Australia just can't shake the label of being a racist country, and Australians continue to be baffled by the assertion. The latest comments by Gillard, and indeed her entire approach to the issue of asylum seekers only seems to confirm our racist persona. Her assessment that Australians are not racist make me wonder whether Australians really understand what it means to be racist. After all, most of us have stopped telling racist jokes in regular conversation and most of us even eat lemon chicken! Isn't that enough??
Gillard has boldly invited Australians to ''say what they feel'' in the asylum seeker debate without being constrained by self-censorship or political correctness. She said ''For people to say they're anxious about border security doesn't make them intolerant. It certainly doesn't make them a racist. It means that they're anxious about border security."
Sure Julia, but it's like when people start a sentence with 'no offence, but...'. You can't cover your ignorance and intolerance with a vague and unsubstantiated concern about border security. No offence, but if you do...you're a racist!
The Sonia Kruger debacle illustrates just how blind we are to our own racism. When asked about her dresses for the Melbourne Cup event, she stated, on a prime time TV show,
"Lets just say there is a sweat shop full of illegal immigrants working on them right now," She then turned to the shows Malaysian-born musical director Chong Lim asking "How is the family Chong?, Allright?"
Despite considerable backlash on blogs and complaints direct to Channel Seven, Kruger offered no apology and said she had no regrets about the remarks.
"I certainly didn't say anything with any intention for it to be racist," stated Kruger.
"Chong and I are in a friendship that we poke fun at each other all the time. In all honesty political correctness does get up my nose ... I poke just as much fun at myself. I would never ever, ever want to seriously offend anyone."
Well...I have some other things I want to put up your nose! But as bad as this is, it only illustrates that she is racist...oops, I mean ignorant and insensitive. For me the proof is in this yukky pudding of a botched apology.
Having apologised for her comments, a Seven spokeswoman said "In this instance, it's worth remembering that Sonia and Chong have been working together over eight series of Dancing with the Stars. "They're very good friends and enjoy each other's company very much.
That's all well and good for Son and Chong...but she wasn't just poking fun of Chong. Her comments made fun of the plight of the innocent victims caught up in the fastest growing and second biggest crime in the world (human trafficking) And they implied that a particular race of people (who surely outnumber whites, just by the way) are associated only with making goods for white wealthy pleasure. Thanks for your apology Channel Seven, but I think you have missed the boat on the cause of the offense.
But, haven't we all? When you can scam votes on a issue so insignificant in relative size, purely because it stirs up the fears of 'ordinary Australians', you have to evaluate just how tolerant we are. What other social 'problem' amounting to about 5000 in number even gets a mention in the media or politics??
I can't say it better than the Greens who recently wrote:
"Most Australians are sympathetic towards the plight of refugees; eight out of 10 people would help a refugee to settle into their community, according the results of an Australian Red Cross survey. This survey found:
• 86% of people would flee to a safe country if they lived in a conflict zone and were under threat;
• 94% of these people would use all their money and assets to get to a safe country;
• 83% agree that people fleeing persecution should be able to seek protection in another country;
• 83% are willing to assist a refugee in their community settle in Australia; and
• 67% agree that refugees have made a positive contribution to Australian society.
Right-wing critics of this poll were quick to point out that these results reflected the way the questions were framed. Of course. You get responses based on solidarity if you explain the reasons people flee their homes and ask respondents to put themselves in their shoes. But this is exactly what the capitalist media and the capitalist politicians (Labor included) never do. They refuse to tell the story of why there are at least 43.3 million refugees and displaced people worldwide. Why? Because it involves them and the powerful interests they serve and protect."
My point in all of this, is that we need to start a conversation (again) about race and difference. We need to get to the bottom of why as a nation we are so scared of 'others', and why we are so easily manipulated when it comes to issues involving race.
So, join us at http://www.salvationarmy.org.au/sstv/ on Monday at 6.30 EST (or later on demand at the same website) as we start the conversation on race and difference.
PS: If that was a little too serious, watch this one to get you in the mood for the conversation
Here is the clip for you to check out yourself...
Quotes are from http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/sonias-foot-in-her-mouth-again/story-e6freq7x-1111117985419