Friday, October 30, 2009

"F***ing scum" - the phone call I received this week.

A fellow blogger recently showed me some love, recommending my site as "a blog that discusses current racism issues in Australia". Which is true I guess, and I'm always grateful for some blog love... but it made me do a double-take of sorts.

Is that what my blog has become? Looking at my list of recent posts, it is certainly a theme there. So yes, maybe I have become the guy who is always blogging about racism. It certainly is not what I had in mind in the heady days when I started this blog; back then it was a light-hearted blog about travel, culture and food that no one read. And then the "curry-bashing" phenomenon put Australian racism in the headlines. I blogged about it, and people were reading. And once I investigated the issue, I started seeing racism's tendrils everywhere.

I've had the occasional comment about me seeing racism where it doesn't exist. And this is possible. But at the same time, even when you're not looking for racism, on occasion the racism finds you.

I had a missed call on my phone this week, and a voicemail message was left. It was short and to the point, made by some youngish-sounding guy with an Australian accent. Two words: "F***ing scum." And then he hung up. No traceable number.

I assure you this is not the everyday kind of phone call I receive. And I'm not the kind of person who has too many enemies. But I'm pretty sure I know why I received it this week.

My mother is overseas right now, and her phone calls are being redirected to me. And she isn't the kind of person to have too many enemies either. But she is an important person in Melbourne's Indonesian community, and runs a business translating and interpreting in Indonesian. Open the Melbourne phone book and look for "Indonesian" and my Mum's number is the first one that sticks out at you.

I mention this, and also racism, because this is certainly not the first time we have received abusive, threatening phone calls on that number. Almost every time there is an issue of contention between Indonesia and Australia in the news, by coincidence some fool decides to ring us up and abuse us. It happened around the time when East Timor was achieving independence with the help of Australian troops, and Indonesian-military-backed mobs were attacking civilians. It happened when an Australian man was shot by Indonesian police, quite a few years ago now. It happened when Australian tourists were killed in the Bali Bomb.

The phone calls are either generally abusive ("You f***en c***s," etc) or threatening, of the "You're gonna pay" or "We know where you live" variety. The first one I heard was when I was in my teens and had the misfortune to answer the phone and get threatened with violence. I'm not sure what Indonesia had done back then, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't my fault, or my Mum's.

This week, 60 Minutes was running an emotive promo for a story this Sunday about the Balibo 5 (Australian journalists allegedly murdered by Indonesian soldiers in East Timor in 1975). According to the ad's voiceover, "5 young Australians... murdered in cold blood... executed by the Indonesians. On 60 Minutes, Liam Bartlett names the killers... demands justice... but these mongrels don't give a damn."

You should be able to watch the promo here.

I can only assume that the guy who called me "F***ing scum" had probably seen that promo. Of course, it could be that it's someone that I (or my Mum) had personally pissed off, but I doubt it. We are both, surprisingly, quite nice people.

(Dude, on the unlikely chance you are reading this - I didn't do it! I wasn't there, ok?)

Being on the receiving end of abuse and threats of violence is not pleasant, just in case you were wondering. Not that we've ever taken these calls particularly seriously, but they still leave a "what if..." lingering in your mind.
"What if we are being seriously targeted?"
"This person is clearly a bit unhinged... what if they decide to follow through with their threat?"

It was only two weeks ago that an elderly Filipino man was beaten to death by a drunken redneck, because he thought the man was Japanese. So I don't think I'm being paranoid when I don't just laugh this stuff off.

Of course, had anyone bothered to ask, both my parents and I always opposed the Indonesian military takeover of East Timor, and are quick to condemn whatever wrongs the Indonesian government may commit. Mum even spent the best part of a year working for the UN in East Timor to aid in their transition to independence.

But no, that is insignificant, isn't it? By virtue of the blood that runs in our veins, we are somehow responsible for what some soldiers did in East Timor did 34 years ago. We are somehow responsible for what the Bali Bombers did. As Indonesians, in some people's eyes, we are all the same. That, my friends is f***ing racism.

I await the screening on 60 Minutes on Sunday. Wonder if I'll get any more friendly phone calls.

Related posts:

Racists are out to get me! Aiyah!

"Send them all back"... even if they are Australian

Comebacks to racist and stereotypical comments

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How the mainstream media demonises asylum seekers

Honestly, I think its hard not to get at least a little bit nervous with the current numbers of asylum seekers heading for Australian shores. It seems to be the number one issue in national politics this last week or so, and the media is all over it.

But an excellent expose by the good folks at Media Watch demonstrates how much of the coverage is fearmongering, rather than actual reporting. The use of grim, foreboding music to accompany footage of people arriving on boats; the distortion of Centrelink figures to inflate the apparent number of refugees who receive welfare payments. In stating that the amount of benefits paid to refugees has increased by 40% under the Rudd government, Channel 9's sensationalist reportage fails to point out that this period of time has coincided with the Global Financial Crisis, meaning welfare payments will have increased across the board.

Of course, I'm sure what Media Watch is doing here will be contemptuously dismissed as "the ABC's left-wing agenda" in some circles. But the program is only reiterating the actual information released by Centrelink, as opposed to the inflammatory interpretation of those figures by Channel 9. So the truth, when it is inconvenient to the Right, must clearly be left-wing propaganda.

You can watch the story here.

Let's play Spot the Sample: Lata Mangeshkar - "Tere Mere Beech Mein"

There was a time a few years back when US pop and hip-hop producers decided that Indian filmic music was the exciting new thing to sample. (If you don't like it, I blame Timbaland.)

So have a listen to this song, and see if you can pick which relatively recent massive pop hit samples it. I'll tell you now, it's not that easy. I'll answer it in the comments section.

Struggling? Ok, here's a clue - the key section is around the 26-second mark of the video.

See also:

Spot the sample: Jackie Mittoo - "Free Soul"

Mainstream hip-hop's Bollywood flirtations

From Bollywood to black America and back - the evolution of a sample

Tajik Jimmy. This guy is freakin' amazing

Nigerian dudes sing Bollywood

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Surinamese footballing diaspora

What do you know about Suriname? Probably not a whole lot. It's a country that the average person has never heard of. Located on the Caribbean coast of South America, it was formerly known as Dutch Guiana. Its 470,000 people are an unusual blend; the descendants of West African slaves, Dutch creoles, Amerindians, as well as the descendants of contract workers brought by the Dutch from Indonesia and India. Indeed, 27% of the population are Hindustani and 18% are Javanese.

While the Surinamese economy is based mostly around bauxite and bananas, its rather more famous export is footballers. Not that Suriname itself is any kind of footballing powerhouse, by any means - the national team has never been to a World Cup Finals or been ranked any higher than 84th in the world.

Yet over the last few decades, the Netherlands' national team has benefited greatly from the contribution of players either born in Suriname or of Surinamese descent. Other Dutch ethnic minorities have featured in the national team, notably Dutch-Indonesians and more recently Moroccans, but neither can compare to the Surinamese presence in the Oranje.

