A land of sweeping plains? Or dumb, drunk racists?

There is nothing that seems to divide Australia quite so much as race. Whether it be a debate about refugees, the treatment of aboriginal Australians or the effect of multiculturalism on our society, race is the one topic guaranteed to invoke a range of opinions.

Last year, SBS’ Go Back To Where You Came From sparked plenty of debate about the tone of the never-ending asylum seeker debate in this country. This year, ABC2’s Dumb, Drunk and Racist is set to send talkback radio into meltdown.

The show sees journalist Joe Hildebrand taking four intrepid Indians – a call centre worker, a newsreader, a student and an education consultant – across Australia, to experience the best – and worst – we have to offer.

The idea, Hildebrand says, came as a result of a Mother Jones article that revealed Indian call centre workers had a manual that warned them Australians were dumb, drunk and racist.

“It was picked up and run with here and it caused a bit of a stir,” he says. “It got me thinking, so we thought let’s put this issue to the test, let’s find out firstly if Indians really think that of us, and secondly, are they right?”

Hildebrand says the plan was to show that aside from a small minority, Australians were good people. But he admits it didn’t pan out exactly as hoped.

“We took them all over the country, showed them what we hoped would be the full spectrum of of Australian life,” he says. “City, country, black, white, the whole bit.

“We hoped at the end, they’d say, ‘Actually, you’re all fine, pretty good bunch of guys’, but it didn’t quite turn out like that … we actually came across a lot of people who were, for want of a better term, dumb, drunk and racist.

“Although sometimes it’s two out of three, let’s be fair.”

One of those people was Sergio, a man the group stumbled upon when visiting Newtown, a south-western Sydney suburb with a high number of overseas-born residents. He proudly displays a mural which says “SAY NO TO BURQAS”, and in the first episode is shown having a heated debate with Joe, the four Indians and a Muslim man passing by offended by the painting.

“He’s obviously deliberately setting out to provoke a reaction,” Hildebrand says. “People should be allowed to say anything, but the beauty of free speech is it often exposes the speaker for being a bit of an idiot.”

As the series goes on, viewers will see Sergio is one of many Australians who hold racist views. Hildebrand says he expected some of the attitudes, but was surprised by “how overt and common it was”.

“I thought we would see people who would say things like, ‘Oh, I’m not quite sure about all these Muslims moving in or these asylum seekers or Chinese people buying up all the houses,” he says. “You can have a conversation about that.

“But I guess I stupidly assumed that people would have these little prejudices and be a bit embarrassed to admit them. What amazed me was the openness with which people would just hurl abuse and say obviously nasty or racist things.

“There doesn’t seem to be any shame attached to it for some people, I would have thought more people would be worried about being branded racist.”

In the second episode, the Indians are shown footage of the 2005 Cronulla riots – one of the ugliest displays of mass bigotry in Australia’s history. Even influential radio broadcasters such as 2GB’s Alan Jones endorsed the dark events that took place. Amer, the 21-year-old student, is reduced to tears watching the footage, appalled, and quite rightly likens the mob to animals.

But, just as all hope seems lost, Hildebrand takes the group to meet Stuart, a Cronulla local who was deeply ashamed by the riots. On the day, he and a few friends went to a nearby kebab shop in a heartwarming display of solidarity.

Hildebrand says people like Stuart are more representative of Australians than those with extreme right-wing views.

“I think the overwhelming majority of Australians are decent, kind, passionate and tolerant people who have embraced this incredibly diverse, multicultural society that we live in,” he says.

“Racism sounds ugly when it’s vocalised at its most extreme and hopefully instead of marginalising people from other races it’ll marginalise the racists and that sense of shame will return. Most Australians know racism and racist abuse is just not on.”

So what is the best way to go about fixing the attitudes some Australians hold? Hildebrand says there needs to be a national discussion, free of racial abuse and stereotyping.

“There’s a genuine debate that can and should be had,” he says. “I don’t believe Tony Abbott is racist and I don’t believe Julia Gillard is racist. I think the problem is you need to have a debate about important and life-threatening issues like asylum seekers without it being corrupted and polluted.”

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9 Responses to A land of sweeping plains? Or dumb, drunk racists?

  1. Nick says:

    Newtown in an inner city suburb – think Carlton

  2. Sergio Redegalli says:

    Joe, can a white man call you a dick without being called a racist?
    Joe you are so full of your self, you know that the segment with me (sergio) was per organised by the production crew, as well you know that the “so called Muslim” was a set up by you/ jigsaw.
    You forgot to put on film the part that the Indian was helping me re paint the Mural,
    You seem to have forgotten a great deal of what happend that day.

