The Harry Connick/Hey Hey It’s Saturday controversy

Posted: October 8, 2009 in Australian TV, Media Watch, Misc Thoughts, Racism
Tags: , ,

Sigh!!! Sometimes m0,,7047138,00y fellow Aussies really embarrass me. They can be really backwards especially when it comes to racial issues. OF COURSE RACISM DOESN’T OCCUR IN AUSTRALIA!!! Except it does but nobody really wants to admit it. Last night was a prime example of racism on prime time TV. Harry Connick appeared on the Hey Hey It’s Saturday Reunion show as a judge on Red Faces. One of the acts performed a ‘so called’ Michael Jackson tribute called Jackson Jive, performing in black face, which offended Connick and forced host Daryl Somers to make a public on air apology. Somers has since tried to downplay the incident claiming that Connick only found it offensive because he’s an American and that everyone else would accept the skit. Many Australian’s unfortunately agree with him.

I don’t blame Connick for being offended as my first thought of seeing Jackson Jive was “What the fuck are they doing. Connick’s from New Orleans and is going to be pissed off.” This thought raced through my head before even seeing the disgusted look on Harry’s face. How could they not think that a jazz/blues musician from the New Orleans would be a little upset at seeing a bunch of men in black face performing on stage. Many people have claimed that these guys were just imitating or satirising the Jackson 5 yet the exaggerated coal black face paint, white suits and big afro wigs suggested to me that it had more in common with minstrelsy iconography, at least in spirit, than a Motown parody. Of course this would offend Connick since minstrelsy was created by white people simply to make fun of African American music and culture, of which jazz and blues are a huge part of historically. Also the minstrels ridculed as buffoons many of the early pioneers of African American culture such as New Orleans’ WC Handy, the father of the blues and jazz , who himself performed in a minstrel show in his early career. minstrelsOf course Connick was going to be pissed.

The problem is that there are many people who think that performing black face is still appropriate and that it’s all Connick’s fault for getting upset about what is just a bit of harmless fun. They think that the black people who may have found it offensive should just get over themselves. They believe that we are just being politically correct and blah blah blah. This reasoning is of course total bullshit!!! Historically we have never really been that culturally or racially sensitive here in Australia. As I posted late last year, we had a brand of sweet called ‘Nigger Boy Licorice’ right up until the late 60s, whilst one of our most popular kids comic books of the 1950s (I forget what it was called) featured a Sambo character. Golliwogs are still very popular here and even though they originated in Egypt they now resemble the minstrels of the 19th century. I could even talk about Fox FM’s Matt Tilley and his ‘hilarious’ prank phone calls where he puts on a fake Chinese or Indian accent and how people think this is funny but I think it’s cringe worthy.We really need to be able to grow up and realise that some things are just no longer acceptable in the 21st Century. To make fun of someone based on their race, skin colour or religious beliefs is not being ‘politically incorrect’, it is being racist and offensive. We should not lament not being able to call someone a ‘wog’, ‘chink’ or ‘nigger’, but be glad that we are no longer so stupid to think that those derogatory terms are acceptible. Unfortunately from the reaction of people at this skit this looks to be a long way off.

  1. Millsie says:

    I’m glad that I edited this just now as rereading it again it seems that I had originally written a lot of grammatically poor nonsensical crap

  2. Tony says:

    I have read your comments and although I agree with much of what you have said, I must admit that I feel disgusted towards other nationalities including Americans for their speed to condemn Australians.
    I am a New Zealand Maori living in Australia, along with many other nationalities; irrespective of whether or not we agreed with the skit (in fact, I haven’t even seen it), we have been condemned as being racist simply because we live in Australia. It matters not what colour, race or creed we are, we have already been condemned regardless. Being an Australian has little to do with being a citizen of this beautiful country but more by the fact we live here permanently and enjoy the freedom to live our lives as we see fit.
    Comments I have read by various individuals have revealed a total lack of knowledge or understanding of Australians in general.
    I have seen reference to the early Australian formative years (we conveniently forget that it was British colony at the time meaning that all decisions and attitudes that followed were greatly influenced by the British and their decisions which included their handling of the indigenous communities as they did the convicts; a little like the American formative years when the authorities of the time committed similar acts against the native Indians, people with dark coloured skin and those they considered to be of a lesser status than themselves).
    Yes; it happened in New Zealand as well; my parents were not allowed to speak Maori in public by the authorities, and Maoris were not allowed to enter certain areas due to their brown skin.
    Ignorance and racism is rife in many countries about many things; we do not live in a world where the Australians are the only ones to do things considered ‘racists’.
    I have a lot of friends and relatives in the U.S. and Britain; and on a recent visit to some of the mid-states in the U.S; I was really quite appalled at their ignorance of the outside world; a manager of a large steakhouse thought Australia was a new part of Oklahoma; glad I didn’t say I was from New Zealand.
    The U.S. is a beautiful country, and has a lot of beautiful people, regardless of their background, and I have made a lot of friends whilst I was there. It is also interesting to note that it is well considered that the Maori originated from Hawaii, an American state (we didn’t know that?? hhhmmmmm; whose ignorant now??)
    If I was to take the same stance, I could plead ignorant and advertise to the world that Americans were racist members of the KKK or that the British were all racists skinheads; however, I am not so ignorant as to do to them as they have done to us.
    No, I am not an Australian citizen but I am an Australian and glad I live in a country where I can raise my family in an environment considerably less racist than some countries I visited.
    Many of the comments I have read have done little to endear the cause of black Americans, but to endeavor to alienate Australians by the act of a few. I know that not all Americans or Britains are so stupid as to think that ALL Australians are racist, though it still hurts nonetheless.

