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Jumbucks at the billabong*

columns Updated: Jun 07, 2009 01:21 IST
Indrajit Hazra
Indrajit Hazra
Hindustan Times
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* Australian slang for ‘Sheep at the lake’

Anyone trawling porn sites on the internet (for the purpose of sociological studies, of course) knows the relevance of race — alongside other easy modes of visual identification such as hair colour (brunette, blonde, redhead), build (small, large) and gender (female, male, transsexual). Racial features form an important part of a person’s physical package. You may think of overlooking a person’s racial identity the way you may overlook the cover of a book, but it’s there — bam! — in front of you for you to deal with. Which is why everyone’s so happy about Barack Hussein Obama and was once so puzzled about Sonia Maino Gandhi.

It is this ‘what you see is what you get’ quality that makes race such a powerful marker, which in turn can be used as a very rough’n’quick reckoner to determine ‘who’s side you’re on’. (A completely useless device, however, when you consider Indians and Pakistanis, although not when in the context of ‘Indian restaurants’ in England.)

Different races exist the way different sexes and age-groups do. But how one deals with this particular difference and reacts to a person belonging to a different race is what marks a racist (who looks down on another race) from someone who knows the difference between the White rapper Eminem’s race, and the Even Whiter pop star Michael Jackson’s, without judging them according to this difference. (Although they should definitely be judged for their varying attitudes towards children and general behaviour.)

Now, I’m not one of those chaps who think that the attacks on Indian students in Melbourne were the handiwork of some vicious punks who just happened to chance upon desi boys and would have pounced on anyone else instead. That’s almost as silly as saying that had the notorious Spanish conquistadore, Hernando Cortez, gone to Russia instead of Mexico, he would have been busy exterminating Slavs, not Aztecs. Well, of course, he would have, considering that communal hostility doesn’t stem from an automatic, devilish sense to hate but from a culturally driven perception of one’s communal or racial power and a desire to wield it over another community or race. The perpetrators may have gone ahead and beaten up an old White tramp Clockwork Orange-style on the train, but Sravan Theerthala, Sourabh Sharma and eight others were the ones brutally attacked and they were attacked for their ‘inviting’ Indianness.

At the same time, however, it’s moronic to talk about Australia as a nation of ‘curry bashers’, or whatever name these White trash have decided to call themselves. The police have arrested all the attackers and there has been no judicial dilly-dally in the land of Evonne Goolagong.

But it is disturbing to know that the Australian authorities — whether out of ignorance or as part of PR damage control — are in denial about these attacks being racist. “We think [Indian students] are vulnerable, we don’t think it’s racial; we think they are a weak target,” said Melbourne Police Deputy Commissioner Kieran Walshe. Okay, so what he’s saying is that those violent snots don’t actually hate Indians, but just find them easier to bash up. Hmm, methinks DC Walshe is a-waltzing Matilda with us here.

As in brutal forms of ragging, racially targeted violence is all about perception. You see the archetypal well-combed, good boy and take him to the corner. Under this latest outbreak of racial stereotyping, Indian students are the well-combed, good boys. I hope the Aussies, after a late start, one of the most boisterous revellers of multi-racialism on this planet, do recognise the racism going on under their noses. Because without it being tackled and outed as racism, attacking Indians along racial lines in Australia could become the season’s new underground contact sport.

As for our boys in Wombatland, stop peering into those Photoshop-ed pictures of Kylie Minogue on your computer screens (even if it is for the purpose of sociological studies) and learn some Taekwon-Do. If nothing else, it’ll finally get you an Aussie girlfriend who’ll make you forget that your mother’s hooked you up with a good, nice girl back home.