entertainment

Dear Karl Stefanovic, your casual racism was not okay. And nor is this apology.

You’ve let us down, Karl. You were a feminist warrior, grumpy cat interviewing star and then… this?

Yesterday, Today show host and human embodiment of the ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ emojicon, Karl Stefanovic made an on-air gaffe. Not out of character for Karl, but this one wasn’t funny or goofy.

It was just racist.

That time Karl was an awesome feminist: You can buy Karl Stefanovic’s stinky feminism suit.

Talking to a group of Indian cricket fans in the lead up to Thursday’s World Cup semi-final between Australia and India, Stefanovic said: “I was just going to ask…who’s going to be manning 7-Elevens today?”

Karl engages in some on air “sledging”.

The men good-naturedly laughed off the offensive stereotype but one of the supporters fired back: “I’m not sure about who’s going to be manning 7-Elevens but you might have to look at Centrelink as well I think Karl”.

Earlier in the show, Karl had also managed to offend New Zealand cricket fans by suggesting they collectively be referred to as the “dole bludger army.”

Har har har….. except, again, not funny.

The two comments understandably sparked some anger from many Indians and New Zealanders, with many taking to the Today show Facebook page and Twitter to vent their discomfort with Karl’s — all too comfortable — casual racism.

This morning, in an ill-fated attempt to make good Karl addressed the criticism and issued this apology:

“For those watching yesterday, I made two remarks that got plenty of you hot under the collar so a mea culpa this morning from me,” he said.

“The comments were only ever intended to be taken in the most lighthearted possible way but as most of you know, I have a way with my misguided sense of humour. In fact as many of you say — and have pointed out — I have no sense at all.

“Firstly to those members of the Indian community — our guest yesterday gave as good as he got and that banter continued in the true spirit of the World Cup after the show. We had a great conversation. He owned me on-air and he owned me off-air.

“It was thought to be fun — it was fun. I enjoyed it, he enjoyed it but some of you didn’t. For anyone interpreting the comments in a different way, my sincere heartfelt apologies. I love India and I love the contribution Indians make across many different vocations in this great country.

“Our country is richer for having you — and so are our sauces.”

“For my Kiwi brothers and sisters … Kia ora. Calling you dole bludgers was an awful, cheap stereotype and just not true. As we all know — you can’t get the dole in Australia.

“Just because you’ve got a cool, happening and effective government and a really, really attractive lot of livestock doesn’t mean I should take the sheep out of you.”

Oi…. Clearly Karl is doing his usual thing and just trying to be funny and good natured but this apology may have made things worse and not better.

To be clear, I am a Karl fan. Usually.

I enjoy his unabashed dad-brand humour as much as the next person.

But I fear that this whole incident will be written off as a bit of harmless “sledging”, to be taken in the the “true spirit of the World Cup”. After all, this kind of casual racism — the lighthearted, fun kind — doesn’t really hurt anyone, does it?

Except that it really, really does.

You’ve let us down, Stefanovic.

Casual racism perpetuates shallow stereotypes and enforces unfounded notions of difference. Casual racism is reflective of a much deeper and more sinister problem in Australia where we fear difference, where we hide from diversity and yes, where intolerance and hatred are allowed to breed.

I don’t suggest for a moment this is a problem unique to Karl Stefanovic, nor that he intended to cause harm or hurt. But his comments and unwitting offensiveness are reflective of how many in our country behave, which is a great shame.

Here in Australia, casual racism is far too common. And not only of we tend to overlook it — on our sporting fields, in our class rooms and in our media — we actually laugh at it. But for the individuals it effects it can cause isolation, shame, embarrassment and deep, deep hurt.

That needs to stop. Racism, however “casual”, is always unacceptable.

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