Sunday, July 26, 2009

Racism and the Indian Diaspora

In the last three months, we have seen the headlines on the unfortunate incidents Down Under. Namely, racial violence against Indian students in Australia. The footages were scary. And the whole incident has also triggered off the reaction that the perpetrators wanted- drive terror into the hearts of existing and aspiring students, thereby strangling the funnel of aspirants.

I have some great friends who are Australians. There are some broad characteristics they share. They are responsible, have great a sense of humour, love to try out different things and are generally very amiable. It is difficult to attribute the acts of terror to people who hail from the same country as these friends. But then, these friends of mine are the global Australians – top 10% of the population in terms of exposure and intellect.

Even so, it would be interesting to drill down a bit into what exactly could be causing this dissonance among some people in Australia for this issue to have become so big. Also intriguing, since this is happening in and around Melbourne, the most cosmopolitan area in Australia, being home to people from over 200 nationalities.

In the last 10 odd years, Indians are actively pursuing higher studies in Australia. There is also migration of Indians happening to the main cities in Australia. The Indian students alone now contribute to about 3% of the population of Melbourne. So here is the situation- a sudden spurt in the population of a relatively less known ethnic group. A group moreover, which is focused on high tech and IT studies, in a city which is the high tech capital of Australia. Around the same period, Indians are seen to be taking away local jobs from other English speaking developed nations because of the cost arbitrage. Even some Australian jobs are being moved to India. Reason enough for huge unease.

But added to this are some fundamental traits which have added to the unease - the same traits that kept the Diaspora of Jews all over Europe a distinct and hated community for centuries.

1. The Indians keep to themselves
2. They cling to their own culture
3. They are financially well off
4. They are industrious and hard working

My relatives in the US are more active in Indian cultural and religious activities than I or my family ever am. Maybe this gives them a sense of identity. Maybe it is a defensive mechanism to prove that theirs is a culture by far older and richer than those of the Americans. This is very similar to the way the Jews carried themselves in the European ghettos. Outwardly, subservient (this is not true for the Indian communities in US etc. thanks to modernisation) but actually clinging on to their individuality and convinced of their superiority.

Added to this, the Indians are generally believed to be peace loving and usually do not want trouble. Similar to the Jews who never fought back and hence where held in contempt.

So how will this problem go away? In a world fast becoming more and more homogenous, each country will have to accept outsiders and learn to live with them. In another 100 years, I believe that most of the developed world will have far more number of people of mixed ethnicities, transplanted across continents, speaking different languages and accepting/ embracing different cultures. But the path towards this utopia will be full of ups and downs, though in an overall upward trajectory.

There is bound to be backlashes based on racial and religious biases. Whites Vs. Browns and Christians Vs. Muslims.

Let the open minded minority lead the way for the majority which is indifferent. And together let them isolate the truly bigoted and narrow minded minority. The sooner we do this, the sooner the world will truly be one. And the sooner mankind will find its destiny.

1 comment:

Roon said...

Hi RamG - a sllightly different angle to the same viewpoint - from my experiences here in singapore. Often when i travel in the MRT here i come across groups of Indian students. Somehow, most such groups i came across are pretty vocal - also i got the distinct feeling that they are insensitive to the local sensitivities... like talking too loudly or standing just at the entrance obstructing incoming traffic .... while we look at the aussies and others suspiciously ... perhaps it makes sense for the indian government (like the chinese did) to perhaps have orientation classes for first time travellers sensitising them on such nuances. I am a strong believer that it takes two hands to clap... always.