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Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Great Australian Racist (Title stolen from Twitter)

If you've not been watching SBS's powerful doco/reality event "Go back to where you came from" then stop right now and give yourself a slap. It's OK, I'll wait. If you have been watching - well done you.

Right, let's move on from your embarrassment. So you can play along I have kindly cut and pasted the SBS website's show synopsis below.

"Six ordinary Australians agree to challenge their preconceived notions about refugees and asylum seekers by embarking on a confronting 25-day journey. Tracing in reverse the journeys that refugees have taken to reach Australia, they travel to some of the most dangerous and desperate corners of the world, with no idea what is in store for them along the way. 



"Go back to where you came from" has been utterly mind blowing to say the least, however I wish to focus on one of the 6 participants who has become quite the "star." 
Twenty one year old year old Raquel.






Raquel lives with her bikie boyfriend Levi (who has an immaculately platted ratstail) and their 12 staffordshire terriers in Sydney's Blacktown. 

Her acrylic nails have southern cross tips and she pronounces Australia: "Straya." 
Two minutes into the introductory package Raquel admits she's racist and that:
"Blacktown really has become black town." 

After hearing that little gem I turned to my husband and said: "Hello, what do we have here? This one's going to challenge a few people." Too right she did, she almost broke twitter.

Raquel is a television producer's wet dream- she's a walking sound bite. I was quoting her after a couple of minutes. My friends and I are already planning our Raquel halloween costumes. 
I dare say there will be a Raquel drag show coming to a gay bar near you. She's THAT GOOD and by good I mean fearless. It's as though Chris Lilley dreamed her up or if Kath and Kim had a politically incorrect cousin. 

So far she has threatened to knock one of the other participants (63 yr old Raye) "fucking head off her fucking shoulders" and proved that you can construct an entire sentence using just the word "fuck." 

Upon arriving at the Refugee process centre in Kenya she told the registration officer who asked her what she did in her country of origin: "Nothin, I do nothin'. I just stay home and do nothin'."

Oh yes, she's quite the peach.


Raquel is an easy target for those of us who, well, aren't racist. She challenged me very early on and I went to write several scathing tweets but managed to catch myself and relax. 
Her frank admissions to growing up in a racist family and hating Africans were confronting and not something we would normally see or hear in an open forum. 

I wondered why she put me on edge? Did I have a little bit of "Raquel" in me? Her intolerance is on the surface but perhaps mine was deeper down and she was evoking it and causing some discomfort. A bit of psychological projection perhaps? After the Cronulla riots it was suggested that there was an underlying racist culture in Australia. I believe that to be true.

Well after some reflection I decided Raquel wasn't unearthing some deep dark feelings because I'm not racist. In fact, my Dad came here with my Grandparents on a boat in 1954 searching for a better life as things had become so bad in Italy. I feel nothing but compassion for asylum seekers, but I digress. 

I admire her for taking part in this experiment which I think would be challenging for the average person let alone a self confessed racist who has no tolerance for refugees or asylum seekers. I have found her entertaining, offensive and honest. I think this experiment would have been less compelling without her.

There has been some significant personal growth in the other six participants but Raquel has stood strong in her intolerance. I very much doubt we're going to see a fairytale ending here. 

We'd probably all like to see her skip off into the sunset holding hands with an African child but I think her beliefs are so deeply intrenched and the environment in which she lives in will hamper any potential attitude shift. 

The final installment is on tonight and I encourage you all to tell a friend. Preferable a racist friend... Ok that sounds wrong but you get the idea. 

8:30pm SBS.


6 comments:

Marc said...

I also have been watching and enjoying this eye-opening show. I'm not going to write about how offensive Raquel is. I'm very interested in her motivation for agreeing to participate, and I'm wondering/hoping if that will become evident in tonights final episode. I have two thoguhts: she is either trying to change her attitude, or looking for her 15 minutes of fame. Lets remember she put her hand up for this. SHe knows she is racist, she knew she was going to learn more about refugees. I'm really hoping its because she recognises the world she lives in is changing, and she is trying to change her attitude. I hope shes not there for just her time in the spotlight.

lily said...

I'm not going to judge raquel, that's been done and hopefully soon, dusted. My first feelings when her intro come on was shock that anyone could openly come out and say these things. 'WHAT?? DID SHE REALLY JUST SAY THAT?? I also feared for her safety (and still do). After popping my eyes back in and reigning in a few not so choicely worded tweets from the twitter stream, I too relaxed and realised raquel represents several aussies who feel the same way, the odd tweet on #gobacksbs at twitter proved that (OMG! and shudder*). But I've known racism has been alive and well in Oz for yonks, just that it's underground mostly and no-one will openly come out and say it, except for Raquel apparently.

I just hope people can realise that Raquel has her own story that has shaped her very naive life. Now I'd like to thank her and her ballsy no fear stand up i'm the fucking elephant in the room hot potato chick, you get the idea -- because now everyone is talking about racism, one of the biggest taboo subjects around, and THAT is a good thing, there are thousands of lives on the line at this moment in time. I wish her all the best in her new life, because I doubt she will ever EVER see things quite the same again.

Looking forward to tonight's final series, then the TV is off for a few nights for a little emotion TLC.

Much enjoyed your article Em, and always on the whiparound, FUNNY GIRL! ~lily

sinyo said...

I have been watching the show and i am really impressed by the content, it really helps people understand and put themselves in the asylum seekers shoes and ask yourself "what would i do if that was me?"

Like you Em, Raquel really pissed me off initially but as i kept watching i realized she's just a product of he upbringing and as they "can't teach a dog new tricks". All that we can hope for is that the program will help people think about the refugee situation from a different perspective.

I know people were shocked by what Raquel said but it happens on the street everyday and once you hear it a couple of times it just rolls off your back.

Can't wait for the series finale today, hope that the people who really need to see it actually do.

Thanks for the article very interesting read and the tweets are just as good.

Claire said...

i think glorifying her and judging her are the wrong actions to take, if anything she is so confrinting because she is a mirror to australian society.

i also begin to think why the producers chose a young female from the western suburbs, to be the most outwardly racist, featured on the program. does this not only extend to stereotypes and further develop the current divide between australians. the outpouring of hate on social networkings site which i am uncomfortable, the 'deport Raquel Moore' Facebook group is notable, for i knew people like Raquel existed long before this show.

i just reckon hating her is wrong because we hate her because, SHE hates unjustifiably.

Kim said...

I was SO intrigued by Raquel, although it was hard to put my finger on the reason why. Yeah, her comments were outrageous. By the final episode it was clear she had experienced a mindshift. I admired the way she comforted the African women and at the end she said she would approach Africans in Blacktown to hear their stories. There was something about her - her voice and her face - I felt a bit obsessed with her..... :-)

Kez said...

I write this after watching the final installment:

I was surprised at how she turned around and I commended her for it. I hope she was sincere.
At times I thought, "DID SHE JUST SAY THAT?! IS SHE THAT CLUELESS?!"
But other times I thought about how she had to agree to do the show in the first place, knowing her views might be challenged. She didn't let her pride get in the way (at the end of it all) and was able to admit to changing her views. It takes a big person to allow hard facts and evidence to be thrown at you when you've tried hard to maintain your ignorance your whole life.

That's what the show has been about and if everyone on it already had the views that matched mine when they went in, there wouldn't be a show.

I will rave about this clever social experiment forever. I hope every Aussie watches this. As my husband said, "It would be so good if they just kept sending more and more people on similar trips until everyone gets it."

Seriously, facebook would be a better place for it haha.