Friday, July 6, 2012

Sorry, I didn't mean to racially abuse those Indians, I meant to racially abuse THOSE Indians...

If you happened to see episode 3 of ABC2's Dumb, Drunk and Racist, you would have noticed a particularly nasty incident that occurred while filming in the streets of Melbourne's CBD. As two of Joe Hildebrand's Indian guests go for a walk around to get a sense for whether Melbourne was as hostile and dangerous as had been portrayed in the Indian media, they are accosted by a drunken individual who swears at them, calls them racists and tells them to go back where they came from, ending with "White pride, motherfuckers!"

You can see it here from about 3:45 onwards.

It's an odd exchange that doesn't seem to make a lot of sense, but is noticeable for how coolly Amer handles the whole thing. (Amer is consistently awesome throughout this series, by the way.) It certainly makes it seem like random drunk racists are just waiting to come out of the woodwork on central Melbourne's main street.

The show's website features a page that puts it in a bit better perspective, and is disturbingly hilarious in its irony. It's a written apology from the drunken racist douche, who explains that it's all a case of mistaken identity:

To whom it may concern On the way home from a night out I walked past a group of people with a camera crew who I thought, at that particular time, to be the provocative Indian comedy duo "Fear of a Brown Planet". My comments were aimed at this comedy group solely, not the people who I have recently found out were Indian tourists from overseas.At the time I had had a disagreement with my fiancé and was not in a good frame of mind and had been out having a few drinks watching a band. I said some ridiculous things which I would not normally say. I live and work in a very multi-cultural area and associate with many cultures including Indians. This incident has strained relationships between myself and my family. I do sincerely apologise for what I said and the way I acted which is very out of character.
I apologise to the Indian tourists and want them to know I had no idea it was a documentary on racism and acted out of my dislike for the comedy group. I am extremely worried and stressed how I come across in the program. I am very embarrassed about my actions on this evening and am remorseful of any hurt I have caused. Thankyou.

Note the obligatory "Some of my best friends are Indians" line he sticks in there, which is the standard disclaimer you make when you've said something racist and you want people to think you are not racist.
I guess he wants us to think, "Ah, that's not so bad, he wasn't just abusing random Indians, he was abusing what he thought was a controversial comedy duo who some regard as being anti-white."

Of course, this "controversial Indian comedy duo" are not actually Indian - the Fear of a Brown Planet guys are Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan, but whatever, it's all the same, right? And considering this chap basically saw two young South Asian guys with a camera crew and immediately assumed they were FOABP and began abusing them... well, that's understandable I guess. I mean, it's an easy mistake to make, right? Why, just the other day, I went to buy some curry and naan from my local Indian restaurant, when I thought the woman behind the counter was the provocative Indian duo "Fear of a Brown Planet". So obviously, I racially abused her, as one does in those situations. How embarassing for me!

Essentially, he is giving his own answer to the question posed by the show's title; he's not really racist, he was only dumb and racist because he was drunk. Ok then.

If you are wondering about who these Fear of a Brown Planet fellows are that seem to inspire such antipathy from random passing drunken douchebags, I've blogged about them here before.

Recently ABC1 featured them on Australian Story, which each week does a somewhat mushy profile of interesting Australian people. There was also a 2 hour special on ABC2 recently which featured their whole act. The guys, Aamer Rahman and Nazeem Hussain, are a couple of young Muslims whose act focuses primarily on racism, and the experience of being South Asian and Muslim in Australia. There has been an ongoing debate going on in Australian politics about the alleged left-wing bias of the ABC (the government-funded broadcaster), and this sympathetic profile of an act that tends to make white people a little uncomfortable is more grist to that mill. 


In any case this profile is interesting to look at how South Asian Muslims balance their identity with an Australian one, and how the two guys balance their humour and decidedly liberal activist views with a religion that is both rather illiberal and not especially known for its humour.


  1. Of course, this "controversial Indian comedy duo" are not actually Indian - the Fear of a Brown Planet guys are Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan, but whatever, it's all the same, right?

    Their countries of origin may not be India, but they're still racially and ethnically Indian/desi.

    For example, I knew this one guy whose family was from Bangladesh, but he still strongly identified as a proud Indian. A few modern artificial nations don't negate an identity built by thousands of years of history.

    In my opinion, criticizing white people for confusing Bangladeshis and other South Asians with Indians is like criticizing somehow for calling a Taiwanese person Chinese.

    Sure, different countries, and different national origins, but racially and ethnically (with the exception of Taiwan's small aboriginal population), they're the same people.

