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Colourblind? Or just blind

by Jan Villalon

As Andrew Bolt faces court charges regarding his controversial blog entries about white Aboriginals, opinions are divided. But what’s really at stake here- the things he is saying, or the fact that he is even saying them at all?

The issue of censorship is a significant one of course, but there is something more missing here. Maybe Bolt, by trying to facilitate discussion on ethnic identity, is addressing the need for further discourse about ethnicity and culture in general.

In other words, if Bolt isn’t going to bring up issues regarding race, then who is? I’m no Bolt apologist- far from it, in fact. But it is interesting to note the apparent lack of any real discourse of the complexities of our multicultural society in the media.

Australia is fortunate to be rich in cultural diversity, making it one of the most dynamic and vibrant places to be.

But take a look at the media and you’ll find the faces and topics of discussion don’t necessarily reflect the wider scope of the population. While opinion columns and blogs are rife with analyses of politics and feminism in the media, discussion regarding race and its complexities is largely muted.

Documentary filmmaker John Safran attempted to address such issues in his latest series, Race Relations. In a conversation I had with him, he said he found himself constantly trying to justify the show. Media players just weren’t interested in issues like mixed-race dating.

“The interesting thing about Australia is you can never expect much from the mainstream,” he said. “Even the thinking media just seems to be not really interested in questions of ethnicity unless it’s really dramatic.”

While examples of push-button issues like the burqa, violence against Indians and the plight of the boat people are certainly worth discussion, they often appear to achieve more in polarising public opinion than facilitating constructive discourse.

To address such issues, individual blogs such as Slanted and The Eurasian Sensation have sprung up. There are newspapers dedicated to the Indian and Greek community, among others. SBS, to its credit, allocates a lot of funding to multicultural radio and television programmes. But they represent only a small minority, and don’t represent mainstream coverage.

Some would say such discussion isn’t necessary, because Australia is multicultural enough. But is it because we’re really colourblind? Or are we just whitewashing over the bigger issues?

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Posted under: Media ethics
Dated: Oct 25 2010

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