when the asian community starts moving in big numbers, it's time to take notice. yesterday's rally in south auckland was not surprising, given my experience at the nz central indian association agm. although i wasn't in auckland this weekend, i suspect the messages coming out of that rally were exactly what i heard last month.
the 3 recent murders in south auckland have shaken the aisan community. add it to the number of burgalaries aimed at small businesses, and there is the feeling of a community under siege. but i suspect that the discontent is much wider than that.
i recall taking part in the protest against the danish cartoons published in the dominion post a few years ago. it wasn't because i was so deeply offended by the cartoons (although they were pretty cheap and nasty), nor was it because i had any problem with the paper exercising their right to print them. my reason for marching was because, in the weekend after their publication, i had to suffer 3 incidents of verbal abuse as i went about my daily business in hamilton.
my anger was directed at the anger portrayed towards me for something i hadn't even done, had no choice about and couldn't even influence. i was angry for the dom (and a couple of other papers at the time, as well as the tv networks) for bringing this issue on to our shores, resulting in the targetting of our community, without even caring about our welfare.
no to mention that the cartoons came after a long period when things had been extremely difficult for the muslim community. our mosques had been vandalised after the bombings in london; the media had been pretty harsh in its portrayal of muslims and the level of discrimination appeared to be pretty high.
so the protest, while seeming to be about the cartoons, was about so much more. it was our chance to express our frustration and to stake our place in this country. we belong here, we aren't going to be leaving, and all we ask is to be treated with respect.
i would say that saturday's protest had pretty similar undertones. there is anger at the media in it's portrayal of asians, there is anger at the discrimination asians face in getting jobs. there is anger at being continually treated as outsiders and migrants, even though many have been here for a few generations. this was an opportunity to voice that anger.
the problem i had was with the statement that the government is doing nothing to protect the asian community. it's hard to do more. over the 9 years of this labour led government, we have had:
- an almost doubling of the length of sentences for violent crimes
- a large increase in the numbers of police, including an extra 1,000 since the 2005 election (national is only promising to increase total numbers by 64)
- a zero-tolerance policy on hate-crime, which saw a woman successfully prosecuted for tipping a bottle of water on chinese women for speaking their own language on a train
- the appointment of ethnic liaison officers in the police force
- the recruitment drive to increase the numbers of ethnic police officers
- most recently, legislation to crack down on gangs has been presented, though how useful this will be, who knows
on top of that, we know that overall crime rates are decreasing, and the increase in violent crime are almost totally a result of the increase in reported domestic violence. the latter is likely to be a result of the campaign against domestic violence, with people more likely to report that this is happening.
while i can understand the frustration felt by ethnic minorities, i certainly don't think this is the answer. having vigilante groups trained in violence is not going to make the community safer, it's more likely to increase retaliatory violence and set communities up against each other. in particular, it will set up pacific island & maori communties against the asian community. that is no way to solve the problem.
a better solution would be to bring communities together, to increase interaction and understanding. it's a much more difficult road, and will take a lot longer to show positive results, but both in the short and long term, it is the best solution for us all.