Sydney Race Riots

I was going to write about this sooner but following the completition – for the most part anyway – of the site’s design I decided to go for a full format and in the process have been busy, as well as loosing internet for the better part of the day. Anyway.

There’s plenty of news reports around – CNN, BBC, Forbes (problems grow to Adelaide & Perth), The Age (mostly AP reports); hell, Google News has 1000+ stories on it – so it’s pretty much reached international incident status [aside: this is what it takes for Australia to get on the news? sheesh]. Each report has its own spin, as the media is wont to have, inevitably, but these are the facts that i’ve gathered so far:

  1. 2 Lifegaurds get bashed by a gang of “youths with Arab or Middle Eastern appearance” (all of which have now been arrested by the way).
  2. A week of simmering tensions ensue, with much anger at the supposed “attack on the Australian way of life”, since lifegaurds are an integral part of the Aussie beach culture.
  3. Sunday: Rally of “white” Australians in Cronulla – a prominent beach suburb with a overwhelming majority of Australian residents, generally above average economic profile. Majority of ‘rally’ participants are from other parts of Sydney as Cronulla is easily accessible by train, young, and fuelled by alcohol. Rally quickly turns ugly as people with non-“white” skin are attacked simply for being in the area. Police step in and riot ensues. Ambulance attacked while treating on the victims of the mob.
  4. Sunday night, Monday night – gangs of “Arab youths” go to suburbs of Cronulla and Maroubra – a similar suburb, but further north and closer to the city. Cars smashed and various other incidents of violent vandalism. A number of arrests made.

That’s the bare facts of events. I missed the events of the first day in detail because I was out for a dinner (lovely at that, but perhaps inappropriate in this post). From what I gather though, there’s no doubt that the so-called rally was pretty much something designed to have the effect it did – to inflame the situation and push it to breaking point.

I used to live in Sydney, 5 years ago. I will be living there from next year. Both of these things make this incident very relevant to me. I’ve never seen racisim on the scale that was shown Sunday, but it’s something that to some extent doesn’t surprise me. The school that I went to had a large number of Lebanese – “Lebs” – and they made no pains to hide their gangish nature. If one is attacked, you can bet your bottom dollar the group will react with punitive force. It was widely known that you shouldn’t “mess” with the lebs, because quite frankly the result was writ large. But I never felt uncomfortable around Lebs. They were a nice bunch of people; I played basketball with them daily. You just didn’t want to get the group pissed off – but then, the same could be said of any large interconnected community with a beligerent element to it. The people I was threatened by were Aussies – no generalisation here, that’s just how it was. Some of my best friends were Aussies, but that stands apart from the belligerent aussies who saw me as the weaker prey who didn’t have a gang at his back. It never became too serious, but suffice to say enough was exchanged.

So when I see this kind of riot, I shake my head. I know exactly the type of people that would go there. Little Matty Ryan I can bet was in the front of that line, the damned runt. Today on SBS News there was an interview with a representative of the “Australia First” party, a direct descendent if there ever was oneof the One Nation party and its leader Pauline Hanson that divided opinion so many years before. They’ve admitted that they gathered people to participate in this racist riot that abuses the Australian flag as a symbol – wrapping themselves in it much like Hanson’s images for the One Nation party. That is what truly, truly sickens me.

The Lebanese – or whoever is responding with vandalism and petty, random destruction – are also at fault for their response to the riot, but the escalation is laid at the feet of the dickheads who decided they’d have a bit of a lark and attack anyone whos skin wasn’t white. One of the dicks interviewed on TV said he was a “third generation” Australian and he wouldn’t stand for the muslims [fact: Lebanon is majority Christian] spoling his country – what, does that somehow validate your action, that your family has been here longer than the other guy? Bullshit.

I’d say the majority of Aussies are tolerant and great people, but there’s a not-insignificant portion that would be called rednecks in America and neo-nazis in Germany. Racism and xenophobia thinly veiled by supposedly nationalistic motivations accompanied by a lack of education, money and job are tempramental mixes at best. The politicians will make a stand here, but it’s going to be a rough ride to the finish until the dickheads on both sides either get a grip or get arrested.

(See also RYWHM and BoxofJack )

edit: here’s an article from The Age which shows the role of right-wing organisations in the riots.

14 Replies to “Sydney Race Riots”

  1. regardless of the fact that the christians are in lebanon it is the muslim ‘lebs’ that are causing all the trouble. Anyone who trys to place blame for this on white australians should have their head read. It is quite telling that the majority of people blaming whites for it all are themselves white. Lebanese crime gangs should not be a fact of AU life and it is going to get worse before it gets better. If they don’t want to integrate then they should just go back home because I can assure you the BS they pull over here wouldn’t be tolerated in their home country. Which is another reason for the contempt that they display to ‘white’ Australians every day. They are given a free hand and do what they want with little or no repercussions and it was well past the due date for them to be put in their place. Of course their response was to open fire on a christmas celebration and to outnumber and stab a man in the back when they found one alone. We will pay for this PC bullshit the same way France is currently paying. Interesting Article follows: http://www.quadrant.org.au/php/article_view.php?article_id=581

  2. Try to place the blame? You know very well that the escalation of this from your average minor crime to something everyone is paying attention to was the 5000 people on the Cronulla foreshore. I’m not saying crime gangs of any kind “should be a fact of life”, I’m saying that this is no way to respond to the problem.