    1. Well calling them Indian is the least of that guys crimes, but it when added to the fact that he mistook two South Asian guys for two other South Asian guys, it just adds to the impression of a guy who thinks all brown people are the same.

      That said... Indian is not a race. I would love it if people could learn to start saying "South Asian" instead.

      A lot of people tend to lazily lump all South Asians into the "Indian" category, and can call anyone East Asian "Chinese". One old Filipino man was bashed to death by a guy who thought he was Japanese.(

      Yet no one would refer to all Europeans as "English" or something like that.

    2. No, nobody would refer to all Europeans as "English." However, in the eyes of non-white people, there are few to no differences between Europeans, and they're all just white. I'm speaking from personal experience, based on conversations I've had.

      I recall a conversation I once had with an Asian guy I knew. Apparently, I had mistaken a Korean person for a Chinese person (or vice versa) and he was giving me a hard time, albeit in a joking manner.

      Rather than defending myself (I've learned that it's futile for a white person to defend himself from racial accusations), I asked him a question. I asked him whether or not he distinguished between people from Norway, Germany, Russia, or Britain? He said no, and just said that they're all white.

      In response, I said, "well, same thing here with Asians."

      And, frankly, there is much more phenotypical diversity among white people than there is among Asians. I don't think anyone can dispute that.

    3. But, nonetheless, out of respect for you and your blog, I will say South Asian from now on.

    4. You might think I'm being overly political correct here... but it's less about that than just disliking ignorance. Your Asian friend included. I'm a teacher you see, I can't help it. I will say though, that "white people" is a different sort of categorisation to "Indian".

    5. That's fair enough, ES, and I admit, I suffer from out-group homogeneity bias at times. I see where you're coming from. Yes, I too recognize that white is a broad racial category, whereas Indian is a specific national/ethnic category.

      However, there's one thing I will say. Many online activist types (not necessarily you), among others, spend a good deal of time promoting an "Asian American" or "Asian Australian" identity. Many of these same types will also speak of "Asian culture."

      In other words, they believe in a pan-Asian identity, and think that there are several fundamental traits that bind all Asians (particularly East Asians) together. Yet they get upset at white people for mistaking Koreans with other East Asians.

      In my view, you can't have your cake and eat it too. You can't promote a pan-Asian identity and then get upset when white people see you all as, well, Asian!

      On the other hand, the only people I see promoting the idea of a monolithic "white culture" or white identity are white nationalists and (interestingly and ironically enough) anti-racists, in addition to a few stand-up comedians.

    6. Perhaps there's a chicken-and-egg thing going on there. Some Asian groups do not naturally feel a great deal of kinship with each other. Yet if the mainstream is going to treat Asians as a monolith, ironically perhaps Asians need to emphasise those common bonds; if you think your group is in need of advocacy and a fair shake, of course you want allies who are in a similar boat.

    7. Chicken-and-egg, as well as a vicious cycle. You try to find allies who are in a similar boat, and emphasize common bonds, as a result of being seen as a monolith. However, that in turn only further increases the perception that you're a monolithic group, and feeds more fuel to the "all Asians are alike" fire.

      I find that to be a recurring problem with non-white/minority activists in general. They want to emphasize the common bonds between members of their racial group, in order to win more allies and be more organized. And yet they also object whenever white people see them as a monolith, and always like to emphasize that there are differences within their group.

      Some activists go even further than that, with their emphasis on the essential unity of all "people of color" (the favorite term of the anti-racist/critical race theorist left).

    8. Yeah "People of color" is an interesting one. I might write a post on it. In some contexts it is extremely useful; non-whites have a common experience of Otherness and it'd help them to stick together rather than just fight each other for a piece of the pie.
      But I also think it perpetuates the "us and them" mentality which doesn't really help an integrated society.

    9. But I also think it perpetuates the "us and them" mentality which doesn't really help an integrated society.

      I don't claim to speak for all white people, but at least when I hear some anti-racist activist promoting the term, what I hear is this: "Hey, black people, Hispanics, Asians, Middle Easterners, and others, we all have a common enemy! Let's unite against white people, whom we should be fighting instead of each other."

      If anything, it will increase the siege mentality that has already been starting to flourish among large segments of the white population.

      Thad of former Abagond fame once criticized the term for essentially reducing the experiences of different groups to a re-run of the black American experience. To an extent, there is some truth in this. Most of the "people of color" rhetoric I hear tends to come from blacks.

      Interestingly enough, though, despite my extensive experience with various non-whites, I have only heard the term "people of color" used twice. The first time came from a black guy (surprise, surprise). The second time was from a Hispanic guy. That, along with some left wing professors I've had.

      Perhaps your average person just doesn't care as much about these issues as much as you and I.

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