  3. Millsie says:

    I honestly don’t think that the racism here in Oz is as bad as it was 15 years ago but that is not to say that it doesn’t exist. There can be a lot of culturally and racial insensitivity here and we don’t really think about the things we say when we open our mouths.

    My partner is originally from Malaysia and I remember attending a party with her 15 years ago and having a guy verbally abuse her by calling her a ‘gook’. There have also been occasions where she has been called a ‘chink’ and a ‘nip’ and whatever other derogative terms there are for someone of Asian descent. There were also times when people stared at us and made nasty, spiteful comments about us, but that does not happen at all now as interracial relationships are more common than they were when we started dating. (Perhaps we were pioneers!) I could go on and on about the times that she has been discriminated against, but I won’t.

    The problem as I stated is that many of us do not consider how other people may feel when we open our mouths and if we offend someone we simply think that it is them who have the problem.

  4. Millsie says:

    As for the way other nations have condemned us, I agree that it is hurtful as they all have their own problems too. I try not to comment on other nationalities too much as I am perhaps not as well versed on them as I am about Aussies and don’t want to appear too ignorant or look like a jackass.

  5. Tony says:

    I understand and agree; however; the term “Australian” refers to every man, woman and child in Australia, ALL of whom are considered “racist” in the eyes of those issuing those comments.
    It makes no never-mind as to the individual circumstances of those “Australians”.
    I have lived here for 30 years and I know that Australians in general are not racist; and yes, I have heard the taunts, about Kiwis and I think I pretty well know all the sheep “jokes” which wear pretty thin after awhile. In fact, there is a current bank advertisement for an Australian bank depicting an American ad agency treating New Zealand as nothing more than a retirement location for aged Australians. If you are in Australia, you’ll which one I’m referring to.
    Having said that, my disgust stems from being labeled a ‘racist’ along-with every other “Australian” whether a citizen or not; no doubt by hypocrites jumping on the bandwagon for their own glory.
    I understand that every country has it’s issues, but it does not provide the right to condemn every man, woman and child to such a degrading label.
    The label ‘racist’; is like a stain, once applied, it can never be removed as it is a mental perception unlike a physical barrier.
    In 10 or 20 years time, I’m sure most people will have forgotten all about this, however; many won’t as it is now marked in time.
    My reference to the Americans and Britains, refers to the extreme and absolute ignorance displayed towards “Australians”, which was totally uncalled for.
    Regardless of whether something is said from emotion, premeditation, or any other reason; the result is the same and the damage is done.
    It is certainly not for me to condemn others in such an ignorant fashion.

  6. Tony says:

    With regards to racism as such in Australia; there is no denying that it exists; as it does in every other country.
    However; I believe that in Australia racism has declined considerably over the years to a point which I believe makes it a far more tolerant nation when compared to many others around this world.
    I understand that the participants in the skit were actually of various darker skinned cultures and were of the view that what they were doing was not derogatory; however, when someone is looking for something to which they can use to defame another, it can be nothing more than the thoughtlessness of an individual to provide condemnation to a whole nation, made evidently clear by the attacks on Australia as a nation. Ignorance does nothing but enhance ignorance.
    The point I made earlier remains however, in that the stain of a racist label remains in the hearts and souls of many who know little of Australia.
    If someone who knows little about Australia feels that there may be a degree of racism in that country, these types of antagonistic comments merely serve to strengthen that believe and the cultural stereotyping that we see in the world.

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