Thursday, 8 October 2009

Hey Hey It's Let's Make Fun of Black People Day!

So, did anyone else receive the memo saying that Wednesday 7th October was "National Racist Day". No? Well it seems like the team at Hey Hey It's Saturday did when they presented the Australian public with this little gem on the second part of their reunion show.

Difficult to watch isn't it? What's even more disturbing are the comments on Youtube. Ignorant much? Hell yeh.

It would be easy for me to rant about this and point out the obvious. But you readers are intelligent and can connect the dots. This skit is obviously demeaning, racially offensive and in poor taste. And so not funny. I just find it so confusing as to how the heck it managed to get aired on Australian TV? At this day and age. Channel Nine, shame on you.

Why did Hey Hey feel it necessary to ask this group of morons to come back 20 years after their original performance? Surely it wasn't funny back then, so why would it be now? The fact that these performers are themselves from ethnic backgrounds (Sri Lankan, Indian, Lebanese, Greek and Irish-Italian) does not excuse them from their racist act. To mock a minority group whether or not you are part of a minority yourself is uncalled for. If anything, they should have realised the sensitive nature of what they were doing and just not have gone ahead with it. Stupid, stupid stupid.

There are viewers who have tried to defend The Jackson Jive and Daryl Somers, and claim Harry Connick Jr (who gave the act a zero and voiced his disapproval of it) overreacted. Some people say that because Harry Connick Jr is American, and America itself has a history of black mistreatment (this skit is totally like the minstrels or "blackfaces" of the US - white guys who put black makeup on their faces and did racist performances), that his views are skewed and do not relate to Australia. I hate to break it to you, but Australia does not have a very polished history when it comes to blacks aka Indigenous Australians.

The mistreatment of Indigenous Australians is a cruel and dark stain in Australian history. For starters, about half the Indigenous Australian population died as a result of the introduction of fatal European diseases such as small pox when the First Fleet arrived. Then there was the obvious appropriation of land and water resources by British settlers, and with that the death of many Aboriginals as they fought to retain control of their land. Many Aboriginal women and children were murdered at the hands of white farmers. Those Aboriginals that survived were treated as cheap labour on farms.

During the gold rush, Aboriginal sacred sites were destroyed and Aboriginal people massacred. Aboriginal women were stolen and men and children killed by white seal hunters. White pearl divers abducted young Aboriginal boys and forced them into dangerous labour, making them dive for long periods in deep and treacherous waters. Aboriginal women prostituted themselves to white men.

In the 1880's, oppressive legislation was passed that restricted the movement of Aboriginal people to government reserves and controlled many aspects of their lives, including where they could work and who they could marry.

Then came the Stolen Generations - those Aboriginal children who were removed from their families without parental consent and placed into institutions or adopted out to white families. This continued into the 1960's.

As reserves were closed down and employment diminished, Aboriginal people, who were not entitled to welfare support, became impoverished fringe dwellers who had not only lost their land and so many of their people, but also their culture, language and traditions. The erosion of their culture continued with the introduction of the Assimilation Policy - a policy where complete cultural and social conformity to European values was expected by the Aboriginal people.

As we know, the Australian government since then has tried to make up for the past mistreatment of Indigenous Australians (increased funding to improve socioeconomic standing, land rights and legal ownership, reconcilliation, "Saying Sorry" etc), nevertheless, compared to the Australian population as a whole, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people today continue to suffer disproportionately from serious social problems such as poverty, unemployment, lack of education, substandard housing, and poor health.

Gee. Sorry to get all serious with the slightly rambling history lesson (I copied most of it from here), but I think it's important to put it in some sort of perspective. It's sad that these sorts of things are only brushed on lightly in school, and that we spend more time memorising the dates of English wars (Battle of Hastings 1066!) than on stuff that actually matters. Anyway, the reason I brought this up was to show how something that mocks black people doesn't just affect Americans, it also affects people in Oz.

Other viewers then went on to say that Australia is such a "laid back" country that its people aren't affected by racism. That we're too "laid back" to care. Well, this is one Australian who does care. Are we seriously going to sit back and allow such utterly racist crap be aired on national television? It's bad enough we have the racists at Today Tonight churning out garbage about how immigrants are evil. Gah! Don't people understand? Racism is bad. It should not be tolerated. Whether it be disguised in some light-hearted parody does not make it any less offensive. Am I overreacting? Yeh, probably. But I would rather overreact than just laugh it off as if what was done is frowned upon but acceptable. It should never be acceptable!

When will people learn? I mean seriously, was the act even funny? Like really, do people find this sort of stuff actually LOL funny. It's these people who need to get a sense of humour. Lame! I think it's this fact which pisses me off even more.

All I can say is, kudos to Harry Connick Jr for actually standing up for what is right. (in the face of a stupid audience and a dumbarse host). And Daryl Somers? Enough is enough. Hey Hey sucked then, and it still sucks now.

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