Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Australia is a racist, backward country, says Sol Trujillo

Although he is back in the USA now after finishing his 4-year tenure as Telstra CEO, Sol Trujillo has still got some parting shots for Australia. Apparently there's a lot of racism here and its like stepping back 30 years in time compared to America.

The overwhelming reaction to his comments in the Australian media has been mildly contemptuous. The implication is that having been paid $35 million over 4 years yet seemingly having done nothing useful for the telecommunications giant, Trujillo is trying to make excuses for his underwhelming performance by raising the spectre of racism.

Who's right? Well, as is often the case in these things, there's probably some truth in both arguments.

Trujillo clearly takes issue with some of the racial stereotypes that were invoked when describing him. In particular, PM Kevin Rudd's one-word comment of "Adios" when asked about Trujillo's departure. And the common reference to Trujillo and his 2 American sidekicks, Greg Winn and Phil Burgess, as "the 3 Amigos".

Trujillo has Mexican parents, but was born in Wyoming and does not speak fluent Spanish.

Check also his characterisation in some of the cartoons that appeared in Australian newspapers:

(from the Sydney Morning Herald)

(from The Australian)

(from The Age)

Let me point out again, in case you missed it the first time. Trujillo was born in Wyoming and does not speak fluent Spanish.

Racist? Well think about it this way. Were the Telstra CEO an African-American, would it be acceptable to characterise him as, say a gangster rapper and have a cartoon greeting his departure with the phrase "Peace out, homie"? Were he Chinese-American, would it be okay to draw him in a mandarin's outfit saying "Mee so solly"?

Of course not. That would be racist right?

And in this day and age most reputable news outlets would rightly avoid that sort of thing. Yet for some reason, Mexicans are fair game. Everytime a fast-food chain decides to promote a special new Mexican burger/pizza/chicken wrap or whatever, what image to we see trotted out? A guy in a sombrero, with a pointy moustache and an accent borrowed from Speedy Gonzales. Just like in the numerous newspaper cartoons depicting Trujillo.

Not that I think that there is any real anti-Mexican racism behind all this stuff. But it is lazy stereotyping. And it doesn't do us any credit as a country when our leading papers run that stuff.

In any case, Mr Trujillo is now back home, where he can put this unpleasantness out of his mind and no doubt return to his hobbies of drinking tequila and having siestas under cactuses.

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