Monday, November 23, 2009

A non-racist attack filled with racial abuse?

I blogged about this story a few days ago (here), at which point it had not been reported in the Australian media despite being all over the Indian news. Well the Aussie media have finally picked up on it; but this report makes an interesting read:

Victorian police have confirmed they are investigating another attack on an Indian student in Melbourne's northern suburbs last weekend.

The victim says the assault was accompanied by a torrent of racial abuse.

The Indian media have again seized on the incident and are asking why police have not laid any charges. Postgraduate student Rodney Raj says he went outside on Saturday night when he heard his dog barking. He says two women and a man, who he says were neighbours, then attacked him and his wife.
He declined an interview with ABC News but described the attack to Indian media. "One woman started bashing me with a chair on the left side and the other started bashing me with an iron post on the right. I took about three or four blows before I went to the ground," he said.

Darebin city councillor Tim Laurence says there was racial abuse. "And even more, there was a justification for the level of violence, that I can do this to you because you are Indians and you can't do anything about it," he said.

Police were called and statements were taken. A Victoria Police spokeswoman says the officer who took the complaint has taken time off, but that is not the reason there have been no charges laid. She says the investigation is continuing.

Despite the alleged racist abuse, police say there is no evidence the alleged attack was racially motivated. They say they cannot elaborate because of privacy issues.

Ok, now I obviously don't know what happened here - perhaps it is more complicated than we are being told so far. But let's have a look at one sentence again:

"Despite the alleged racist abuse, police say there is no evidence the alleged attack was racially motivated."

You can look at that in a number of ways.

* "Alleged" - meaning the Indian couple made it up, OR
* the police are in denial and can't even see racism when it's staring them in the face, OR
* the police are so desperate to convince us that racist violence is not a problem that they are pretending it doesn't happen, OR
* the motivation was completely unrelated to racism, but the attackers threw in a few racist epithets just for good measure.

The last point is worth pondering. It is possible that many attacks that are described as racist fall into that category. I don't wish to pretend that racist attacks don't exist - many of the attacks on Indians clearly were. But "racially motivated" and "involving racist abuse" are two different things. The kind of person who is going to brutally bash someone, for whatever reason, is probably the kind of person with a foul mouth, who will use various kinds of verbal abuse during a confrontation.

So let's say someone bashes an Indian, because of some dispute or simply because they want to feel tough by picking on someone. And in the course of it they racially abuse the Indian. Is this a racist attack? Um, maybe. I guess it's an attack by a racist. Is it a racially motivated attack? Um, perhaps not. The motivation is different, the racism only incidental.

I mention this because I don't think that we should regard the bashings of Indians simply as a reflection of a deeply racist anti-Indian culture in Australia. That is a little too simplistic. As I've stated before on this blog, the culture of young adults, particularly young men, is as violent and anti-social as it has ever been in this country. The fear of difference is strong, as is the desire for pack approval through aggression. In many cases, Indians are simply a convenient target.

All of which may or may not be relevant to the case of Rodney Raj and his wife. Whether or not the attack was racist in motivation, it's still an attack, and a very serious one. Anyone who enters someone's property and strikes them with a chair and an iron post is an evil ignorant f***. I hope they meet with some particularly rigorous justice.

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