When I told a well-known Australian actor seeing Vince Colosimo on the big screen made an impact on my life I endured a whole lot of Wogs Out of Work parody before I could explain.
You see I was just 10 and it was a movie called Moving Out. It told the story of a teenage Australian-Italian coming of age in a country where you were never Italian and never an Australian.
Not only was that dual identity something I could relate to, it was also the first time I had seen an Australian-Italian in a film. It was a moment in which I realised there was a place for me in the film industry and it actually gave me hope.
Yet by the time I got to high school, seeing my culture in the Australian landscape was done through comedies like Wogs Out of Work. At the time Australian-Italians and Greeks were reclaiming the racism that we had been subjected to for years by being called a wog. And in Australia the only way something like that could be done was through comedy – but when do we stop laughing about it?
I still have painful memories of being taunted by that word wog all the way to Dad’s Valiant when he picked me up from Primary School. Cliché I know but that’s what growing up in the Australian suburbs was like in the 80s.
By High School the gaze reverted away from us dark Europeans to our Asian friends who were copping the taunts. Ironically I too felt this when I was at Uni and going out with a Japanese-Australian guy – but by unlikely culprits.
I can still feel the burning glares of old Italian men as we walked down the street holding hands. Their judgment was something I pushed to the back of my mind until recently when there was a pathetic uproar at Lee Chin and Waleed Aly being nominated for Gold Logies.
The casualness we as a country have with racism is really unsettling. It is so embedded in our culture we forget sometimes what it is. I mean while there were unnamed sources and ridiculous editorials about the nominations the way people – of white privilege and beyond – can pass such gob smacking racism will always shock me.
Let’s just look at this exchange on The Today Show.
Ben (Fordham): “Where is Lisa Wilkinson’s Gold Logie?”
Karl (Stefanovich): “Lisa’s too white.”
Ben: “Is that it?”
Karl: “That’s it.”
Lisa: (laughing) “I got a spray tan and everything, still didn’t make it. What can you do?”
Karl: “Logies controversy. Boom.”
Oh yes it was a Logies controversy but not the one they were beefing up. The Today Show has been criticised for being too white, as this picture shows it is not their shirts which is blinding us.
While Lisa’s spray tan comment was offensive, it was the judgment that really sickened me. Both Aly and Chin are journalists, and they have managed to cross over in to popular culture.
Ordinarily that would not be newsworthy, but because they are not your typical white Australians it is now news. I can’t help but think if it was Anh Doh, the cast of Here Come the Habibs or even the good old Acropolis Now would such comments and editorials be made?
Of course not, because it’s ok to laugh at multi-cultural Australia or have a dig at those ethnics next door. But when it comes to being serious journalists or be taken seriously, then we’ve crossed a line?