    When that many people get together, get drunk and shout slogans which are intentionally provocative, what do they think are going to acheive? Is that supposed to encourage “integration”, as you call it, in some way?  What is “integration” anyway? Should they rip off their skin and replace it with white skin? For most of these “gang members”, Australia is home, because they know nowhere else.

    What right do these people claim to being the ones that do the ‘payback’, as it were? What happened to the idea of justice? Or is taking the law into your own hands the only way out that you can see?

    And do you not think if the majority of those blaming the ‘whites’ are ‘white’ themselves that maybe the actions of these few actually go against the wishes of the majority of Australians? Don’t step over the line in my name, by any means.

  3. Anonymity’s a beautiful thing when you’re a bigot, eh Stumpy?

    Lebanese gangs are a big problem. Duh. Not the issue. This could have been avoided if groups such as the Patriotic Youth League didn’t fan the latent racism against Muslims which has grown especially strong in the past decade or so. So many of these people were BORN in Australia, and as such have every right to be here, as much as your or I do. To say differently because of their religion or skin colour is outright bigoted and you’re no better than the neo-Nazis who went around beating up teenage girls last Sunday.

  4. it’s good to see racism alive and well in australia. while we’re at it, let’s start committing genocide. i wonder how the aussies would feel if the indonesians started doing the same crap like stabbing white people in the back in indonesia? all the neo-nazis would scream racism!

  5. First of all, I dont think the Lebanese gang mentality is against ‘white’ Australians, I think it’s against authority and anyone prepared to do anything to stop any illegal activites that they may be participating in. True, they are of Lebanese descent, but their actions don’t appear to be any different to those of any other gang; the problem seems to be that the authorities and those in power have been afraid to punish them BECAUSE of their racial background, like Stumpy said, the PC ‘BS’.

    The lack of policing (at least, what I’ll call ‘alleged’ lack of policing) has caused people to become afraid of gangs such as these – but this is NO EXCUSE for people gathering and attacking anyone of a different ethnic background. This type of action is just as bad as allowing gangs to reign based on their ethnic background (is that called reverse-racism? I’m not sure what the term is for that). The point i’m trying to make (possibly poorly :S) is that the law should treat everyone equally! The activities of Violent Gangs – of ANY racial background – should not be tolerated; this includes mafia type gangs, or reactionary gangs.

    I think it’s similar to how the South African cricket team a while ago (do they still have this rule?) has to have a quota of two black people in their side. I don’t think it does ANYONE any good to have a man included in the side based on his racial background, just the same as it does no good to have him EXcluded from the side for the same reason. Is this a fault of black South Africans? Of course not, it’s the cricketing administration’s attempt to appear non-racist. By the same token, however, this does not mean the rest of the team has a license to attack or discriminate against those black team members – and ESPECIALLY not against everyone else that happens to be black – the racist attitudes of the system are to blame, and should be changed to treat all people equally.

    Er… I hope I didn’t get off track with that cricket thing.

  6. That “attack on the Australian way of life” argument based on 2 lifeguards is so stupid. Did anyone at the “white” rally consider that the lifeguards were a couple of dickheads asking for trouble? If so then it wasn’t an attack on the Australian way of life but an attack on stupid dumb-arses. And what would the “white” rally still have happened if the life guards weren’t white?

    Stumpy’s comment reminded me of what one of the white ralliers said. “This is our Australia. Go home!”, or words to that effect. We’ll go home when you do, convict boy!!!! What a bunch of hypocrits!

    And if you think the South African cricket team was bad, Malaysia’s got a legislation with a similar effect. A legislation!! It says that education institutions and government departments must accept or employ a certain number/percentage of Malays. And now you know why we left :P

  7. Hui-Ai: in defence of the lifeguards, I’ve pretty much never heard a bad thing about them. The rallies certainly wouldn’t have happened if they weren’t white, but in all likelihood they were probably just doing their job and some dicks took it upon themselves to challenge authority.

  8. Z: I don’t think anyone’s calling for genocide quite yet…

    lachie: yeah I’m sorta saying the same thing (y)

    hui-ai: i don’t know if anyone quite knows why the lifegaurds got bashed. interesting to note though yesterday that the Cronulla Life Saving club was saying that the riots were just wrong and they were saying it with a Lebanese-dominated bike gang. Basically, no-one wants this other than a bunch of young unemployed and bored guys on both sides with too much alcohol.

