An amusing article below. It is an academic’s long-winded way of saying that the attacks on Indian students in Australia are the work of other immigrants, mostly blacks. Up until about 2007, that was from time to time admitted in the media but you are no longer allowed to say that openly.

The writer’s “solution” is risible however. It amounts to saying that when you solve all the other problems of the world the attacks on Indians will cease. Sending badly behaved immigrants back to their countries of origin would, by contrast, work like a charm. There is ample provision for that in Australian law but it it is only done so far with immigrants of British origin — which is clearly racist

One of the problems with the debate about violence towards Indian students in Melbourne is that the analysis has focused on the victims and their nationality. It is hardly possible to make claims of racism or otherwise in these attacks without knowing something of the offenders. Who are they, and can they be understood solely in terms of their own nationalities (which is basic to the racist claim)?

Are those who argue that the attacks are racially motivated assuming that the attackers are all of Anglo descent? If they were of Middle Eastern or African or South Asian heritage, would that make it different? Are all instances of inter-cultural violence racist?

The treatment of race in this discussion has been simplistic. One-third of Melbourne’s population was born overseas. Relative to Australia’s indigenous people, every non-Aboriginal here has a recent heritage from elsewhere. Most of us are hybrids of one sort or another, meaning that the concept of race is complex. The answer to the question “where are you from?” from someone who looks Asian is as likely to be “Prahran” as “Thailand”.

It is partly because of this, according to Victoria Police, and partly because of concerns about racial stereotyping, that the racial backgrounds of the perpetrators and victims of crime are no longer routinely recorded in Victoria. The fact is, we don’t know the race of people involved in the vast majority of crimes in Melbourne, let alone whether they are racially motivated. We do have a sense that many robberies of international students go unreported and that the geographic distribution of these crimes is skewed, so the vexed discussion of proportionate and disproportionate incidences is being held in a vacuum.

There is anecdotal evidence that racial abuse has occurred in some of the attacks on Indian people. I expect that Lebanese victims of similar crimes also suffer racial abuse. Women and openly gay victims likely experience a different choice of words. What connects these crimes, I am prepared to hazard, is a word that has not yet been mentioned: class, of both offenders and victims.

It is undoubtedly true that there are racist, misogynist and homophobic people looking for anyone “different” to beat up – there are testosterone-fuelled Neanderthals in every era and society. But, in the absence of good data, we can also assume that there is a large number of alienated young people, brought up in a culture of virulent individualism, with its relentless demand for wealth, fame and beauty, who have come to realise that their reality is devastatingly at odds with their expectations. Poverty combined with a sense of thwarted entitlement is a bad mix.

We can assume too that some of the attacks are drug-inspired and that a laptop translates directly into a foil of heroin. The offenders in these instances may well be doing their own form of racial stereotyping but not necessarily out of hatred for the presumed race of their victim.

As is so often the case, the victims of these crimes of poverty and marginalisation are themselves poor and marginalised. The international education market has become more essential to Australia and the global value and accessibility of an English-language education has increased. So Melbourne is seeing more, less advantaged students living in the most disadvantaged suburbs where the housing is cheapest, having to work poorly-paid night jobs to survive. If it were ever true to assume that international students are wealthy, it is no longer the case. Their marginal status and class in the Australian context makes them vulnerable by these facts alone.

What can be done? The old policy response of law and order — ever wheeled out by politicians at a loss — is a demonstrated failure. Nowhere in the world has extra policing and heavier sentencing prevented crimes of poverty. Even where hugely expensive “zero tolerance” policies are applied, such as in New York, crimes of poverty still occur while the prisons overflow with young, poor, predominantly black men whose continued alienation is assured.

A more effective response would be to try to reduce class inequality. Providing decent, affordable housing and equal educational opportunities would be a start.

But important socialising environments — where people learn about themselves and others and develop the skills to deal with the things life can throw up — go beyond housing and school. The places where young people learn to interact positively and meaningfully with others are the small places of community centres, local clubs, theatre groups and — dare I say it — live music venues.

It is in these small social environments that people form friendships based on shared interests, and become realistic about their hopes and expectations. In places such as these they also meet people from different cultures, and women and gay people. These interactions sow the seeds for empathy and appreciation of difference.

Any serious policy response to street violence needs to start with a good, hard look at the city, from the macro, contextual view of the distributions of wealth, locations and types of housing and jobs, and funding of and access to education, to the micro issues of the social opportunities and facilities offered to young people. Into all these analyses then come the complexities of racial and class differentiation.

Simple solutions to urban problems are invariably wrong. In this anything but simple matter, the categorical claims for or against “Australia as a racist society” are neither meaningful nor helpful.