Here we go, here we go, here we go — again!

First, I recall Cronulla 05, which as a former Shire boy I reblogged, the result being here. From which, though 12 years on links may well not work:

Mind you, there have been earlier, and worse, incidents, such as this one reported in NSW Hansard in February 2001.

[Cronulla] is an outpost, an area where the population increases dramatically during the summer. As my correspondent has said, there is gang activity. On Thursday 15 February the Commissioner of Police was interviewed on radio by John Stanley. The transcript of that interview reads, in part:

John Stanley: And your problem is, if you sent more police to Cabramatta, they would be taken from areas like Cronulla, where we had all those calls last week about that gang problem, that I think you are aware of. These people are coming in from other parts of Sydney, into Cronulla and are causing big problems there.

Commissioner Ryan: They are causing huge problems there.

One of those huge problems occurred two days after Christmas. Following a dispute at a Sutherland nightclub, a gang of 30 Lebanese Australian males arrived at Cronulla railway station with baseball bats, iron bars, knives and guns. They open fired on a rival gang, spraying more than 20 bullets over a 50-metre area. Such behaviour and activity are totally foreign. The Premier would be aware of the writings of a former New York senator, Patrick Daniel Moynihan. Back in the 1960s he wrote an essay entitled “Defining Deviancy Down”. That summarises these appalling standards of behaviour. Previously, this incident would have made headlines all over Sydney…

Mr George: Throughout New South Wales.

Mr KERR: Indeed, throughout New South Wales, but it did not because it is so commonplace. The mayor of Sutherland shire wants surveillance cameras, and there is no reason why the council cannot put surveillance cameras in the places sought by the mayor, although the problem exists throughout the Sutherland shire. The Carr Government has failed in its basic responsibility to maintain an orderly society and should therefore make a financial contribution towards the cost of the cameras. On behalf of the people of the Sutherland shire I ask the mayor to indicate when those cameras will be installed in Cronulla.

While I freely admit that troubling, troubled, and trouble-making (and usually virulently homophobic) groups of “middle eastern appearance” are an unlovely feature of Sydney life, it is very important to keep a sense of proportion on this: see Tunnel Vision: The Politicising Of Ethnic Crime by Paola Totaro (2003) for such a perspective. For much more detailed argument, see (PDF file) Scott Poynting Living with Racism: The experience and reporting by Arab and Muslim Australians of discrimination, abuse and violence since 11 September 2001 (2004).

It should be noted that, in the ideology of racism, categorical confusions between ‘race’ (eg ‘Middle Eastern Appearance’), ethnicity (eg Arab), nationality of origin or background (eg Lebanese), and religion (eg Muslim) are common, and distinction in practice between racism directed on ‘racial’, ethnic, or national grounds is not always possible or valid. This is all the more problematic currently, for over about the last decade, especially since panics from 1998 over ‘ethnic gangs’, over ‘race rapes’ in Sydney in 2000-2001, and asylum seekers and then the terror attacks from 2001, we have seen the emergence of we might call ‘the Arab Other’ as the pre-eminent folk devil in contemporary Australia (Poynting, Noble, Tabar and Collins, 2004). The links that are made between these events, the ‘perpetrators’ involved and their perceived communities, depend on the racist imagining of a supposedly homogenous category which includes those of Arab or Middle Eastern or Muslim background. This is not a singular category, of course — it includes people from diverse ancestries and with very distinct histories — but it is seen to be a singular category. A common factor is found through blaming whole communities for criminal acts, but also in labelling as ‘deviant’ certain actions — such as seeking asylum — and a range of other practices whose key feature is their visible and threatening difference — such as building a prayer centre (Dunn, 2001).

The extent to which the categories of race, ethnicity (culture) and religion are conflated in the ‘common sense’ of racism* is an aspect which needs to be studied, especially in as much as it determines the scope of legislation and the targeting of anti-racist initiatives and resources…

Poynting’s long article has much to commend it, including some disturbing personal stories.

And one you may not have thought of before: On welfare issues with Korean-Australian students

Nothing of what I have written, I hasten to add, is in any way meant to stigmatise Koreans or Korean culture, a point I made at the end yesterday with reference to Port Arthur. On the other hand I have seen up close less horrendous examples of the bicultural alienation some Korean-Australian students feel. Some years ago we were all shocked when one of our former students, a Korean-Australian, was murdered. We did much soul-searching then about what may have been involved. One of the more alienated Korean-Australian contemporaries of that boy opened up to me about a whole lot of things, and thanked me for some of the things I had been saying or writing on the cultural issues involved.

About that time too after a Year 12 Farewell ceremony I was, much to my surprise, on the receiving end of a big hug from one of those Korean students I had been working with for the previous six years… 🙂

Additional note

A feature of the more alienated Korean students in my experience from the mid 90s through to 2005 — and I stress of some, though quite a few — was their fandom of the US star Tupac Shakur and of “Thug Life”.

The concept of “Thug Life” was viewed by Shakur as a philosophy for life. Shakur developed the word into an acronym standing for “The Hate U Gave Little Infants F**ks Everybody”. He declared that the dictionary definition of a “thug” as being a rogue or criminal was not how he used the term, but rather he meant someone who came from oppressive or squalid background and little opportunity but still made a life for themselves and were proud.

Also in that post:

Korean Student Forum 8 September 2004 at Sydney Institute of TAFE….

In the “behaviour” workshop one of the police officers said something that adds perspective. He said that if we see a group of young people kicking a soccer ball around a park we feel positive about it, but if you take away the soccer ball and have the same group a bit later at night, or at a mall, people start saying “It’s a gang.” There’s something in that.

 

And now we have the admittedly disturbing incidents in Melbourne in recent times. I commend warmly Is Melbourne in the grip of African crime gangs? The facts behind the lurid headlines.

Victoria is having a debate about gangs. Specifically, it is debating whether it is appropriate to call groups of young people who are predominantly from African backgrounds a “gang” and, so named, what should be done about it.

It’s also having a debate about race, which is being waged in the comment sections of front-page articles on gang violence, and on social media, where comments like “stop immigration until this mess is sorted” populate Victoria police’s official Facebook page.

Both debates are linked to a perceived increase in large-scale violent offences committed by young people of African appearance, most of whom have been linked to Melbourne’s Sudanese migrant community.

Media coverage of the issue, led by the News Corp tabloid the Herald Sun, has dubbed Victoria “a state of fear” and reported that it could undermine the incumbent Labor government’s chances in the November state election.

On Monday the prime minister weighed in, saying at a press conference in Sydney that “growing gang violence and lawlessness in Victoria” was “a failure of the Andrews government”….

So here we go, here we go, here we go… again! Moral panic time!

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Source: Other Sociologist blog

See also African migrants face unfair stigma as Melbourne gang stoush escalates.

And see also from me in 2010: Africa in South Sydney. Do watch the video there!

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