TV show ‘racists won’t watch’
Comedian and broadcaster Michael Hing knows racists aren't going to watch his series, Where Are You Really From?
The SBS docuseries returns for its third season on Tuesday, with Hing and his crew taking viewers into migrant communities around the country, telling their stories of hardship and hope, and how they too are part of the Australian story.
But Hing understands there's a certain kind of viewer who are predisposed to a TV show like Where Are You Really From?
"I don't kid myself," he told news.com.au. "I don't think I'm going to convince any racists not to racists by putting out this show. I don't think hardcore racists are watching SBS.
"The reality is, the people who are probably going to watch this show probably already have a sympathetic mind towards this kind of show. That's why they're tuning in."
Those who do tune in to this new season will hear stories from the Serbian community in Wollongong, Albanian Muslims in Shepparton, Greeks in Darwin and Vietnamese people in Brisbane.
Where Are You Really From? subjects may come from different backgrounds but the common thread among them is a great desire to be welcomed into the wider Australian community while retaining their cultural identity.
There's often a tension between celebrating one's migrant heritage and a demand - often from blustering politicians - to integrate or assimilate into what is perceived by some as an Australian monoculture rooted in Anglo-Saxon identity.
"Everyone we spoke to was so grateful that they could come to Australia and find a place to live peacefully and start a new life with a community and home for their family.
"It's often the next generation that are more aware of the differences," Hing said. "One thing I noticed, because people are so appreciative of finding a new home in Australia and because they see the promise of what Australia could be, it makes any racism they or their children experience so much more disappointing.
"Mostly, Australia is pretty good, so it gives you the expectations that everything is going to be great and then, unfortunately, individuals influenced by structures of power ruin it for you, make you feel less welcome and that you're not good enough."
Hing is a fifth-generation Chinese-Australian, growing up in Sydney's Sutherland Shire during the era of Pauline Hanson's first parliamentary term and the Cronulla Riots.
Like many Australians from a culturally diverse background, he has been the target of racist attacks, especially as someone with a public profile in the media. A stand-up comedian, he was previously on SBS's youth focused current affairs program The Feed and now co-hosts the Drive slot on Triple J.
"If you have a broad enough audience, there are going to be people who don't approve of what you do. As someone who works in the media, I accept that," he said.
"But there is a kind of criticism that I would get that my white colleagues wouldn't - people calling me ch**k and telling me to go back to China or accuse me of being involved in the WHO plot to release coronavirus.
"The reality is, for some people, despite the fact that I was born here, my parents were born here, my grandparents were born here, my great-grandparents were here, I'll never be Australian enough for them, because of how I look.
"Those people exist, and those people aren't just racists in basements on the internet. They have jobs, some of them hire and fire people, they're throughout society."
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Where Are You Really From? may be coming out at a time when more and more people are examining the systems in which bias, prejudice and racism overtly and covertly affect so many people's lives but Hing doesn't want to conflate his show with the Black Lives Matter movement, which he said is dealing with serious issues of police brutality in Australia and overseas.
"Systems of structural inequality are all linked, but the show isn't a hardcore show about police violence," he said.
"This show isn't didactic in teaching people stuff, but it is illuminating. If you watch the show, you'll come away thinking about people's stories and understanding their humanity in a way that will probably make you reflect on your relationships with communities that are different than yours.
"There's a broad range of experiences in Australia. There are stories that I, before doing this show, couldn't have predicted. There are people's stories of hardship where they're escaping wars and horrible situations to their stories of hope, starting in a new country.
"It's not a lesson but an incredibly enriching experience."
Where Are You Really? From starts on SBS and SBS On Demand on Tuesday, June 23 at 9.30pm
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Originally published as TV show 'racists won't watch'