Worried about Racism

Old Feb 4th, 2004, 08:56 PM
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Worried about Racism

Hello everyone,

I am an American citizen of Asian Indian descent, and am planning a trip to Australia and New Zealand soon. I guess I have some apprehension about the possibility of racism in Australia - because it has been mentioned in various media outlets at times.

For those who are more familiar with Australia, is it indeed a place which is somewhat racist against people of non Anglo-Saxon descent? If so, is the racism usually behavioral, verbal or physical? Are my concerns founded or am I freaked out for no good reason at all? Thanks in advance for any advice!
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Old Feb 4th, 2004, 09:12 PM
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Do you know of Sachin Tendulkar or VVS Laxman or Rahul Dravid?

Then no worries,mate.
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Old Feb 4th, 2004, 09:24 PM
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We had no problems with racism in Australia...my husband of japanese ancestry and mixed kids fit right in...there are tons of Asians and other minorities in the cities these days.
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Old Feb 4th, 2004, 09:37 PM
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Hello Air1975,

I lived in Melbourne from July 1997 to January 2000. I must tell you I moved to Australia with my head filled with preconceived notions about the place (you know, images of Crocodile Dundee and that sort of thing). I'd heard Australian men were male chauvenist pigs, I'd heard Australians were racists, etc. In fact, if you'd asked me where I wanted to live, Australia would have been relatively low on the list, but my husband got a transfer to Australia and we felt we had to make the best of it.

Every single preconceived idea with which we arrived was blown out of the water. Australia was really different (that is to say much better) than we were expecting.

I cannot tell you how friendly and considerate I found people to be. Now admittedly I'm fair skinned, blue eyed, on so on, so that may have made things easier for me. But I found enormous variety in Australia, in terms of the people's ethnic backgrounds, in terms of different national cuisines that had been embraced by Australians, and many other aspects of Australian life.

I think the stereotypical image of Australia dates back to a time (maybe up to the 1950s) when Australia did in fact receive most of its immigrants from Europe (with a large proportion of them coming from the British Isles).

But Australia has changed enormously in the last few decades.

I always tell people bound for Australia to be hearty in their compliments of Australian beer. This may sound as if I'm trying to brush off your concerns, but I'm not. I'm being serious. Expressing a preference for some watery (in Australian eyes) North American beer is a cardinal sin. THAT is the sort of thing you need to watch out for when you go to Australia.

I'll be glad to discuss this in more detail, either here on the forum, or by private e-mail if you prefer.
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Old Feb 5th, 2004, 12:19 AM
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"Because it has been mentioned in various media outlets at times"? Air1975, as this is news to this Australian, can you be just a wee bit more specific?

I suggest that you extend your researches beyond these "certain media outlets", as to the best of my knowledge and belief your fears are entirely and in fact absurdly unfounded.

Are we entirely free of racism? Of course not. Is any country, the United States included, free of racism? If so, please supply details forthwith and I'll consider emigration.

I suggest that you will find far, far less underlying racism in Australia than in many Asian nations, the country of your forebears included. As I'm sure you know, the pernicious Indian caste system is deeply rooted in ancient paleface-vs darkskinned race conflicts.

I'm reminded of an outraged lady who tackled me in a New Hampshire convenience store about male chauvinism in Australia. Her sole exposure to this country had been a TV documentary dealing with some godforsaken opal mining town in the outback, inhabited by the sort of people you'd expect to find in such a place. All my efforts to convince her that most Austraian males don't live in holes in the ground and beat our wives for sport every night went for naught. Perhaps this illustrates the danger of reliance on media reports.

I expect that if you pay us the honour of a visit you'll be treated with the courtesy that Australians of Indian or any other extraction generally receive. If you don't, we have quite rigorous laws againt racial discrimination and vilification. As you'd expect in a successfully multiracial, multicultural nation.

Mate, turn off the TV and do some proper research. Sorry, but if I sound annoyed at this sort of uninformed nonsense, it's because I am.



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Old Feb 5th, 2004, 03:05 AM
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Canada not only has had a policy of multiculturalism since the 70s, but a law enacted around 1988. I'm think Australia is the only other country in the world with a multicultural policy (I don't know about law).

Laws don't legislate love so you can still walk down a street here, and if you are a visible minority you could be called a name. It won't be your loss and it's unlikely to happen.

I'm in my 70s, a third generation Japanese Canadian, interned by my government in 1942. Things have changed.

Come to Canada, go to Australia and be happy.
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Old Feb 5th, 2004, 06:41 AM
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>>>>>>Generally I agree with the tone below except Judy's which is a little naive. As a white Anglo Saxon I never got grief at school.<<<<<<

Yes, of course my post was "naive" in the sense that a brief message here does not permit one the space to include all the nuances and qualifications one might prefer. Brevity necessarily makes for a rather one dimensional thumbnail sketch.

