Ameer & Joe

While the title may be inflamatory, the content of this strong new series on ABC2 Dumb, Drunk & Racist is intentionally so. Why is it that a whole other culture thinks this of me, of my country? Oh, that’s right – because on the whole, we are.

The horrid nature of racism has reared it’s head in Australia in very public ways in the last few years. Be it the Cronulla riots of 2005 or the protest against violence toward Indian students and cab drivers in Melbourne’s CBD in 2009, Australia has made the headlines around the world for events that seem so against what we like think of as Australia’s global reputation – The lucky country, where visitors can throw a shrimp on the barbie and see some amazing natural wonders as our happy-go-lucky attitude makes you feel welcome and safe. Yet Indians, more than any other country, think of Australia as an extremely dangerous place to visit – so much so the lucrative international education market has all but dried up in the last 3 years.

Where DDR succeeds is it doesn’t pretend to have all the answers. In fact, it presents the four participants (Amer Singh, Radhika Buhdwar, Gurmeet Chaudhary & Mahima Bhardwaj) with a unique proposition: come and be exposed to some of the best and worst Australia has to offer, and make up your own mind. Don’t just listen to alarmist local & international media – see the country for yourself and decide if we really are the simple-minded bogans you hear about/deal with every day.

Host & News Limited columnist Joe Hildebrand presents the show with buckets of self-deprecating humour. While he may not be everyone’s cup of tea, his approach serves the show extremely well by presenting many of the situations in a manner that may catch you off guard. He is direct when it comes to facing all sorts of prejudice and is willing to ask the right (or wrong) questions to ensure there’s a developing conversation. Or conflict.

The participants are, in themselves, an incredible group of human beings. Amer (a law student) offers a youthful enthusiasm, almost suggesting he doesn’t think it’ll be as bad as everyone says, however it’s his reaction to the footage of the Cronulla riots that provide some of the deepest humanity seen on TV in some time. He hurts, he weeps with empathy for the victims in the middle of the fracas, and has to acknowledge that the most disturbing part of it was that so many people in the mob seemed to be enjoying themselves. Enjoying the fact they were all there to beat someone to death (given the chance) just because they were from another country.

It’s an incredible journey. Mahima’s innocence as a call centre worker is tested not by the racism she sees so blatantly in the first episode, but by the sight of seeing a woman in a g-string on Bondi Beach (“I can see both her bottoms!”); Gurmeet (a news anchor) is perplexed at how a seemingly “normal” society can allow such abhorrent actions and attitudes from, thankfully, the minority; while Radhika (an international educational placement consultant) is willing to let a conversation about women wearing burhkas take place while holding both participants in the argument to account over their positions – would we be as cognisant or as willing to call someone who we may agree with out as they waiver into insanity with their point?

The visit of the team to the Villawood Detention Centre to meet with protesters who stand at the gate and demand that refugees be sent home is made even more delicious when the words are heard come from mouths representing at least three other nationalities as 1st generation migrants to this country. A visit to a Murri school on the edge of Alice Springs is made even more poignant when reflected against the violence experienced by the group while filming in town. When the group attend a Bachelor’s & Spinster’s Ball, all bets are off as to what the visitors will and won’t experience. Someone may have even gotten at least one of them drunk.

Dumb, Drunk & Racist is the most important television since Go Back To Where You Came From aired in 2011 (both made by the Cordell Jigsaw group). The series shows us at our very worst and very best and doesn’t shy away from the extremes of either. Hildebrand is more than tolerable; his approach offers a crystal clear view of who we are and what we’re doing. There’s no sugar-coated happy endings or manufactured conflicts, simply a tour that opens the eyes of the participants and the viewer as we learn about how far we’ve come as country towards real reconciliation and acceptance of people from other countries and cultures… and just how far we still have to go.

Dumb, Drunk & Racist – Wed 9:30pm, ABC2.