Can immigrants ever truly be accepted by all the people of their new country?
Obviously, if a particular group is seen to cause trouble, this might be a barrier to acceptance. So logically, an ethnic group of high achievers who cause little trouble would be accepted easily, right?
Well, you'd think so. But it doesn't necessarily work out that way.
When people from an immigrant group are seen to commit crimes or do something to bring negative attention to themselves, you can hear the usual chorus of criticism.
"They aren't assimilating."
"They don't add any value to this country."
"They are uncivilised and incompatible with our national values."
"They will form ghettos."
Ok, fine. So what about when a migrant group makes a success of itself?
Take for example, the Chinese and Indian communities of Australia. There are almost 700,000 Australians who claim Chinese ancestry, and around 250,000 with Indian ancestry. Now obviously each community is diverse and contains all kinds of people from all walks of life, but both communities would have to be regarded as highly successful immigrant groups, by most measures.
While many Australians would view the stereotypical Indian job as a taxi driver or service station attendant, Indians are strongly over-represented in high-status fields such as medicine. They are much more likely than the rest of the population to have a degree, and to be working in a profession. Likewise, the success of Chinese-Australians in education is well-recognised. Check out last year's top year 12 scores in Victorian schools for specialist mathematics or chemistry, to take two obvious examples, and you'll notice the domination of Chinese surnames.
In both cultures, the strong emphasis on educational achievement, hard work, and the status gained by attaining a "good job", lead to success in many fields; witness the disproportionate success of ethnic Chinese in South East Asia compared to the indigenous populations. In Australia, both communities have a relatively low crime rate as well, when compared to that of the population at large.
This is not to say that the Chinese or Indian way is better than any other way - educational and economic successes are hardly the only measure of anyone's worth to their country. But by many of the criteria that is regularly used to attack some migrant groups (such as those from Africa, the Middle East and the Pacific), Chinese and Indians are therefore the ideal citizens.
So you might deduce then, that the same people who might criticise some communities for struggling to achieve, would heartily welcome migrants like the Indians and Chinese, who are prime examples of what is possible for those willing to go for it.
For "successful" migrants, the negativity is still there; except this time the complaints are different. This time, they are taking jobs and opportunities away from "real" Australians.
I've often heard the muttered accusation that Asian-Australian school students "cheat" by having tutoring outside school hours, or by eschewing sports or partying in order to study hard. Of course, this approach is not restricted to Asian students; any student wishing to get top marks needs to do this to some extent. It just so happens that Asian students make up a disproportionate amount of those top students. In any case, if this leads them to get the best marks and get accepted into the best courses and jobs, then so be it. Regardless of race, if I'm being treated by a doctor, or having my share portfolio managed by someone, I want it to be a person who is proven to be diligent and hardworking, rather than the one who was a good footy player in high school or who was the life of the party at age 16.
Check this post at the Herald-Sun for an example of how Asian students are viewed as a threat. It concerns one of Melbourne's best-performing schools, with a predominantly Asian student population (many of whose families have moved into the area in order to send their child to a good school). Many of the commenters see this as a threat. One describes it as a kind of genocide of white Aussies, under the guise of multiculturalism. Another wonders, "Where are all the Australian-looking kids?"
I wrote recently about a new selective high school in Mebourne, which accepts only students who pass an entrance exam. It is dominated by Chinese, Indian and Sri Lankan students - which indicates that their families are clearly putting a high priority on education. But over at the Oz Conservative blog, you can witness the paranoia that this signifies a grave threat to WASPS. Some suggest it means Asians need to be kicked out of the country.
So there you go, immigrants and children of immigrants; you're damned if you do, damned if you don't. You are either sponging off "our" country or stealing "our" jobs. If you don't sufficiently assimilate and perform by some arbitrary measure, you are a threat, a bludger, a dead weight. If you succeed, you are also a threat.
I'm not writing this some kind of love letter to Australia's Indian and Chinese communities. And neither am I an "open borders" kind of guy who thinks we should automatically let everyone in who wishes to come here. I'm just trying to point out that whatever basis people claim for not wanting "foreigners" in the country, it very often comes down to one simple reason: they don't like foreigners.