By Ashok Kumar
An advertisement by the agents of a superstore chain in the social media has, once again, stoked the embers of racism in “multicultural” Australia. The advertisement appearing on a site Gumtree seeking to fill positions of cleaners in Hobart and specifically asking Indian and Asians to excuse as they want English speaking persons only.
There’s a huge gap between the rhetoric multicultural Australia, as professed by the political leaders, including the various Prime Ministers, and, the understanding of an Australian we see on the streets.He doesn’t attend the gatherings addressed by the politicians and hence,unaware of government’s multicultural policies.
I remember, soon after arrival in Australia, during my first job interview I was asked when did I arrive in Australia and I told the interviewer ‘just a day before’. He was shocked at the level and fluency of my English language.
So what kind of English-speaking people the advertiser is looking for? Or, is it the level of English spoken by Indians way above their understanding? No wonder, my wife was told after an interview that she was “over-qualified” for a job she had been doing for umpteen years.
Coming back to “multiculturalism” issue that started with the citizenship test solely aimed at assimilation of people with different heritage into Australian community. Several communities felt the anger at the doubting their integrity. An appeasement policy followed to grab the emerging vote bank.
Politicians of all hues thronged the festivals of various communities and all singing the “multiculturalism” song. Successive governments began doling out grants to the communities and lured several of them with “achievement awards.” Different sets of political parties would reward their followers from among a particular community. But the man on the street is unaware of all this.
For him, a migrant is the one who has come to share not his sorrows but his bread. He is least bothered about a Diwali or an Eid. In other words, the multiculturalism has remained confined to the political functions and failed to percolate to, where it matters the most –the grass root level.
In this regard, I had written on January 8, 2010 http://www.theistimes.com/death-of-two-indians-govt-should-prove-its-not-racial/ wherein I had listed various instances that smacked of racial behaviour by the so-called multicultural Australians.
Talking about assimilation, I feel it’s a two-way lane and both the communities need to understand each other. From an Indian point of view, Christmas is not a new phenomenon as it is celebrated in India and the Indian have a greater understanding than an Australian would have of Diwali or Holi or Eid.
If mutual understanding is not reached, assimilation or accommodation is incomplete and such racial advertisements would not see an end. The ball is now in politicians’ court. It’s up to them to devise a strategy that ensures their thoughts reach the Australian on the street.
The Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr had recently written a beautiful opinion piece on “overlapping cultures.” http://www.theistimes.com/bob-carr-views-the-world-with-overlapped-cultures/
Mr. Carr advocates “…we can also promote and defend cultural diversity, the idea of a planet of seven billion that celebrates and does not deny its contradictions”.
By Ashok Kumar