Careful, They Might Hear You

Jewel Topsfield reports that, so as to lessen their vulnerability to assault and robbery, Indian students may be instructed to talk (in their native language/s) more softly on public transport and to avoid carrying iPods or laptops (Indians told to keep low profile, The Age, February 19, 2009). This follows reports of increased numbers of such attacks: “Robberies in Melbourne’s western suburbs jumped by 27 per cent last financial year. Police estimated almost a third of victims were of Indian appearance.”

…Inspector Scott Mahony, of Brimbank police, said it was crucial to stop Indian students becoming victims and address their mistrust of police. “They need to make sure they walk through a well-lit route, even if it might be longer, and they are not openly displaying signs of wealth with iPods and phones, and not talking loudly in their native language,” Inspector Mahony said…

Dayajot Singh, who helped organise a protest last year over attacks on Indians, said Indian students should be taught crime prevention as part of their university induction course. “They should be taught that if you go on public transport in this country, people don’t talk loudly, they talk in a low voice. If you talk loudly it could be taken as violent behaviour. It’s different cultural behaviour — speaking loudly to each other is not taken offence to in India.”

He said an important message was not to carry valuables on trains at night.

There are a number of issues at stake here. One is discerning the motivation/s of attackers. That is, are ‘Indian’ students assaulted because of their supposedly ostentatious displays of ‘wealth’ — in this instance, iPods and laptops — and/or as a result of racist antagonism and their presumed ethnic identity? Secondly, is it reasonable to ask the victims of such attacks to assume responsibility for lessening their occurrence by — as suggested — speaking less loudly on public transport?

Insofar as such attacks are crimes of opportunity, the principal motivating factor is the potential reward ~versus~ the risk of FAIL, possible arrest, and punishment. Basically, ‘can I get away with it’? If, all things being equal, someone is more likely to ‘get away’ with assaulting and robbing an Indian student than they are a non-Indian student — or perceives this to be the case — then it makes sense that the proportion of such attacks would be relatively high.

Modifying behaviour on the part of Indian students to better accommodate presumed ‘Australian cultural norms’ (‘Aussies’ aren’t loud on public transport) may address one issue, but insofar as such attacks are motivated by straightforward malice towards Indians (and/or those perceived to be Indian), there is very little that may be done, at least not by Indian students.

In any case, whether in response to particular forms of behaviour, or mere appearance, obviously, the real responsibility for such assaults lies with the attacker, both in law and in principle. (And since when did talking ‘loudly’ (in another language) warrant assault? If it did — and equally obviously — it wouldn’t just be Indian students who were victimised in this fashion!)

Finally, many people carry iPods, phones and/or laptops. Being discreet with such items in a context where possessing them may lead to assault and robbery makes sense — on one level. In the final analysis, however, the root problem would appear to be racism on the part of the (presumably) non-Indian public, and the perception that Indian students are ‘soft targets’.

How to confront that issue is another matter.

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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One Response to Careful, They Might Hear You

  1. weez says:

    Oh c’mon @ndy, women who wear short skirts are asking to be raped just as much as Indians with iPods are asking to be robbed.

    Once you’re au fait with a little reality, mebbe you can republish this wrongheaded bit of tripe, hey?

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