The Surinamese football story is interesting as a cultural study as well as a sporting one, as it exemplifies the disparities between First and Third World, the conflict immigrants feel between their old and new countries, and how a relatively small population can somehow produce mountains of talent.

Consider Ruud Gullit, a one-time European Player of the Year, and the captain of the Dutch team that won Euro 88. Or Frank Rijkaard, also a mainstay of that 1988 side, two-time Dutch Player of the Year and who would later coach Barcelona to the 1996 Champions League Title. Both are Dutch-born to Surinamese fathers.

Also a member of the Euro 88 squad were Gerald Vanenberg and Aron Winter (pictured). Winger Vanenberg was part of the the PSV Eindhoven side that won the Champions League in 1988, and he holds a record for winning the most Dutch championships. Defensive midfielder Winter, who notched 84 caps for the national side, also enjoyed a sparkling career at such big-name clubs as Ajax, Lazio and then Inter Milan. Born in the Surinamese capital Paramaribo, Winter is unusual in being one of the few successful Surinamese players of Hindustani background - the vast majority have been of African descent, despite Indians being the largest ethnic group.

From the mid-90s onward, 3 of the best-known Dutch players were also Suriname-born, having moved to the Netherlands at a young age. The wonderfully-named Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (pictured here in the blue of Chelsea) was a prolific goalscorer at various clubs around Europe, and was the English Premier League's top goalscorer in both 1999 and 2001. Clarence Seedorf (pictured left) has the extraordinary honour of having won the Champions League 4 times with 3 different clubs - Ajax (1995), Real Madrid (1998), and Milan (2003 and 2007). Also a member of that magnificent Ajax squad (which won the Champions League in 1995 and were runners-up the following year) was Edgar Davids (below left), nicknamed the "Pitbull" for his tenacious midfield play, and well-known for his distinctive goggles-and-dreadlocks look. Davids would later enjoy a stellar career at Juventus. Seedorf and Davids, together with Gullit and Rijkaard, were all named on FIFA's list of the greatest 125 living players.

Also on FIFA's list was another star of that Ajax side of 1995, Patrick Kluivert (above right). Amsterdam-born to a father from Suriname and a mother from Curacao, Kluivert is the all-time highest scorer for the national team, and enjoyed a prolific title-winning career at Barcelona. The Ajax right-back in that era, Michael Reiziger, also moved to Barcelona and won two titles, as well as notching up 72 caps for the national team.

The 1998 Dutch national team that came 4th in the World Cup featured the aforementioned Kluivert, Seedorf, Davids, Winter, Hasselbaink and Reiziger, also well as journeyman goal machine Pierre van Hoojdonk and defender Winton Bogarde. That is 8 players of Surinamese origin, out of a total of 22 players in the squad - staggering when you consider that Surinamese make up only 2% of the population in Holland. Of course, the Dutch team has frequently been held up by infighting, and in 1998 there was talk of tension between black and white players. Hasselbaink, van Hooijdonk, Bogarde and Davids are well-known as stubborn and combative personalities - Davids accused coach Guus Hiddink of racism - so the unrest is unsurprising.

The heavy Surinamese presence in the Dutch team continues. Ryan Babel of Liverpool (pictured left), Mario Melchiot, Nigel de Jong, Kew Jaliens and Orlando Engelaar are mainstays of the team, while rising stars like Edson Braafheid, Eljero Elia, Andwele Slory, Romeo Castelen, Urby Emanuelson and Evander Sno have all made appearances in national colours. Indeed, the Dutch Under-21 squad that won back-to-back world championships and wowed the world with their flowing style of football, also featured as many as 8 Surinamese players (notably Real Madrid's Royston Drenthe (below), Babel and striker Maceo Rigters).

All up there are around 150 Surinamese playing in the Dutch professional leagues. Many of them come from Clarence Seedorf's family - his brothers Chedric, Rhamlee and Jurgen, cousin Stefano and nephew Regilio are all professionals.

So, with all this talent, why does Suriname's own national team languish in footballing no-mans-land?

The first reason is the same reason that has hamstrung so many developing countries - lack of infrastructure. The Netherlands have a coaching system that is arguably the best in the world, along with France and Brazil, at developing talent. Suriname can provide the DNA but not the next step, so the best players leave for the Netherlands at an early age.

But the other main reason is a curious Surinamese government policy that prevents former residents who have taken up Dutch citizenship from playing for Suriname. So all those Surinamese playing in Holland, who aren't quite good enough to make the Oranje, cannot enrich the team of their homeland either. Thus the Surinamese national team is made up almost entirely of amateurs from its domestic league.

Of course, the bulk of the Dutch-Surinamese players most likely consider themselves Dutch, and may not be interested in representing Suriname. But consider the African nation of Mali, whose rise up the world rankings has been helped by the inclusion of stars like Fredi Kanoute and Momo Sissoko - both French-born of Malian descent and who, perhaps due to being not quite good enough to make the French squad, have elected to play for the country of their parents. Turkey's 3rd-placing in the 2002 World Cup was powered in part by German-born Turks like Ilhan Mansiz, Umit Davala and Yildiray Basturk. Even tiny Trinidad & Tobago made the World Cup Finals by raiding the lower leagues of English football for British players with some Trini heritage.

Hypothetically speaking, a Surinamese team consisting of the 8 players in the 1998 Dutch squad (plus a few more) would have loomed as a serious threat on the world stage. If Suriname's government ever relaxes its strange passport laws regarding players, it would suddenly find itself with a team that could well qualify for the World Cup Finals every single time; despite being in South America, Suriname competes in the far weaker CONCACAF division that includes North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Thus the sporting relationship between Holland and its former colony remains a strange symbiotic one, from which Suriname is yet to really benefit. Around the time Suriname's independence in 1975, around a third of the country packed up and left for Holland, some of whom went on to raise future Dutch football stars like De Jong and Kluivert. If not for this, would Suriname's footballing story be any different? It is doubtful. In footballing terms, it is a country that can produce raw materials, but cannot turn them into anything special.For all the raw talent that emanates from Suriname and its diaspora, it is the Dutch coaching system that polishes these rough diamonds into superstars. Yet the success of the Oranje since the 80s would have been impossible without its Surinamese stars.

Like this? Check out:

Dutch-Indonesian footballers

West Indians now more Indian than ever - the Caribbean's Indian cricket stars

The Nigerian diaspora: Athletes

2006 World Cup Roundup

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Iranian-American comedian Maz Jobrani

You can catch Maz Jobrani in Australia this week. Iranian-born and US-raised, he's certainly one of the better Muslim comics going around. Here is a clip from a few years back.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Yes, Eurasians are hot. Just ask science.

Having just watched John Safran's "Race Relations" show in which he repeatedly declares his attraction for Eurasians, I couldn't help agree with him. We are a pretty hot bunch of people. Obviously looks are subjective, and there are exceptions of course, but generally speaking, if you are Eurasian there's a good chance you are a bit of a looker.