  9. i was stretching the point out like butter on bread. but yes, the riots are an unnecessary distraction to making this country a better place (actually…john howard’s an unnecessary distraction to making this country a better place).

    oh dear, i’ll be taken in for sedition.

  10. jack: alcohol was certainly part of the problem at cronulla – everyone’s identified that as one of the reasons why the riot went waaay over the top.

  11. I agree that pointing fingers in such a generalized way never helped solve anything… since when did two lifeguards represent the “Australian way of life”? And since when did Lebanese gangs represent Muslims?

    It’s too bad this stuff happens… all over the world. But what can be done, especially with the mob mentality to which every issue is treated.

    I’m took an “Interracial Dynamics in American Society and Culture” class this quarter, although regarding how to solve any problems I’m none the wiser… just more aware of the complexities of race and its implications in society. The first half of the quarter focused on the ‘black experience’ in America, the second on immigration…

    Here’s one more affirmative action piece to add to the list, university race quotas. Although, it was made illegal to base admission to college solely on racial quotas in the US in a 1978 court case, it still can be considered as one of many factors. In the University of California system, it works in favor of applicants who aren’t white or Asian (I don’t know how specifically), as most U.C.’s have an overwhelming majority of these ‘racial groups’.

  12. I think people who are dismissing the riots as an overreaction to the lifeguards incident are missing the point. The bashing of the lifeguards did not start the chain of events in motion. It was merely the tipping point. Lebanese gang attacks and intimidation have been going on for years. The police stood by and did little to stop it. What did you expect people to do? What if you were attacked and the authorities, who are supposedly sworn to protect you, did nothing to help? Don’t be too quick to judge.

    The beach, and surf lifesavers, are indeed integral parts of Australian culture. They’re not the be-all, end-all, so please don’t misrepresent their significance. And nobody deserves to be bashed by 15 people, even if they were “dumb-arses”. But again, focusing only on one part of the puzzle to make a point is myopic, and certainly doesn’t contribute to any meaningful examination of the problem. With attitudes like that, it’s not surprising that it will happen again – and worse – because nobody is taking the (I think) legitimate concerns of the community seriously. Saying “Don’t riot, dickheads” solves nothing except salving one’s own guilty white conscience.

    Unfortunately the facts, as printed above, are wrong. Lebanon WAS majority Christian, but became majority Muslim in the 1970s. Christians now make up about 40% of Lebanon’s population and falling rapidly. The clash between Christians and Muslims caused the civil war which in turn led to the migration here of thousands of Muslim refugees from 1975 onwards. The current crop of gangsters are indeed descended from these most recent arrivals. Lebanese Christians don’t appear to be involved in the troubles at all, mostly because Lebanese Christians migrated to Australia in two distinct waves (just before WW1 and again immediately after WW2). They have already settled and integrated. The Lebanese Muslims, on the other hand, have had far greater difficulty. Muslims failing to integrate, it should be noted, is not unique to Australia.

    Finally, the Lebanese DO act differently to other gangs. Firstly, they tend to target Anglo Australians on racial grounds – apart from Neo-Nazis, who else attacks on a racial basis? And Neo-Nazis are nowhere near as well-armed and violent. Secondly, Lebanese gangs have changed the nature of gang violence. Drive-by shootings, far greater use of firearms, SMS communication across vast extended family networks, intimidation of police, attacks on civilians and so on. Is it constructive to just say “Oh, it’s just another gang. Just some rambunctious lads”? No, it’s understating the seriousness of the problem, and the Lebanese gangs are by far the worst this country has ever seen.

    But never mind the facts, we have moral indignation to proclaim, white racism to expunge, guilty racist consciences to cleanse! Onward my liberal friends, ignore the issues and spout your platitudes! That’s the time-honoured method to prevent more trouble from arising.

  13. Hi Ben, welcome to pushing the sky. You’re a bit late on the issue, but I can see that there’s still plenty of indignation to be had. I’m not going to address your points step by step because I believe the truth behind the issue is out in the open, and it’s a cause that only those with a cross to bear continue to provoke the issue.

    Suffice to say, as a member of an ethnic minority (Indian), I feel far more threatend by a white gang than a Lebanese gang – while the Lebanese target the Anglo-Australians, the Anglo gangs target everyone that’s not white, or anyone who is a minority-sympathiser. I’ve had enough racial abuse hurled at me to know. Assimilation leaves us all poorer culturally, and in the end there’s nothing you can do about the colour of your skin.

    The fact is that muslims and lebanese in particular are such a minority in this country that they are unlikely to be threatening the cultural hegemony any time soon, and yet the right-wing extremists have taken them to prominence simply so they have a target to hate and a cause to rally those less extreme. It’s just not on.

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