Saturday, 23 August 2014
Beheadings, radicalists, foiled terror plots, a war in a far off land, Ebola… The media has been well and truly living up to its role of promoting a culture of fear, so I’ve lately been consciously avoiding anything that might get me thinking about racism in Australia. It’s exhausting to allow so much outrage into one’s life and, frankly, it’s much easier when you switch it all off, or at least stop caring so much.
But this video was hard for me to ignore. In it, a young Australian man unleashes an unrelenting torrent of racist abuse at a security guard who speaks with an accent and who has a different colour of skin. The person filming the abuse can be heard sniggering away in the background as the clearly intoxicated man goes on to abuse everyone who tries to stand up to him. Apart from being captured on video, I’ve seen this exact scenario play out countless times for more than 30 years.
The young man in the video is apparently 17 year-old Kader Boumzar, who claims on his Facebook profile “I was just drunk couldn’t remember shit so stop over reacting,but I am proud to be white! OWS STAND STRONG!”.
He continues, “I’m really sorry to everyone that was affected by the video I really can not remember anything out of all honesty the post made before was someone else I know this is no excuse. But can you all see fromy my point of view that I was a Fucking idiot and I’m really sorry.”
Responses to the video have been fairly predictable:
- You’ve got the higher-thinking members of the dominant class/culture saying that he’s vile and that he should be punished;
- You’ve got members of minority groups reacting with horror as they privately relive the torment they suffered at the hands of racists in primary school and highschool; and
- You’ve got the people who would excuse his behaviour because he’s drunk.
What’s most interesting to me is that Kader Boumzar is clearly not “white”. A name like that is more likely to be Middle Eastern. Maybe Lebanese. I’m not sure, to be honest. But if he wasn’t born in Australia, he was most certainly raised in Australia.
I’m reminded of a speech in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. Everyone knows this one – it’s the one that goes:
“He hath disgraced me and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies—and what’s his reason? I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge.”
It’s the speech that makes the antagonist, Shylock, a sympathetic character. It’s what’s on the tip of everyone’s tongue in any discussion about race and equality.
But for me, the more salient quote is what Shylock says next:
“The villainy you teach me I will execute—and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.”
What do you think Kader Boumzar is doing?
Where do you think he learned this behaviour from?
It seems Mr Boumzar has disabled his Facebook profile. At least he’s not a complete idiot.