And not just because I say so, either. Apparently it has a scientific basis. My homegirl Sheree recently sent me this article from a few years back, which gives clues to the Eurasian mystique:

"In the first study of its kind, Caucasians and Asians rated average Eurasian faces as more attractive than average faces of either race. They also judged Eurasian faces to be healthier, giving credence to theory that beauty is not solely determined by culture and the media, but has biological origins."

To be honest, from what little I know of this study, the methodology doesn't seem particularly convincing. But I'm happy to accept it, since it suits me to; I'd always knew I was stunningly attractive and now I have scientific proof.

The Eurasian look of course has gained in popularity in the West courtesy of celebrities like Kristin Kreuk, Keanu Reeves and Nicole Scherzinger (of the Pussycat Dolls). But in Asia, Eurasians are massive business. According to a 2001 article in TIME, luk kreung (half-Thai, half-Westerners) make up around 60% of the Thailand's media stars. While the publisher of Indonesia's top-selling women's magazine claims that an Indo (Eurasian) model on the cover will result in 2 or 3 times as many sales as a pure Indonesian model.

But was it always this way? Certainly not. In Asia, Eurasians have frequently been looked down upon as symbols of exploitation by the West, and particularly the exploitation of Asian women by Western men. This is because in some countries, Eurasians were the result of relationships between local women and US military servicemen, or products of the sex trade. And while this has mostly changed, there is some resentment at the increasingly domination of the media spotlight by Eurasians, at the expense of "real" Asians.

So what is it about the Eurasian look that proves so popular? Most generally, the look represents something exotic, yet not so different as to be too foreign. Considering Asians' ever-increasing exposure to the Western entertainment industry juggernaut, perhaps Eurasians reflect something trendy and Western, yet still Asian enough to be familiar. Eurasians who aren't particularly good-looking might still look "interesting" and standout in comparison.

Below are just a small selection of the Eurasians who have found megastardom in Asia.

Above: Paris-born, French-Indonesian actress and model Mariana Renata found stardom in the Indonesian flick Joni's Promise.

Above: English-Chinese actress and singer Karen Mok, a star in Hong Kong. Born Karen Joy Morris, her parents are both Eurasian.

Above: Korean-American Daniel Henney; the Michigan-born actor and model is just starting to make waves in the land of his birth, but is already a household name in Korea.

Above: Bangkok-born, Australian-raised (with an English father and Thai mother), Paula Taylor's success as a model and TV presenter in Thailand began while visiting family there.

Above: Malaysian VJ, TV presenter and model Asha Gill, born to English and Punjabi parents.

Want more Eurasian-ness? There's plenty here - lots of folks you may not have known to have Asian blood.

Or play "Spot the Eurasian" here.

John Safran's Race Relations Ep 1 - the verdict

It's been one of the most hyped and controversial Australian TV shows of the year, and led to calls from conservatives for it to be banned before it had even screened. ABCTV executive Kim Dalton even took the unusual step of advising the easily-offended to switch off rather than watch it.

So was John Safran's Race Relations it actually worth watching?

Honestly, it was pretty good. It didn't rock my socks off. But it was daring television. Depending on your perspective, it either blazes new territory or plumbs new depths.

Obviously some will be offended by it. But given that it was common knowledge that this was likely to be a controversial and offensive program, I have little sympathy for people who tune in to such a show and then complain about being offended.

Perhaps it was the preceding hype that followed the show, but it didn't strike me as particularly offensive. But I'm not offended by that much. I can't say I gained a whole lot from the experience of watching Safran's Palestinian boom-mic operator masturbating from behind. Although Safran's enthusiasm for the process was kinda funny. The highlight, and I can't believe I'm saying this, was Safran making his own contribution to a sperm bank, inspired by a picture of Barack Obama, and repeating to himself "Yes we can" while in the act.

I must say that my favourite incarnations of Safran were earlier in his career; as a host of Radio RRR's Breakfasters program, and in the ABC series that kickstarted his reputation, Race Around the World. But in all of his subsequent series, he has always managed to produce the odd moment of transcendent brilliance.

It will be interesting how the next episode is received - Safran apparently puts on makeup and tries to pass himself off as black in the US - given the recent hullaballoo over blackface on Australian TV. I'm sure someone will accuse him of racism for something that happens in the show, but I'm not sure that that is a valid accusation.

For all the moral outrage the series will no doubt bring, we should remember that Safran is rarely cruel to others; he invariably ends up looking like the loser. Sure, stealing the underwear of Nicole Scherzinger (Pussycat Dolls) and other Eurasians for the purposes of sniffing it in a bizarre scientific experiment is pretty disgusting. But the ultimate joke is on Safran himself, who is unafraid to make himself look way creepy.

The main question for me was: how does a guy as incredibly annoying as Safran manage to land all those beautiful ex-girlfriends? Sure, he's funny, but I don't think I could have a conversation with him without wanting to give him a wedgie or flush his head in the toilet; his uber-geekiness would just bring out my inner bully.

If you missed it and want to know what the fuss is about, the episode is downloadable at the website, which is worth looking at in itself.

Related post: Yes, Eurasians are hot - just ask science.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Three Indian students bashed and robbed in Sunshine

The attacks on young Indian men continue in Melbourne. This time, 3 students were walking home from Sunshine Station on Thursday night around 10:30. They were approached from behind by a group of up to 6 men, who demanded wallets and phones. One of the Indian students handed over phones and fled, but the other two were beaten and robbed by the gang.

The assailants are described as dark-skinned with curly hair.

Given the brazen nature of this attack, barely 300 meters from Sunshine Station, I wonder what the police are doing in that area. Sunshine Station has been the epicentre of so many violent robberies and assaults, particularly against Indians. Several months ago, when large groups of Indian men gathered outside Sunshine and other stations to ensure the safety of their countrymen, the police and State Government warned them to leave, insisting they had the situation under control. Clearly not, if thugs obviously feel undeterred in committing crimes. Although it obviously says a lot about the brazenness of the young men who perpetrate street violence in Melbourne.

I'm sure some will say the Indians were somehow at fault for walking at night around Sunshine. And personally, I wouldn't walk there if I had a choice. But if our stations and surrounding streets are so dangerous at night, we may as well stop running trains at night. Not everyone in this city can afford a car, and nor should they have to. But without a police presence on the street in trouble spots like Sunshine, we will descend more and more into lawlessness. Perhaps we are there already.

Friday, October 16, 2009

More Awesome Asian Ads - Japan

Like this? You'll like:

Awesome Asian Ads - Japan

Award-winning Japanese condom ad

Japanese blinged-up detective ads

Awesome Asian Ads - Korea

More Awesome Asian Ads - Korea

What dishes truly define Malaysian cuisine?

With one of the great food cultures of the world, Malaysia's cuisine is all about spice, flavour and passion. And diversity, combining as it does Malay, Indian and Chinese cuisines, plus English and Portuguese influences, not to mention the influence of its Southeast Asian neighbours.

All of which prompts the question - what dishes can truly be considered as Malaysian cuisine? Are rendang, nasi goreng and satay Indonesian or Malaysian? Is Hainan chicken rice Singaporean or Malaysian? Or indeed, Hainanese?

