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Blackface skit slaps Australia out of complacency

By Vincent Morello
Thu Oct 8 21:29:19 EST 2009
Thu Oct 8 10:29:19 UTC 2009

SYDNEY, Oct 8 AAP - Australia is not a racist country but plenty of Australians exhibit racist behaviour.

Former prime minister John Howard spruiked the first half of that statement in the wake of the 2005 Cronulla riots.

He was accurate but his absolute term neatly sidestepped the reality of the latter half of that statement, which is a true condition in any country.

Healthy debate over racism erupted after Wednesday's reunion special of Hey Hey It's Saturday, due to the controversial Jackson Jive skit.

Many people who rang talkback radio were quick to support the show and gave rational opinions as to why the skit was not racist.

It's a predictable outcome whenever a controversial event or element of Australia brings international response.

Such knee-jerk reactions are not new and they do no credit to improving Australia as a nation.

Egalitarianism only historically existed for the white male in Australia, so who came up with the term "a fair go" which alludes to everyone?

At the heart of Aboriginal affairs has been committed programs and people but followed by limited results in pockets of Australia.

There has been unfavourable international attention on this subject in the past, which has put Australia on the defensive.

Why are we so quick to sweep the unsightly under the rug, especially when the world is watching?

Australia is not the greatest country in the world - is any?

Sure we have beautiful beaches, spectacular terrain and a supposedly easy-going view of life.

But there is some darkness in the heart of any good nation.

Rod Tiffen and Ross Gittins in their 2004 book How Australia Compares (Cambridge University Press) ranked a number of social indicators among developed countries that show Australia and the US are quite similar on the downsides of their respective societies.

Constitutional lawyer and author Geoffrey Robertson in his 2009 book, A Statue of Liberty, debated the need for an Australian bill of rights.

But his investigation also showed Australians just don't mind about most things until the rest of the world is watching.

When the majority of a society spends most of its time resting on its perceived laurels and then the remainder in damage control, what will such a country achieve or contribute to its people or to society in general?