In the past few days, I have been reading with interest the commentary on migration and racism - it is sad that migration and racism so easily gets discussed hand in hand, as if you cannot have one without the other.
In reading the article (The Examiner, October 27) on humanity, I was reminded of a conversation with our staff member, Mebrahtu Mengesha.
'Like most people, we can be completely floored by acts of cruelty but thankfully our faith in humanity is restorable.
Mebrahtu, his wife and children arrived in Tasmania in April 2018, from Eritrea via Ethiopia and Egypt. It is not easy for anyone from a refugee background to speak of their pre-arrival experiences but Mebrahtu wanted to share these words:
- When people like me leave his everything behind without pre-planning, moving away from violence and torture to stay alive, everything we encountered was uniquely new.
- New climate, new culture, new food, new language and new identity which is the refugee, new labels/names.
- The journey from Eritrea to Ethiopia was so dangerous and I try not to remember, it is the place where I witnessed humanity at its lowest. I often think of the day we arrived in Tasmania. It was the day we were saved and I was able to witness the power of humanity.
- It is ironic to me that we were driven out of our beloved homes by fellow humans and on the other end of the corridor, we were led into a peaceful life still by humans. So it takes a wide range of understanding and effort to come to terms in defining humanity.
In the past few days, I have been reading with interest the commentary on migration and racism - it is sad that migration and racism so easily gets discussed hand in hand as if you cannot have one without the other.
On the flip side, however, it is really pleasing to see the varied perspectives.
I would like to present other viewpoints:
- Racism is not merely a question of attitude because the problem with it arises when there is power to carry out your acts.
- Public acts of racism deeply subvert our values. It is one thing to harbour racist thoughts but it's another thing to voice them in public or in someone's face. This is the place where the civic harm of racism lies. When overt acts remain unchecked, it allows people to believe they are entitled to harass and intimidate others. Racism wounds people's dignity and damages equality.
- One obstacle in combating racism is bystander complacency. Most people do not comfortable to call it when they see it. It takes time to develop a culture that recognises and effectively deals with casual racism. Recognising casual racism involves a generational challenge in fighting discrimination. Where low-level forms of racism are tolerated, they can quickly escalate to a higher form.
- Humans view other cultures through the lens of their own and I believe that having stereotypes is acceptable and useful to a certain point. It allows us to make sense of the world but if you are single-minded or immovable, it will get to a tipping point. Think of a stereotype you had and was proven wrong. Were you open to exception and able to move from tolerance to acceptance?
- I do not subscribe to the comment in Sunday's edition that people should expect to be at the receiving end of discrimination. As a basic proposition, everyone should be free to live their lives without being harassed or intimidated - irrespective of your country of origin.
- A multicultural nation is where everyone understands why people emigrate or resettle - that is, we all know whether absorption is a duty or favour. Until then, governments and migrants (no matter what visa type) will remain unclear about their obligations and commitment to upholding a comprehensive, inclusive and whole-of-society settlement process.
- We will know we have achieved a truly multicultural community when everyone (government, stakeholders, host community and new arrivals) understands the basic terms or conditions of their stay. In turn, this will clarify the level of integration expected or required and that everyone in the host community should be treated as equal citizens.
- The introduction of the new regional visas has heightened a sense of awareness about the role of migrants in sustaining or fostering strong economic growth. MRC has been advocating since 2015 for a hub, Working Migrants Centre, to provide services for all visa types to assist and retain skilled workers. There is an identified need for it.