"We cannot continue to let other countries hijack our food," declared Malaysias tourism minister Ng Yen Yen some weeks ago, listing a number of dishes she claimed to be Malaysian in origin. Ironically, she said this at the same time that tensions continue to simmer in the region over claims that Malaysia is trying to claim Indonesian food and culture as its own.

So how do you truly define the experience that is Malaysian cuisine?


Let's just say someone knew nothing about Malaysian food, and you had to choose exactly 5 dishes which would best demonstrate what Malaysian cuisine is all about.

Reducing the vast Malaysian culinary canon to only 5 dishes is not easy. But I put this challenge to several Malaysian friends who are all opinionated about food (as are all Malaysians, when you think about it.) And here is what they came up with:

CJ Foo:
Roti canai
Char kway teow
Nasi lemak
Prawn mee
Bak kut teh / chik kut teh

Shaz Lydia
Masak Lemak Cili Padi Ayam
Char Kway Teow
Nasi Lemak
Asam Laksa
Mee Kari

" I think the masak lemak would be a favourite amongst the "Selangor-ians" and "Malacca-ans". Not everyone appreciates a pot of thick and pedas coconut milk kampung style.
I loooove my food and I think its just cruel that I only get to pick 5 :p. Each State has its own special dish and I think only by sampling all these special dishes can a person really capture the essence of Malaysian cuisine."

Jerry Yeu:
Curry laksa
Char kway teow
Indian mee goreng
Roti canai
Nasi lemak

" Indian mee goreng gets the nod because it encapsulate the 3 main cuisines of Malaysia - Malay, Indian and Chinese into one."

Adrian Ho:
nasi lemak
char kuay teow
roti canai
kaya toast

Aveena Anantharajah:
Nasi Lemak
Char Kway Teow
Roti Canai

"Cendol scrapes in over Ais Kacang. Regarding laksa, I'm not being specific on purpose here - malaysian food is so different in flavours and richness from the different regions you order it from."

Juan Jin:
curry laksa - my facts may be wrong or debatable but this is my take on this dish: noodles (chinese though one of your more recent entries argues otherwise. LOL...) curry based soup (indian) liberal use of santan (malay) complementing each other in one big delicious bowl. can't think of any other malaysian dish right now which represents all 3 major races.
chicken rice - with sticky sweet char siew and vinegary chili sauce, this has gotta be my personal favourite hawker food of all time. end of story.
yee sang [raw marinated fish salad] - the gimmickiness of this dish gets me every chinese new year. but the communal spirit of sharing and unabashed mess you make tossing the ingredients higher and higher while spouting auspicious chinese sayings is just so festive and homey. love it!
cendol - go anywhere in the world except malaysia asking for maggoty strands of flour dyed with the juice of screwpine leaves, immersed in crushed ice, palm sugar and coconut cream and people will just think you're a crazy person. LOL.
apam balik - the skooshy doughy kind and not the crispy crunchy one. malaysian pancakes with sugar, peanuts and creamed corn. yummmmm....


Some interesting choices there. I'd question if some of them are primarily Malaysian (yee sang is really from Guangzhou, and I swear satay is Indonesian). But I guess it shows that a variety of dishes encapsulate Malaysia for different people, depending on each individual's culture and experiences.

I also had to veto a couple of selections that kept coming up. Nasi dagang, for example, may be one of the most commonly eaten dishes in Malaysia, but it is really a style of eating with infinite variations, rather than a dish itself. Same goes for banana leaf rice, which is really from India to boot. However, nasi lemak stays, because even though it is also rice-with-accompaniments, it is a standardised dish with a set variety of sides.

It is clear though that there is a big 3 among Malaysian dishes - nasi lemak, roti canai, and char kway teow. Almost everyone agreed on those.

So what about this non-Malaysian self-styled expert?

Christopher Mitchell:
Nasi lemak - If you had to pick a Malaysian national dish, you could not go past this one.
Roti canai - While its roots are in India, this type of roti is quintessentially Malaysian. Comes in a number of variations, both sweet and savoury, I could eat it as the basis of every meal every day, except I would become obese and die.
Char kway teow - While it obviously has Chinese ancestors, CKT is THE Malaysian noodle. There can be no other. My favourite noodle dish ever.
Curry laksa - It's as if someone took the essence of Malaysia and threw it in a bowl.
Rojak - we have this salad in Indonesia too, but the Malaysian version is in a different league. It's also one of the only dishes here that could almost be considered healthy.

Things that no one chose, but should not be forgotten:
Kangkung belacan
Ais kacang

And while I did not ask for a national drink, I think the unanimous choice was teh tarek.

Do you disagree? Yes, I'm sure you do. Leave a comment and tell me what you think should be in the top 5 Malaysian dishes.

For more on food in Malaysia, try:

The Guide to Ordering Food in Malaysia

The Malaysian-Indian food experience

Sister's Char Kway Teow, Penang

Penang's Famous Mung Bean Cookies

Penang, Street Food Capital of Asia.

Terengganu Cuisine

Addicted to Kuih

Roti Canai Terbang - The Way of the Flying Roti

Breakfast at Bakti Woodlands, Kuala Lumpur

Lina's Popiah, SS3, Petaling Jaya

Vegetarian Dim Sum at Nature's Recipe Cafe, Petaling Jaya

Salam from Malaysia

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Asian-Australian blogosphere

I'm a bit puzzled as to why, but Asian Australians are not really represented on the blogosphere. There are bloggers, but I dunno if we are really reaching anywhere the audience that we should be. Blog culture is massive in some countries, such as Malaysia and Singapore, and in the US. There are a fair few Asian-American blogs around the place. So I'm not sure why there ain't many Australian Asian blogs  - and more importantly, blog readers - out there. There are approaching 2 million of us AAs, and we're pretty net-savvy. It surprises me.

There are a few blogs out there by Asian Australians of course, but I'm not really speaking here of personal blogs, or blogs about computing or marketing or whatever, that just happen to be written by one of us. I'm really talking about blogs that deal with issues affecting the Asian-Australian community. Is there a lack of identity consciousness in our community? I doubt it, but if there is, does it mean we are seeing ourselves more as Australian, rather than Asian-Australian? Or maybe we've got better things to do than write and read blogs... like having actual lives, which is no bad thing.

There are a few of course. Clearly, mine is the most kickass, but I've listed a few others here too. One thing that surpised me is how many Asian-Australian bloggers there are coming out of Perth. Dunno why that is.

If there are more that you know about, feel free to comment. - More a news site than a blog per se, but one of the few that has broad coverage of issues surrounding the Asian community in Australia. It's only been around a few months. - The best blog ever, plus the guy who writes it is really sexy and awesome. - recently launched, its a really professional-looking operation, seems like its aiming to be THE Asian-Australian blog. Doesn't seem to have a big readership yet though. - A Malaysian-Chinese guy from Perth. Sort of a personal blog, but a lot of good Asian and Asian-Australian stuff going on. - Asian-Australian arts and culture. For those of you who are like, all intelligent and stuff. - Probably the first dedicated Asian-Australian blog I know about. - Mostly devoted to Asian pop culture, but with some local flavour as well. - Catering for all you cerebral types and left-wing activists with an interest in things Asian-Australian. - This is more specific to Western Australian stuff, and again is probably less a blog than a news and info site. - Written by Pakistani-Australian author Irfan Yusuf. Mostly about Muslim issues but some interesting stuff on race and society.

