• "...would all Anglo-Australians pass the same English test that the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is advocating?" (AAP)Source: AAP
We need to dismantle the language we use about migrants, writes Amal Awad.
By
Amal Awad

5 May 2017 - 1:37 PM  UPDATED 5 May 2017 - 3:05 PM

We joke in our family about how mum and dad's ride from Mascot airport to Sydney city was in a limo. 

It was pure luck. A kind stranger took pity on the freshly-arrived newlyweds and delivered them to the flat they would be staying in for a time.

As is the case in most wog-lore, we’ve heard this story a few times. Like so many migrants, my parents arrived penniless to Australia (unless you count a small amount of Jordanian currency). It sounds like an auspicious start but in reality it preceded years of hard work and learning.

And while my father was returning, for my mother, it was a much more significant journey. She had left behind all the things that made sense to her, the parts of her life that were effortless – language, culture and friendships. And of course, she would be without family, the most challenging aspect in a time when phone calls were ridiculously expensive.

Listening to politicians these days you’d think every immigrant arrives with an air of entitlement and zero desire to acclimatise.

While our parents will siphon as much guilt as possible into the water through such tales, it’s less likely you’ll hear them complain about the opportunities afforded them in Australia. Listening to politicians these days you’d think every immigrant arrives with an air of entitlement and zero desire to acclimatise.

This is simply not true. My mother and father rolled their sleeves up, took on jobs that involved hard manual labour, and learned to speak English through their everyday life. In mum’s case, television helped with language. Both of my parents speak English well, with the customary flourishes of second-language modifications.

We’re saturated with rhetoric from politicians and racists who constantly demand fealty to Australia, drenched in a toxic nationalism that seeks to exclude by raising the bar on what makes someone a qualified Australian. Yet, would all Anglo-Australians pass the same English test that the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is advocating?

Racism is old, but the language around it gets reworked. Migrants are convenient scapegoats.

Yet, would all Anglo-Australians pass the same English test that the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is advocating?

They ‘steal jobs’ that would otherwise go to Aussie battlers. We don’t get reminded that they come equipped with core values that see them work hard to build a great life.

They’re ghetto-ised and hate Australia despite all it gives to the. We don’t get told that by default, the majority of people are law-abiding, tax-paying citizens.

They hate our way of life and the freedom Australia cherishes. This last one is a doozy – why on earth would they be here if that were true?

And this is what it comes down to in simple terms: a messy tug-of-war in the minds of many entitled Australians. In one breath, they demand that you be just like them, while in the next reminding you of your difference. This unrelenting demand that everybody think and act the same veers dangerously towards the stuff of a dystopian nightmare. Isn’t the goodness of life our diversity as human beings?

Comment: 'Australian values' and other ripper tunes to dog-whistle
After hearing Malcolm Turnbull’s latest announcement, Ian Rose - a permanent resident who yearns for the privilege of citizenship - isn’t sure if his integration credentials have got what it takes (though the British passport might just nudge him through).

This further leads to something far more reckless: the amplification of institutionalised racism. I know a lot of people who feel disturbed by a sense of insecurity – they worry about being abused on the street. But there are others whose gazes are trained on the systems that will stifle and abuse ethnic minorities.

Malcolm Turnbull can wrap up his arguments in glossy words, argued with the flair of a highly-skilled lawyer, but it’s not difficult to decipher how easily the requirements he’s making of migrants will discriminate against them.

It’s odd that a politician will extol the virtues of Australia’s multicultural society just as he attempts to further upset and dismantle it.

Here’s an innovative idea: why don’t we celebrate migrants rather than label and isolate them? 

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