ‘though it was 1955 and the last fifty years hadn’t happened.
I’m wondering what sort of education is undertaken by police officers, when this woeful and confused response is the best then can do for what is a very serious issue.
Rather than telling innocent people to keep their mouths shut, they should be cracking down on the perpetrators of these attacks.
For a start, let’s admit that these attacks are racist. Yes, that’s right. As hard as it may be for us to admit this, that’s what’s going on. Go on any internet chat room frequented by Indians in Australia and the racism they experience is a hot topic.
A few years ago, I recall a conversation late one night with a taxi driver who had come to Australia from India to study.
I asked him if he intended to stay once he finished his Masters and he told me in a very frank manner, that he could not stay here because it was ‘such a racist country.’
What about the Indian taxi drivers that are being attacked? Are they displaying signs of wealth or talking so loudly that it’s driving people to violence and murder?
And let’s not forget the bashing of former Australian Medical Association president Mukesh Haikerwal in Williamstown last year. The man was taking a walk by himself in a park in the early evening.
Rather than confront this issue for what it really is and talk about the attackers and their motives for what are clearly race crimes, the authorities are quick to look at the victims and inadvertently blame them for the violence perpetrated against them.
The message is: Don’t be obvious, keep a low profile, don’t carry your phone and whisper.
Otherwise, if you’re dark skinned, have an iPod, and talk loudly, well, you’re asking for it.