The following are more what you would call "personal blogs" written by Asian-Australians, but with some reflections on the Asian-Australian experience as well.

Racial humour - is it ever okay?

The recent kerfuffle over Harry Connick Jr's criticism of a segment on Hey Hey It's Saturday in which performers wore blackface has raised some really interesting issues about humour, race, and if it is offensive to combine the two.

Now humour is a very subjective thing. I had two friends go watch Borat and didn't laugh once, whereas I laughed so hard I almost cried. Similarly, it is hard to define what is offensive and what is not, given the diversity of people's backgrounds and experiences.

An exceedingly common response from parochial Aussies to HCJ's criticism of the blackface skit went something like this:

"Well if Americans find blackface so offensive, how come Robert Downey Jr played a black man in Tropic Thunder and got nominated for an Oscar?"

"Well if Americans find blackface so offensive, what about the Wayans brothers made up to look like white women in the movie White Chicks?"

"Well if Americans find blackface so offensive, what about Dave Chappelle made up to look like a white TV presenter on his show?"

or this is my favourite:
"Well, the Jackson 5 are black, and it was a tribute to them, so how is anyone supposed to impersonate a black person without wearing black makeup?"

Which is a fair question, but think about this while you look at the 3 pictures below: did the Jackson Jive performers (centre) really look at all like the Jackson 5 (Tito, right), or indeed like any black people that you know of? Or did they look more like a demeaning caricature of a black person (left)? Hmmm?

But what about those other examples above? Those are all fair questions. Sort of.

I'm no fan of racism, but I am someone who loves good comedy. And sometimes comedy can involve impersonating someone of another race. Should we ban that outright? Of course not. Sometimes it can be funny and brilliantly clever. But of course at other times it is ugly and offensive.

The key for me is context. Context in humour is something that an enormous amount of people don't seem to have a grasp of - they want a hard-and-fast rules for everything - yet it is extremely important.

So context is going to govern whether the following videos are kosher or not.

Bear in mind that these are only my opinions, which are probably worthless since I am not of any ethnicity being impersonated here. If you disagree, please comment and tell me why, I'd be interested to hear it.

This first one is the MadTV sketch from 1996, invoked by Australians as a way to discredit Harry Connick Jr as a hypocrite. According to many, he is actually appearing in blackface here, impersonating a black preacher. Watch and judge for yourself:

First question: is he actually wearing blackface? I've read a few African American commentators say no, he is mimicking a Southern preacher. I dunno, he looks a bit more tanned than usual, and his facial hair looks like its designed to make him look black.
Let's just say, for argument's sake, that he is pretending to be black. Is that offensive?
I'd consider a couple of factors. Firstly, the black people in this sketch are in on the joke - I imagine they invited Harry to do the role. Secondly, it is a nuanced performance, rather than a gross caricature.
My verdict: Pass

Speaking of gross caricatures, this next one is the sort of old-time minstrel show that the Jackson Jive performance resembled.

If you can't see what's wrong with that, better read here. By the way, do you think in those days they would have let all those white women dance with actual black men? Not a chance.
My verdict: Fail.

The next video is Robert Downey Jr from Tropic Thunder, playing a white Australian actor who is playing a black soldier.

Is it demeaning to black people? Well, you'd have to ask one, but I don't really think so. The character is a sendup of actors who take themselves seriously, and the Hollywood practice of putting actors in roles they are unsuitable for. As seen above, a recurring theme is another character (who is actually black) pointing out how inappropriate the whole business is.
My verdict: Pass

Next up: Mr Yunioshi, played by Mickey Rooney, in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Pretty obvious really. Rather than give the role to an Asian-American, the filmmakers for some reason thought a heavily made-up Rooney would be more suitable. Despite not being at all convincing as an Asian, the character embodies virtually every negative stereotype about Asians.
My verdict: Fail

Next up is Canadian-Indian comedian Russell Peters. Not in yellowface but using a Chinese accent; its a well-known bit about the attitude of Indians and Chinese to money.

A significant portion of Peters' fanbase is Chinese, yet arguably his best known routine is making fun of them. Why? Perhaps because his jokes about Chinese people (as well as other nationalities he talks about) are clearly affectionate rather than disdainful. He does the accent pretty well, and is fairly knowledgable about Chinese culture and people. It is clear he is primarily laughing with Chinese rather than at them.
My verdict: Pass

Next is former Australian test cricketer turned comedian Greg Ritchie. I use the term "comedian" as loosely as possible here. He appears here as his alter-ego "Mahatma Cote" back in 1994.

Eurgh. I find that an ordeal to sit through. The entire joke is "gosh, don't Indians talk funny", and that's about it really. Ritchie can't even nail the accent. The program in question is watched by a the same sort of audience who laughed at the Jackson 5 impersonators on Hey Hey; I'm not sure if anyone who actually knows any Indians as people would find it funny.
My verdict: Fail

Next, also from Australian TV in the early 90s, Rob Sitch impersonating legendary Pakistani cricketer and ladies' man Imran Khan on The Late Show.

Sitch does actually sound like Imran Khan here, rather than a generic caricature of a South Asian. And the joke is about Imran Khan, rather than at Pakistanis. A note about the term "Paki bastard" used by interviewer Tom Gleisner: in the UK that would be considered totally improper. In Australia in 1992, there was little to no awareness of the racist connotations of "Paki" in the UK. The term is very rarely heard in Australia anymore. (As for "bastard", that is purely Australian humour.)
My verdict: Pass

Next is from Chappelle's Show. Dave Chappelle plays a white news anchor, reporting on a story of what happens on the day when black people get reparations money for slavery. This is only one of a series of 3 sketches on the topic.
Chappelle's Show
Reparations 2003 Follow-Up
Buy Chappelle's Show DVDsBlack ComedyTrue Hollywood Story

Chappelle's comedy is all about stereotypes. And while he frequently caricatures the uptight, square white American, much more of his humour is an affectionate critique of the black community. Remember also that sending up the powerful is a far more respected trope in comedy than the powerful mocking the powerless. Given the socio-cultural dominance of white Americans over black Americans, this sort of thing is more acceptable than if the other way around.
My verdict: Pass

Lastly, a scene from White Chicks; Terry Crewes trying to seduce one of the whitefaced Wayans brothers.

You don't win too many friends trying to defend the artistic merit of Wayans brothers movies, but I actually like this movie; it's whole premise is so ludicrous that it becomes a knowing self-parody. But is it racist to have two black actors made up to look like white women? Not necessarily. Would it be considered racist and in poor taste if two white actors impersonated black women? Possibly; but consider the historical context. As African-Americans have traditionally been a disempowered segment of society, blackface impersonations carry a reflection of oppression and discrimination. There is no equivalent context for what is happening in White Chicks.
My verdict: Pass

Disagree? Let me know what you think.