Although I felt Australia had made great strides towards becoming a multicultural society, it was experiencing challenges in reconciling what for a lack of a better term I'll call its mainstream society with its Aboriginal community. (This is based on observations when I lived there from July 1997 to January 2000.)

There were Australians who were very concerned about this issue, and I witnessed a number of "Aboriginal reconciliation" initiatives. These efforts notwithstanding, Aboriginal Australians still had lower incomes, poorer health, etc., than what I'll call "mainstream Australians."

We have exactly this challenge in Canada. Both countries share a legacy of having taken Aboriginal children from their parents and putting them in boarding schools, forbidding them to speak their native languages, and so on.

I don't know who is to "blame" for the current situation, and I don't know what the "solutions" to the challenges are. I know some people have been trying hard to achieve "reconciliation" in both Canada and Australia. And yet Aboriginal peoples continue to have lower life expectancy, higher rates of infant mortality, and so on.

But the person who started this thread, Air1975, is not what we in Canada call a "First Nations" person. Rather he (she?) described himself (herself?) as an American citizen of Asian Indian descent. While I cannot GUARANTEE Air1975 a consistently friendly reception in Australia or Canada, I think he (she) has a good chance of being well received in either country.

I really don't feel like getting into this topic in any more depth here, in a public setting. As I offered before, I'm more than willing to discuss it by private e-mail.
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Old Feb 5th, 2004, 08:09 AM
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my wife and i are of asian indian background (born and raised in usa).

we went to new zealand last year for two weeks. except for one town (hokitika, south island), everyone was extremely friendly and warm. although no one said or did anything rascist in hokitika, we were not received as warmly here. observing how others were treated, i suspect it was racial, but it simply could have not been a very friendly town to begin with.
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Old Feb 5th, 2004, 01:17 PM
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Re-reading my post I see that I got a little too indignant with air1975 - sorry about that. Judy_in_Calgary made my points better, and more politely (as you'd expect from a Canadian).

I hope that we're not all that parochial about our beer, though, Judy. I might draw some fire over this, but the fact is that base-level Australian beers have no more character than Bud, and to add to my heresy, Sam Adams Boston Lager knocks the socks off most of them. Those looking for good Oz beer should start with the premium James Squire range in my opinion.

As Travelnick points out, of course Australia's massive postwar immigrant inflow has not been without some friction, and in some quarters sporadic resentment, but this is not the same thing as widespread Anglo-Celtic racism. The friction points are fairly specific and complex, and currently tend to focus on Sydney's Middle Eastern community, primarily as a result of perceptions of high crime rates and fears that they may form unassimilable ghettos. These fears are as old as immigration and were first expressed about the Irish, who if not Anglo-Saxon were at least white and Christian.

One certainty, as Bill Bryson observed about the US experience, is that each wave of arrivals, once safely settled, will claim that while immigration has unquestionably been a good thing to date, it should now cease forthwith. On the whole, though, Australia's immigration scheme has been remarkably successful, and the official "multicultural" policy is working pretty well. It's worth noting that Australia established the world's first government-funded multicultural TV and radio service over 20 years ago.

The situation of the original inhabitants is shameful, of course, and it must be admitted that some racism exists in this area - mostly among some poor and undereducated whites who resent what they see as "handouts" to Aboriginals. New Zealand has a better record with its Maori people, although a cynic might put that down to the fact that the Maori mounted a more effective military response to European settlement than did the Aboriginal peoples, and succeeded in negotiating a treaty.

Cultural imperialism? We've all been there. Children from Cajun communities in Louisiana were once punished for speaking their French patois at school.













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Old Feb 5th, 2004, 02:54 PM
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John71cove:

You've taken an honest reply to a question too seriously.

I loved New Zealand and its people. But, i've been in lots of places where people are not friendly for one reason or another. It's almost never rascism.

That said, rascism doesn't have to be verbal or physical. And when it happens often you can sense it.

And by the way, all cultures to some degree or another have rascist elements.

Yeah and my shift key now works.
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Old Feb 5th, 2004, 08:41 PM
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I think the average Australian doesn't care what colour your skin is as long as you are pleasant in your dealings with them. They will probably ask about your 'race' because they are interested in overseas visitors to Australia.
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Old Feb 5th, 2004, 08:49 PM
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What happened to the post from john71cove that michi replied to? Did it go into the big Fodors black hole?
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Old Feb 6th, 2004, 08:03 AM
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Neil:
I'm wondering the same thing.
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Old Feb 8th, 2004, 10:55 AM
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Johnj_au's post - 1st response - mentioned Tendulkar, Laxman and/or Dravid! These are Indian cricketers (who unfortunately for them, all got out for very low scores yesterday, in the one-day final!)

What was amazing, and has been all summer, is the incredible number of Indians at each cricket match. They can't all be tourists. The Indian team has been touring for 2 months, and the crowds have been enormous. Yesterday in Sydney it was estimated at about 40% Indian. Amazing!

