Sunday, May 23, 2010

Of geeks and gangsters: the "model minority"

Two stories made the news this week about young Asian people in Melbourne. The contrast between the two is interesting.

From the Herald Sun:


STUDENTS from non-Anglo Saxon backgrounds have snapped up most places at Melbourne's newest public selective school - and aspiration is the key. Children from Indian, Sri Lankan and Chinese families dominate classes at Nossal High in Berwick, which has just opened with 200 year 9 students.

Principal Roger Page said more than 80 per cent of the students were from non-Anglo Saxon backgrounds. "And that's because of the level of aspiration," he told the Herald Sun. "Some of the Sri Lankan, the Indian, the Asian communities are highly aspirational."

Mr Page said he'd been amazed to receive phone calls about enrolments from Sri Lankan families in Dandenong before building of the school had even begun.

"I said, 'We haven't even announced it yet. How do you know?' They said, 'Well, word has gone around the community. We're interested. We're really keen."'

Mr Page said it was possible that a smaller proportion of Anglo Saxon families had applied to enrol at selective schools, and that immigrant parents were more prepared to move or travel to enrol their children in such schools.

Students from Asian backgrounds often put in many hours of study, including Saturday morning language classes, Mr Page said.

The school was named after eminent scientist Sir Gustav Nossal, himself a migrant. Sir Gustav said the immigrant experience was behind such a striving for success.

"There's no doubt that back against the wall, kicked out of your own country, faced with this new environment, you try harder," he said. "Often the parents who come to a country as adults are sacrificing themselves for their kids to get a good education and so forth."

Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals president Brian Burgess said society had to encourage all families to value education. Nossal High, located on the Monash University site at Berwick, is part of a $20 million State Government plan to build selective schools.

It wouldn't be surprising to anyone who knows Asian people. In many Asian cultures (particularly from North East Asia and South Asia) as mentioned above), a good education is the highest priority for young people. Thus people from these cultures are disproportionally represented among academic achievers; and thus at selective schools (for which you need to sit an exam to get in), Asians dominate. Thus, being more likely to be educated and earning a good income, Chinese and Indians are often considered "model minorities".

Then there is the other perception of Asian youth, also in the Herald Sun:

Editorial: ASIAN GANGS
POLICE fears of an Asian gang war, as revealed by the Herald Sun, call for an urgent response in the interests of public safety. A secret intelligence report, warning of "a significant incident" in Melbourne, shows the level of police concern following a spate of gang-related violence.
The report makes a number of recommendations, which not only demonstrate the need for a rapid response, but confirm that police have recognised they must involve schools in dealing with an alarming community issue. Schools are where gang members are often recruited, and where efforts can be most effective in stopping the spread of violence.

Chief Commissioner Simon Overland must re-establish an Asian squad, which was disbanded under the administration of former chief commissioner Christine Nixon. This can now be seen as a mistake that has frustrated police and robbed them of valuable intelligence on gang activities.

Although other ethnic groups are also causing concern in a rising culture of violence, it is Asian gangs that have been responsible for some of the worst incidents. Five gangs have been identified by police as being responsible for much of the violence, often at Asian "theme" nights, where gang members often clash.

Police are worried about the increasing use of weapons such as baseball bats and knives in gang warfare, sometimes in public parks and gardens.
The Herald Sun is concerned that innocent bystanders may be caught up in fights between gangs, and calls on Premier John Brumby to give Victoria Police the fullest possible support in dealing with a dangerous surge in street crime.

Now I'm in no position to say whether the Asian gang problem in Melbourne is really as serious as this newspaper is making out. I have however written here in the past about a common tendency to throw the word "gang" around whenever a group of "ethnics" are involved in something, whether or not they are actually a gang, in the true sense of the word. (You can read an article about this here.)

Note that the Asians mentioned in the first story are not necessarily the same variety as in the second story (who are more likely to be Vietnamese, Cambodian and Chinese background).

In any case, the newspaper has shown two different sides of the Asian-Australian community, good and bad. Which one do you think their readership will take more note of?

Well, the article about high-achieving Asian students did not receive any reader's comments, although it's hard to say how much that is an indicator of reader interest. But you could also say that despite the article being a great example of the immigrant success story, readers could also see it in a negative light; in other words, ethnics taking away places from "real" Australians.

By contrast, check this article about the gang problem, also from the Herald Sun this week, and witness the kind of comments left there:

A of Rushworth Posted at 3:06 AM May 20, 2010
Which idiot thought up multi-culturalism? Australia keeps on importing trouble which is then handed on to the next generations. What a pity that we no longer have 'head-in-the-sand' theorist Christine Nixon, to hide the actual Asian crime statistics.
Comment 1 of 42

Paula of Brisbane Posted at 6:30 AM May 20, 2010
Pauline Hanson you were so right.
Comment 15 of 42

R Posted at 6:41 AM May 20, 2010
Multiculturalism, you gotta love it - not.
Comment 19 of 42

Davo of Melbourne Posted at 7:13 AM May 20, 2010
I bet if they had Caucasian nights at nightclubs they would be banned because they are racist. So why are Asian nights allowed?
Comment 26 of 42

Lily of Melbourne Posted at 7:29 AM May 20, 2010
Send them all back from where they came from. This is NOT an Australian way of life. We DON'T want this here.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Comment 32 of 42

Now, given that Asians have been a significant presence in Australia since the 1970s (and much earlier in smaller numbers), there is a very good chance that many if not most members of Asian gangs are born in Australia. In which case, how do you send them back where they came from? And how many generations do Asians have to be here before they are recognised as Australian?

See also:

Define "race-based attack"

"Send them all back"... even if they are Australian

Working with refugee kids

1 comment:

  1. "...readers could also see it in a negative light; in other words, ethnics taking away places from "real" Australians."

    Funny you should say that. Australia's leading White Nationalist has already shown some concern:

    Some comments that follow his post:

    Looks to me Pauline Hanson was right on the money .No wonder Labor are consulting with China about our policies.

    comradesatwork (Reply)
    Mon 24 May 10 (06:28am)

    Good to see multiculturalism evidencing healthy signs of social integration and assimilation in that photo....

    tony of coburg (Reply)
    Mon 24 May 10 (08:30am)

    One poster wonders in alarm: "Where are the Australian looking kids?".

    Ruby of Toowoomba (Reply)
    Mon 24 May 10 (08:30am)

    Which I suppose goes some way toward answering your question, "And how many generations do Asians have to be here before they are recognised as Australian?"

    I think the answer clearly is, NEVER! At least to white nationalists like Afrikaner Bolt and his boors.

    After all, to the ethnic nationalist, a nation is a group of people sharing a common ethnicity, in the case of white nationalist, a common WHITE ethnicity. This is why Bolt shows concern about "divided loyalties" from immigrants not of northern European descent, but year after year does not fail to hype Orange Day, with not the slightest sense of hypocrisy; because there is none.

    If you remember his infamous post, where he showed his true white nationalist colors most clearly, he commented, "Different European countries are having differing success in keeping their traditional cultural identity." The insinuation was clear: culture equals race and race equals culture. So the presence of people like you, Eurasian, are proof positive that Australia is fairing poorly in maintaining its traditional cultural identity. He'd be able to tell that just by looking at you!

    The Herald-Sun, thanks to Rupert Murdoch, has become a platform for white nationalism and white supremacy. And thanks again to Rupert Murdoch and his power, the law appears unwilling to touch his paper ... because it acts without fear or favor, you see.