Like this? You may like:

Peter Chao in blackface - is it racist?

The Daily Show - Is blackface ever ok?

The burqa dance - what do you think?

"The Truth About Gooks and Wogs" - Hung Le and Gab Rossi

Louis CK on being white

Introducing Jonah Takalua

Acceptable TV - "My Black Friend"

Gina Yashere on Def Jam

Borat's guide to American hobbies

Racist murder of elderly Filipino man in Sydney

Read anything about racism by a right-wing newspaper columnist and you'll usually hear two arguments. Firstly, racism doesn't exist in this country, or when it does occur it is mostly "ethnics" being racist towards white Aussies. And when "ethnics" do complain about racism, they are just whinging about something that is no big deal.

So I'm not sure how such commentators would spin this story:

A BUILDER celebrating his 23rd birthday allegedly bashed an elderly man to death in a drunken race-hate crime. James Anthony Dean-Willcocks (pictured), of Illawong, was yesterday charged with the murder of Magno Alvarado, 67. Residents of Elouera Rd, Cronulla, told police of being woken about 5.30am on Saturday by a male yelling: "F ... off back to Japan".

According to a statement tendered by police to Parramatta Bail Court, a man was heard to cry: "Help, help". One witness said he went to his balcony and allegedly saw a man "fling the victim on to the footpath, pick up the victim, shake him and throw him to the ground". The accused then allegedly punched Mr Alvarado in the head and body as many as 10 times.

Another witness said he saw the victim thrown to the road, and Dean-Willcocks on top of him, punching him. Police will allege Dean-Willcocks was heard yelling "Ya Jap".

Another described seeing Mr Alvarado tackled, "body-slammed" and punched many times. One witness told police he yelled at Dean-Willcocks to stop and asked what he was doing.

"Mate, he's Japanese and he deserves it," the accused allegedly answered. It is understood Mr Alvarado was Filipino.

Stunned onlookers prevented Dean-Willcocks leaving the scene until police arrived. Mr Alvarado was taken to hospital but died about 2.30pm on Saturday. After Dean-Willcocks - wearing no shoes, and only one sock - was arrested, police noted he was intoxicated. He has since told police he has "no recollection" of the incident and his last memory was "some time in the early hours of the morning" while he was at the Mercure Hotel in the city. Dean-Willcocks said he did not know how he got to Cronulla.

Willcocks may have been drunk, but there is nothing in a bottle of beer that will make you do that. And did no one tell him WW2 ended 64 years ago? And of course, poor Mr Alvarado wasn't actually Japanese, but Asians are all the same, right?

Let's hope the justice system gets serious with this f***er.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Catch Andrew Bolt on Twitter. Well, sort of.

Controversial (yet wildly popular) Australian right-wing columnist Andrew Bolt is now on Twitter, if you're into that sort of thing and want to follow him.

Here are some of his recent entries:

Yet again an article by me proves myself right. Racism in Australia only exists against whites.
5:37 PM Oct 8th from web

Those blackface performers weren't being racist. They were just telling the truth about black people - that they have afros and sing.
5:26 PM Oct 8th from web

Harry Connick Jr is a hypocrite for ever having satired blackface. Satire is for leftists. Andrew Bolt says "no". To satire.
4:26 PM Oct 8th from web

Why doesn't Melbourne have any 1000 year old European monuments? I blame the left.
5:13 PM Oct 6th from web

Even I think Glenn Beck is crazy.
3:27 PM Oct 4th from web

Hmm. If Ahmadinejad used to be a Jew, maybe I used to be a Muslim?
3:06 PM Oct 4th from web

An angel just appeared and showed me what my life would be like if comedy hadn't been invented - awesome.
3:05 PM Oct 4th from web

Obviously, it's not the real Andrew Bolt. But don't let that dissuade you, it's preferable to reading anything the real Bolt might have written.

Not sure how long his account is going to be allowed to stay up there, so catch it while you can at:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Can you guess their ethnicity?

Dunno about you, but I think I have a knack for guessing what someone's ethnic background is. Of course, its a risky business as you can offend someone by asking them if they are something that they are not. (There's a 24,000-member-strong Facebook group entitled "No Bitch...I aint Indian...I'm SRI LANKAN!!!!" so that gives you an idea of what I mean.)

Sometimes you can tell by accent, or mannerisms, sometimes by sight alone. So if you think you're pretty savvy, see how good you are at guessing people just on their appearance.

Below are some pictures of some folks I know. See if you can guess! Some of them are of mixed ethnicity, just to spice things up a bit. I ain't saying this is easy at all. But it's interesting to see how we associate certain features with certain kinds of people.

Answers are in the Comments section below.






Too difficult? You can always try Part 2, where you have to try pick the Asians from the Eurasians.

An Aboriginal perspective on blackface

I've had a massive response to my post the other day quoting a black person's perspective on the Hey Hey It's Saturday blackface skit. (You can read it here.)Folks have been sending it around via Twitter and Livejournal, which I'm really happy about - good to see another example of how the new media can be used for positive social change.

After Mike Justice gave his perspective on the issue, he forwarded on to me a response from an indigenous woman giving her take on this business. I've also noticed an informative article by well-known indigenous Australian journalist Stan Grant, now working for CNN, adding some context for foreign readers. All of which is very timely, because a common argument used by many of the ignoramuses defending the blackface skit is that becase we don't have a history of blackface here, it therefore has no offensive connotations.

This is of course untrue, according to Jirra Lulla Harvey. She is a young indigenous community leader and artist, who has been previously awarded the National (Indigenous) Scholarship and two consecutive Undergraduate Indigenous Achievement Awards. She has been the Victorian Correspondent for the national Indigenous newspaper, The Koori Mail, while for her painting Jirra was named the 2004 NAIDOC Artist of the Year.

Here's what she has to say:

A dominant argument in the debate over a recent revival of minstrel performance is that Blackface is not offensive to Australian audiences, because we do not have a history of minstrelsy in this country. It has been said that that the typecasting, buffooning, and degrading of Black people, by white actors, is an exclusively American tradition.

Henry Melville’s Bushrangers (1834) is commonly regarded as the first play written and produced in Australia. An Aboriginal character made an appearance; his name was Native and he was played by a white man in Blackface. The script was as follows:

NATIVE – Me want baccy and bredley – me no long time – me got very old blanket.

ELLEN – Well blackey, you shall have both, if you will dance a corroboree?

NATIVE – He, he! Corroboree?

ELLEN – Yes! Corroboree. No baccy without corroboree.

The character “Native” then sang and danced a dance that had little resemblance to any corroboree.

Minstrel Shows were at one point the most popular form of entertainment in the United States of America and by the mid 1800s had become an international sensation. As well as being popular in Australia, Canada and New Zealand, they found a colonial audience in India, Jamaica, Nigeria and South Africa. Each country incorporated its own racism and as the popularity of minstrelsy spread, so too did the cultural stereotypes it projected.