There have been few problems (other than alcohol fuelled incidents), but you get idiots everywhere.

I'd suggest you read up a bit on cricket - as you'll certainly be asked about it!

Have fun!
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Old Feb 8th, 2004, 11:52 AM
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Perceptions of racism can generally occur when you are in another English speaking country and you are not used to some common words used. For instance I always cringed when I was referred to an an "alian" in the USA, when at airports, and particularly when only those of us who were "alians" were targeted to have to remove everything from our suitcases every time we boarded a flight. The meaning of alian also includes (different in nature and adverse ) so I just wonder sometimes where the Political correctness Police are when these terms are decided upon. Certainly not an endearing term and certainly not welcoming when all the alians are shunted to one corner to have to remove everything for the umpteenth time from suitcases. I know that you will all tell me that after Sept 11th etc etc but must it be as blatant as to muster all the alians into one corner making us feel that we certainly must be alian and different to warrent this attention. Surely the word foreigner or even people of other countries would have less connotations that the word Alian ( shades of Star Wars)
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Old Feb 8th, 2004, 02:37 PM
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The deputy editor of Kolkata's "Hindustan Times", Soumya Bhattacharya, who is currently working with the "Sydney Morning Herald", reports being greeted at Sydney Airport by an immigration official with the words, "You here for the cricket, mate?"

His article, "One Magical Summer", appears in the SMH's "Spectrum" section, 7 Feb. It concludes:
"You have no need to feel iffy about a country where 'relaxation is the aim'. There's nothing to be worried about if 'no worries' is your mantra. People have killed for less. This is a magical city in a magical country - or that's how it appears to a visitor like me. It's easy to fall in love with. And it will be hard to forget."

Judging by his very positive article Mr Bhattarcharya seems not to have encountered any racist treatment (not that I would have expected him to).

air1975, if you do take Margo's advice and read up on cricket, would you be kind enough to explain it to me?

lizF, certainly anyone who's seen the "Alien" movies would be alarmed to be described that way in the US. YOu could be forgiven for thinking you'd had the mother of all bad hair days.
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Old Feb 8th, 2004, 07:35 PM
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Neil Oz has been told about my hair because I am still having those bad hair days. Just about jumped out of my skin this morning when walking past the mirror. What a dreadful way to wake up!
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Old Feb 9th, 2004, 06:05 AM
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Neil

Your responses give me a good laugh and helps lighten up this thread.

I think air1975 asked an honest question and deserved (and got) some intelligent answers.

Unfortunately, in Canada, racism or racial comments sometimes depends on the racial background or the racial mix. For example, my son who is of Asian background and is married to an Afro-Canadian still gets racist comments which hurt, but they chooses to ignore. Whereas our other five kids are married to Caucasians and do not.

I hope air 1975 goes to Australia without apprehensions and enjoys a great visit.

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Old Feb 9th, 2004, 01:47 PM
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I've enjoyed your posts too, michi. And I hope I haven't sounded like I'm looking at my country through rose-coloured glasses. There are undercurrents of xenophobia and racism everywhere and they're most likely to emerge when people feel threatened, fearful of losing their jobs or having their way of life overwhelmed by another culture. These are the main factors in the undoubted racism that afflicted Australia in the latter 19th and early 20th centuries. We've come a long way since then, though, and I just wanted to reassure air1975 that this is country is as tolerant as his own.

I don't know what media reports air1975 heard or saw, but they may have been based on the emergence a few years ago of a right-wing party called "One Nation" which pandered to the old fears and resentments, especially among people who think they've been left out of Australia's economic good times. This party seems to have received wildly disproportionate coverage in the foreign press and is now defunct, to all intents and purposes. Our government's treatment of Afghani and other "boat people" is a more pertinent issue for which Australia has drawn criticism both at home and abroad. That also may be a factor.

What does concern me a little is whether air1975's fears about Australia are common among non-"Anglo" Americans. The US media (with apologies to American readers) is pretty parochial and mentions of Australia are rare and likely to focus on some lurid event involving man-eating crocodiles and the like.

I hope this discussion isn't trespassing on Fodor's guidelines, but I think broad comment on social conditions can be helpful to travellers as long as it doesn't get out of hand.

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Old Feb 11th, 2004, 11:36 PM
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Hey, air1975, are you still tuning in? Here's the rest of us having a fine old barney (Aust. "dispute", poss. of Irish origin) and we haven't heard a word from you since your original post. Tell you what, pal, we might be a laid-back operation here, but one thing that really annoys us is, we can't stand some sod starting a barney and then sloping off. Up to you now, but I'm getting the impression that a lot of us have been wasting our breath. Please convince me otherwise. Otherwise we may conclude that you're (a) a stirrer, which is fine, or (b) a whinger (pron. 'winjer'), which most definitely is not.

Over to you. Are you still out there? We want to communicate! Break the silence!
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