Last week ABC journalist Jeremy Fernandez was racially abused on a bus in inner west Sydney. As he wrote, it is striking that in 2013 this type of hatred exists. After reading his blog, I could not help but tweet “I understand asking why when it is 2013, but just look at our #asylum debate & you see how racist (people) can be.”
Our negative political climate and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott referring to asylum seekers as ‘illegal’ does not promote racial harmony. While we can look at our leaders and question their level of intolerance towards asylum seekers the media needs to take some responsibility too.
Australia’s population is made up of hundreds of nationalities. We are a multicultural country but when you turn on your nightly news service you would not think so.
Mainstream television media is made up of newsreaders, who on face value look Anglo. If it were not for the peppering of unusual European surnames you would see no multi-culturalism at all. Absent are dark skins, afro hair, asian eyes or any obvious signs Australia has a multitude of cultures in our communities.
Instead we have a representation of a white middle class society. This is not just in our news services, we just have to look at our television shows. There are so few actors with Asian, Aboriginal, Middle-Eastern or African ancestry on our TV screens.
And if they do appear they are the token multi-cultural family servicing their international audience more than Australian (see Neighbours for example).
I believe this obvious omission, coupled with a lack of compassion from our political leaders towards asylum seeks are contributing factors to our entrenched racism.
A simplistic notion for a country that once had a White Australia Policy?
Perhaps, but if we saw more of our country truly represented on our screens, people like those who abused Jeremy would start to see multi-cultural Australia as the norm and not a threat.