In Australian minstrelsy Aboriginal characters were redefined according to this global typecasting. No longer were they Yorta Yorta or Wathaurung, they became simple characterisations of the Black Other. When relegated to this position, Aboriginal characters (and the people they supposedly depict) become laden with cultural stereotypes from across the ages and the seas. American and British minstrelsy was based on centuries of racism towards people of African and Caribbean descent; when Blackface hit our shores there was a substantial bank of racial stereotypes that aided in the portrayal/betrayal of a newly colonized people.

Charles Chauvel’s assimilationist tale Jedda (1955) was the first Australian film in which Aboriginal characters were played by Aboriginal actors. The character of Marbuk was played by Bob Wilson “a true blue-black” said Elsa Chauvel, Charles’ wife and working partner, “The darkest shade of Australian native” one who “could climb a tree as swiftly and nimbly as a chimpanzee.” Interestingly Half-Cast Joe, the narrator and male lead, was played by a white actor in Blackface.

In the 121 years between Henry Melville’s first Australian minstrel and Chauvel’s Jedda there have been countless white actors who have played Aboriginal characters by smearing Blackface across their skin and misrepresenting our languages, songs, dances and traditions.

There is a history of Blackface in Australia. It is a hurtful and degrading history that denied our right to self representation and helped to create the racial stereotypes that plague our nation today.

I am Australian, I like a good laugh. I am Aboriginal and carry the scars of this history. To revive Blackface is not funny.

Jirra Lulla Harvey

Again, I encourage you to email or twitter this around to anyone who is still thinks blackface performance is harmless fun.

Also I wish to restate that I don't think anyone is seriously accusing any of the people involved with Hey Hey of being racists. No one is saying that the sketch is causing the end of civilisation. But this sort of thing is an important test for our nation's character, and in this case we have failed.

I have heard, time and time again in response to this issue, that Aussies are an easygoing people with a good sense of humour, and we are not as sensitive as those Americans, who just need to grow a thicker skin. But this is shown just how sensitive we are to any criticism, and how insensitive we can be to anyone who is different to us. How dare anyone tell us that something we did was not right? I have lost count of the amount of times in the last few days I have heard people say "If you don't like our ways, go back to your own country."

I really wonder what would have happened if a popular black Australian celebrity like Ernie Dingo or Marcia Hines had been on the judging panel that day. Would the act have been allowed to go ahead? I suspect not.

In the face of global criticism, do Australians, a people justly proud of their courage on the fields of war and sport, have the balls to put their hand up and say, "Oops - my bad"?

Not on the evidence I've seen so far.

So why is some racial humour acceptable and some isn't? My take on that here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mocky featuring GZA - "Birds of a Feather"

All this talking about racism at the moment has got me in a somewhat edgy mood of late, so I'm going to take a break by telling you how much I love this cute, quirky new song by Mocky and GZA.

Yeah that's right, GZA (aka The Genius) of the Wu-Tang Clan, one of the alltime great MCs. It's not often that you get to use the phrase "cute and quirky" in a sentence describing Wu-Tang members, but this track is unusual. It's a strange blend of hip-hop with dainty, kitsch retro pop. But it works.

Of course, it's a remix. I don't like the original quite as much - the verse is not as nice as the chorus and I think the rap gives it an extra edge - but it's still cool. Here's the original performed live:

Mocky himself is a pretty interesting cat. Canadian-born of Somali and English heritage (his real name is Domenic Salole), he resides in Germany, from where he has co-written and produced stuff for Jamie Liddell and Feist. A multi-instrumentalist, he plays keys, drums, bass and guitar. It's hard to describe his music, as it takes in everything from electronica, funk, jazz, pop and R&B.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Message from a black man on blackface

Well it seems that the "Jackson Jive" blackface act on Hey Hey Its Saturday has become a massive story, not just in Australia but around the world as well. Click here for my earlier article on the subject. As for the Australian public, if you judge by comments on news outlets and radio talkback, it seems that around 80% thought there was nothing wrong with the skit, and Harry Connick Jr should just get over it.

What seems to be the common consensus amongst the average Australian is that "I don't personally find it offensive, so it's not offensive."

Of course, there is a flaw in the logic that since Connick is in Australia, he should just accept our sense of humour. (I use the term "humour" loosely, since, PC-ness aside, I couldn't really see anything actually funny in the performance). The flaw is that of course most Australians aren't going to find it offensive - it's not about them.

Has anyone actually asked a black person what they think about this?

I mean, since it's apparently a joke at the expense of black people, isn't it more relevant whether or not they find it offensive, rather than whether the average non-black Aussie finds it offensive?

Well, a black man sent me an email today, which describes beautifully what the problem is here. The guy who wrote the message is Mike Justice, a local MC I know from back in the day, who is of Australian and Afro-Caribbean descent. If you know anyone who still cannot understand why the skit was inappropriate and offensive, I suggest you cut-and-paste this and email it to them.

Good Afternoon,

It seems that the Australian public is misunderstanding why the international outrage has been caused by the 'Hey Hey' skit.

I will frame this by saying I believe it to be an honest mistake.

However there are several points we need to understand.

Firstly, the call of racism has nothing to do with white people dressing up as black people. But rather white people (or any people for that matter) dressing up in 'Black Face'.

OK, so what's the difference you ask? "Black Face" is a form of entertainment that started in the early 1900's. It was designed to ridicule and degrade black people, who at the time where considered less then human. Or as Harry Connick Jr pointed out, to portray them us Buffoons. 'Black Face' (and not white people dressing up as white) is a symbol of slavery, oppression and a time when black people had no rights. This is a major difference.

The problem has come, as the dancers were not dressed as the Jackson’s but in 'black face'. If they made any realistic attempt to dress up like the Jackson’s or were wearing Jackson masks, this would be different. However they were not. This is what has caused the international uproar.

Historically speaking, the classic 'Black Face' symbol is the Golliwog. Now these dolls were 'socially outlawed' and taken out circulation by the early 1980's. Any reference to them in the media (such as Children's books) has been stripped and is now non existent due to its offensive nature. Except of course when the ‘Hey Hey’ show aired the skit of the Jackson’s or 'Golliwogs' dancing.

This is the problem, it has nothing to do with white people dressing up as black people, but the historical context of 'Black Face'. If this was the case, I too would wonder what the out cry was all about. However the fact remains, a white person dressing up as a black person is very different to anybody (whether black or white) dressing up in ‘Black Face’. Again, this is a major difference, and if are going to have any serious debate about this topic, the Australian public must understand this.

Please consider this example of comparison, to some it may seem extreme, but understand this is what we are dealing with. History states that over 200 000 000 (two hundred million) African American, West Indian, and Brazilian people died within slavery, add to this many of our leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr have been assassinated. Thus for millions of black people around the world, the ‘Black Face’ image and the symbol it represent creates the same emotions of pain and anger that the Swastika does for Jewish people and the massacre they barely survived. It is that serious.

