“bogan” racism? the raquel moore episode

SBS’s “Go Back To Where You Came From” has been that channel’s most successful project this year, reaching the worldwide top Twitter trending topics list two nights in a row (with the third episode airing tonight).

The idea is creative and brilliant – a documentary/social experiment/reality show all rolled into one. It harnesses the power of story over purely cognitive rhetoric, which has seemingly failed to change minds, and generally does not wield such transformative power (a reality that articles like this seem completely blind to).

On Twitter the confronting subject matter regarding refugees is not the only thing making waves; indeed one participant has become a Tweeting topic in her own right.

Raquel Moore has appeared across the Twitterverse, often coupled with labels like “bogan”, “ignorant” and other less repeatable companions.

True, Raquel did confess to being a racist in the first episode. Equally true is that after two episodes she does not seem to have shown any indication of changing her bigoted stance.

There is however still one episode to go.

For that reason it may be too early to comment. However something should be said about the name-calling that has gone on in the last two days.

While the word bogan may have originally been coined in the 70’s as a self-reference to acid-wash-jean-wearing fans of heavy metal and hard rock music, it has more recently come to be used to pejoratively refer to those of the lower class.

In my view the “bogan”, construed in this sense, is a myth created by the middle and upper classes as another way of separating ourselves from the lower classes. It helps us feel superior to them, and even unpolluted by their unrefined-ness.

To call someone a bogan in a derogative sense is necessarily to separate oneself from them, most usually in class terms. “Bogan” is, in the end, a tool in the war of myths wielded by those with power.

The stereotype that bogans are racists, or vice versa, is completely untrue. Sure, there are those in the lower classes who are racist, though the same can be said of some members of any socio-economic strata (I do, after all live in the Sutherland Shire, only minutes from Cronulla. Don’t bother telling me the middle classes are “enlightened”.)

What is ironic is the complete blindness of some members of the progressive Left (the side of the political threshold I generally find myself on) as we flood Twitter with reference to Raquel’s bogan-hood; we are doing precisely the same thing she is doing, namely separating ourselves from a group which we perceive to be inferior. Raquel may be racist, but we demonstrate our class-ism.

We perpetuate the same “us” and “them” mentality that she does.*

If progressives wish to view asylum seekers as victims of a broken global economic, social and political system (as I do) we really should consider extending the same grace to people who demonstrate the crass ignorance that Raquel does. Surely her growing up in a lower socio-economic suburb of Western Sydney played a part in her lack of education and thus ignorance concerning the refugee plight (she left school at 14). Moreover the fact that she left home at 13 should surely lead us to be suspicious of the condition of her home life as a child. I’m sure Raquel’s life has been far from perfect.

At the end of the day Raquel is, like asylum seekers, the victim of an inequitable global system (though perhaps not to the same extent). To demonise her is to be blinded by ones own log-filled eyes.

Those who wish to boldly announce their compassion for asylum seekers must do battle with their lack of compassion for those who often unwittingly suffer as a result of inequity in our own developed societies. This is not to say that all racists are socio-economic victims (talk-back radio will shake that notion right out of you), but that the widespread ignorance in Australia regarding social issues is not simply the evil of “them”. Indeed, “they” are “us”.

Raquel is perhaps most infuriating to us because she is a mirror; when we look at her we see the bigotry and hatred that flows through our own veins.

We have a choice whether we allow that same bigotry to be turned back toward her, perpetuating the spiral of hatred, or confronting and transforming that evil by responding with love and grace.

In the meantime I am hoping to see a transformation in tonight’s episode.


* In writing this post I do by no means wish to objectify Raquel, but simply to use her as a well-publicised example. I hope in the course of this post to humanise her while still calling her to the appropriate level of responsibility for her bigotry. That is to say I am not objectifying her, though I am neither being tolerant of her stated racism either.

Posted on June 23, 2011, in Culture & Art, Current Events and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. It was the biggest load of garbage! Yes it did raise issues, but it’s main role was to dictate emotion. Everyone has a story that can lead a listener to have empathy. Most of the refugees leave terrible countries for good reason, but they jump on two or three boats before they get to Australia. Which makes them economic refugees. When they arrive at their first destination they are no longer in danger or in life threatening situations. So that makes the destination of Australia purely for economic reasons. The way this show was put together, it hijacked viewers for empathy, it did not address both sides of the situation and more importantly present any possible solutions.

    • If the other side of the debate is that which you have presented here, then there is a reason it was not addressed.

      The concept of economic refugees is not only simplistic, it is based on a misunderstanding of human life. Just because refugees arrive in a place where they will not be murdered does not make it fit, or safe. There is more to living than simply surviving. To flourish as a human being requires more than absence of mortal danger.

      I imagine if you were placed in a similar economic situation you would not stay put.

  2. I really enjoyed reading your post, you made sense…and not a lot of people understand that when they criticize Raquel, stereotyping her as a ‘bogan’ or demonise her, they become bigots/racists themselves. I have yet to watch the last episode, so it will be interesting to see how she has changed. I agree, Raquel, might not had a healthy childhood or family up bringing, it takes

    Though i wished the series would have been a bit longer, to squeeze 25 days of experience down to 3 hours, is quite a hard task. It would have been interesting to see more of what they did – in saying this, i’m sure the creators were restricted in what they could show by SBS… or whoever is in charge.

    @get the facts – you sound a lot like Darren Hassan 😛

  3. I’m currently watching the follow up program to ‘Go Back’. The transformation that Raquel has experienced should be an encouragement to us all that people can change, that their perspectives can shift, and they can become better people through the stories of others and wall-destroying love.

  4. Didnt see the shows but loved your post – which I came across after watching the Bogan Love australia day video this morning (which ends…’there’s a little bit of bogan in all of us… deep down’) and doing some research to work out the bogan thing (I’ve been in Sydney 2 years and never heard the term before!) So thanks for a great post – I am bookmarking it!

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