    So Joe, all I can say is that you are an ass, you love being on camera, lets see how you like having a Mural done about you and the stupid dum racist (anti White, anti Italian, anti Jew ) way you act all the time.

    I am not a racist, however I am an artist that can look at someone like you and only see a dirty, unkept, sad person that needs to make bad jokes to cover up his sad childhood.
    Why do you look drunk all the time Joe????

    Just keep to the truth Joe, or you will find that the racist, dum, stupid comments you make will back fire on you.

    • leisa hockley says:

      “Im not a racist, but…” sergio your “performance” the other night made my blood curdle… You are disgustingly racist. what makes you think that it is ok to tell others how they can dress or practice their own religion?? You need to zip your lip and stop interfering with the rights of others… also you can’t spell to save your life… just saying..

      • Sergio Redegalli says:

        Leisa, yes you are correct that i write way to fast, but you are smart enough to work out what i am saying, so there is no problem.
        Read the Koran 1st, then start understanding that Islam is not a race. Islam stands
        against everything you and I as Australians stand for.
        Remember Leisa, that the t.v show was a set up, the Muslim man was a set up, and the part of our Indian friends helping me re paint the Mural was left out. The idea of the day was to show our friends how debate works in Australia, that people do not need to agree on all topics however we can do it without violence. Strange how the show has been re worked. The original name for the show was called ‘the great Ozy road trip, only weeks after the our film day was made did all people find out the real name of the show.
        As i have said to everyone from the start call me at the studio any time if you are interested in talking and if you are interested in reading more.

    • pappy90 says:

      Sergio, you drive a ute through Lakemba that has anti-muslim slogans on it. You are inciting hatred. It’s your right to do that, but do not claim that you aren’t a racist. Racism is discrimination against another person because of their race. With that mural, and the slogans on your ute, you are being discriminatory.

      White people are not superior, and I say that as a White Australian of European descent.

      • Sergio Redegalli says:

        Hi Pappy90
        firstly i was asked by the film crew to drive via Lakemba,
        The next truth you needn to understand is that the Burqa has nothing to do with Muslims.
        “Muslims” are not a ‘race’ Pappy, Islam is a totalitarian ideology, you can not be racist against a so called religion.
        I am from an Italian background, I have friends all over the world of all different races, I personally do not care what genetic make up people are.
        You are being racist just by using the word white Pappy, Your white man’s gilt is normal for the politically correct young generation at this time.
        You should read the Koran, get a better understanding of what you are supporting.
        at this point, you are supporting, Slavery, Female Genital Mutilation, the killing of Gays, and standing against fredom of expression, honor killings and the list goes on.
        If you need a reading list, please call me at the studio any time.

  3. pappy90 says:

    I know it’s not a “race”, but racism generally goes hand-in-hand with extreme religious intolerance. People of a middle-eastern descent all get tarred with that ugly “fuckin muslim” brush. What you are suggesting is very dangerous – the absolutely huge, vast majority of Muslims do not support slavery, genital mutilation, honour killings, all the despicable acts that can be attributed to Muslim extremists. Muslims are fully entitled to dress as they please – us telling them how to dress is intolerant; it is foolish to suggest it is somehow “supportive” because we perceive Islam to be inherently misogynistic. Remember, too, there was a time in Australia when Italians were persecuted – thousands were put in internment camps following World War II, simply for being Italian. Likewise, Muslims who live in Australia should not be subjected to intolerance.

    I know I for one would feel much safer in a Muslim community where people where burqas and niqabs than I would in a community of drunk, racist bogans.

    • Sergio Redegalli says:

      Hi Pappy
      Slavery is one of the core elements of the Koran, as is the fact that our system of government is agianst the Koran, that you and i have less rights that Muslims,That you being a woman are half the value of men, Don’t that my world about it, read the book for your self.
      There are places in the Western World / Europe / England that you can no longer walk the streets in Mulsim Zones Pappy
      Artist get killed for doing and saying / debating Islam.
      Read some books by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, she is a very brave and fantastic woman and has a very good understanding of Islam and why the Burqa is used as a political tool.

    • Sergio Redegalli says:

      I was asked to be on that show, however i was not racist enough in my veiws for them.

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