I hope this explanation delivers some kind of insight into the topic,

Thank you for your time and kind Regards,

Mike Justice.

Couldn't have said it any better myself, Mike. Respect.

You can also read an Aboriginal woman's perspective here.

And my take on why some racial humour is acceptable and some isn't, here.

Check out Mike's Myspace page as well, btw. It's some hot sh**.

If you like this you may like:

Sam Newman in racist "monkey" trouble

Yellowface is still alive

The bad old days - Mr Yunioshi

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Controversy over blackface Jackson 5 skit

The producers of the Hey Hey It's Saturday Reunion Special have found themselves in hot water over a skit last night involving some guys impersonating the Jackson 5 in blackface makeup.

Harry Connick Jr, on the show as a guest judge, was less than impressed. Watch:

A number of things are interesting about this:

- The guy playing Michael Jackson is Indian! He should have known better.

- Given that all the performers are doctors, I'm assuming they are intelligent enough to know better.

- Somehow the producers of the show okayed this skit.

- Daryl Somers couldn't see that it might be offensive until it was pointed out to him by Harry.

- Daryl then acted as if Harry taking offence to this was some quaint American custom which was completely foreign to Australia.

- The audience seemed to love it.

- Was it meant to be funny? It wasn't.

- A fascinating thing happens at the 2:33 mark. When Harry says "If they turned up looking like that in the United States..." the noise made by the audience and announcer seems to show a realisation that some people (ie. black Americans) would be offended. Weird, it's just a noise, but it implies a lot.

- Credit at least for Daryl giving Harry a chance to address it later, rather than glossing over it.

- Harry Connick Jr deserves a lot of credit. Many would have sat there, thinking it was a bit wrong, but not having the gumption to speak up about it. And he spoke with wit when giving his score, and intelligence and class after the break. Respect to the guy.

- This performance has made news all over the world; well done Channel 9 for making Australians seem like a bunch of backward rednecks.

Now I wouldn't actually call this "racist" per se; I don't think there was any derogatory intention on the performers' part towards African Americans. Likewise, the audience finding it funny doesn't mean they are racist. Notice that Harry didn't use the word "racist" either - he's not implying that the performers or the show are racist. He's pointing out that what just happened is a relic of a shameful and racist point in history that brings back a foul taste for many Americans.

Imagine, for example, that performers came out dressed in KKK robes, or as neo-nazi skinheads, as part of their joke. That would not necessarily be racist, but it would still be very inappropriate. Some things, while not being racist in intention, can nonetheless recall an ugly and uncomfortable racist past, which is best left in the past.

So not racist, then. HOWEVER... this is certainly very IGNORANT on the performers' part, as well as everyone else in the show that allowed this to happen. The audience finding this funny also displays considerable ignorance, of the historical context of blackface performances.

Of course, not everyone agrees with me. According to some this is yet another case of political correctness gone mad. Take these readers' comments from

"as an American" - Perhaps Americans should clean up their own act before judging the actions of others in an unfamiliar society and telling them what is and is not acceptable. They have a long way to go before their slate is clean.
Posted by: baysider 12:21am today Comment 6 of 356

Ok, but when Australians are mocking black AMERICANS... maybe as an American, who is fairly in tune with black culture, Harry might know a little something about this.

You'd think with Obama in the Whitehouse that they'd finally have moved beyond this kind of B.S. political correctness.. and to impose his cultural beliefs on ours is plain arrogance on his behalf - we can decide what's racist for ourselves, thanks. Leave your racist baggage at home next time Harry.. you know that's not what we're all about.
Posted by: Luke 12:32am today Comment 10 of 356

Yes, we can decide what's racist for ourselves. Like our treatment of Aborigines throughout most of our history, we decided that wasn't racist, so that's what matters. I wonder if black Americans would think of the sketch as racist, since its about them? Oh no, that doesn't matter.

Yeah the American public were so outraged over Robert Downey's recent blackface routine in Tropic Thunder he was given an Academy award nomination.
Posted by: andrew jorgonsen 3:15am today Comment 51 of 356

Anyone who had actually watched that Tropic Thunder would know that it contains numerous references to how innappropriate the blackface character is. Did you actually watch the movie, Andrew Jorgonsen?

anyone remember that bad movie 'white chicks' where two black guys got made up in white make up? So thats ok in the US, but not if its reversed? who really cares, it wasn't a big deal.
Posted by: Nicole Smith of sydney 10:00am today Comment 112 of 356

Hmm, were you offended by White Chicks, Nicole Smith of Sydney? I think not. Is there a history of power-holding black people putting on whiteface and mocking disempowered white people? I think not.

Seriously, I'm not just picking out the few stupid people, these kinds of comments represent 90% of the comments on that site.

And then there's The Punch, which is full of this kind of comment as well:

Debbie says:12:25am 08/10/09
I agree with Ped…..if the world was NOT so politically correct, we would all be the same as no attention would single out any particular group, race or creed…the world would be a much happier place. The skit was NOT derogatory to Afrian American’s….it was simply a sketch based on a world famous group…if anything, it’s complimentary to imitate in good humour. If anyone found it offensive, they probably have racial insecurity problems themselves!

Hmmm, if some black people did have racial insecurity problems, I wonder why that would be? It's not like they were ever treated differently or anything because of their race, right?

Then there's this from the lead singer:

Dr (Anand) Deva, whose face was painted white in the skit to portray Jackson, said he and his friends came from ethnic backgrounds and were all too aware of racism.
"Two of us come from India and one of us comes from Lebanon so we can't afford to be racist to be honest," he said. "If we did offend him (Connick Jr) we truly didn't mean to."

I'm f***ing sick of hearing this kind of thing from people. As if being "of an ethnic background" gives you a free pass from any accusation of racism. Just so you know, Anglo-Celtic Aussie also counts as an ethnic background.

Of course I'm not saying that Dr Anand Deva and his co-performers are racist. But they should really know better.

To all the fools out there saying "how come it's okay for black people to make fun of white people, but when its the other way round it's called racist?" - think about this analogy. Make a joke about my mother and I might laugh it off and not care. Tell the same joke to a guy whose mother was raped and killed, and you might not get such a good reaction.

I don't want to make it seem like there are only stupid people out there. So I'll leave it to this commenter to say it succinctly. Not that anyone bothers to heed it, though:

You cannot compare black people making fun of white people to white people making fun of black people. White people have a long history of exploiting the black man and so have all the power. It should be we white people that should be more sensitive to the history. And even our history isn't all that good. The Americans have fought wars over slavery and civil rights. People have died for it, especially in the South. HKJ showed a fair bit of moral courage to stand up and say it was unacceptable to him. But the true dodgy award should go to the producers. Skits that you showed 20 years ago are not always good for modern times. Times have changed
Posted by: Yoda of Sydney 9:34am today Comment 74 of 356

Wise and articulate you are, Yoda of Sydney.


UPDATE : For a black person's perspective on it, try here.

For an indigenous Australian's perspective on it, try here.