Have you ever slipped behind on updating your software? Years go by, and you’re familiar and comfortable with the old way of doing things, but before too long you’re so out of date that you suffer a catastrophic crash?
That might be how Kerri-Anne Kennerley is feeling today, following the storm of controversy over her comments slamming anti-Australia Day protestors, and citing horrifying examples of crime in some indigenous communities as a good reason not to be talking about a date change.
‘OK, the 5000 people who went through the streets making their points known, saying how inappropriate the day is. Has any single one of those people been out to the Outback, where children, babies, five-year-olds are being raped?’ complained a clearly irritated Kennerley.
Fellow panellist Yumi Stynes took immediate exception to the sweeping and inflammatory statement, which reduced a very complex national discussion to one issue – as well as reducing the whole indigenous community to a very disturbing caricature.
‘That is not even faintly true, Kerri-Anne,’ said Stynes. ‘You’re sounding quite racist right now.’
This is a generational issue, as much a political one. Few people I know under 40 would feel comfortable expressing the views that Kennerley did.
Times change and attitudes change. I’m no pearl-clutching PC zealot, but when I recently watched old episodes of 1990s sketch comedy hit Fast Forward on a digital TV channel, I was shocked at the overt racism and homophobia.
Some of the sketches were acted out by someone who today is well known for their perfect progressive credentials.
I’m certain that back then I laughed at some of it, as did millions of people who tuned in each week. I wouldn't now.
As time goes by we get more enlightened. It’s important not to get too comfortable with our view of the world – always challenge yourself and give new ideas and perspectives a hearing out, even if they make you deeply uncomfortable.
While Kerri-Anne no doubt felt she was on the side of right by highlighting some horrible crimes that many people would rather not even think about, she made a big mistake by reducing a highly complex situation to a series of shocking soundbites.
It's also a matter of modern manners; in 2019 she should not have felt she was the right person to express what aboriginal people want.
There are plenty of indigenous people who would be happy for the chance to have a voice on Studio 10 when issues affecting them are discussed. The program’s rotating panel format makes this entirely doable.
Indigenous people are as diverse in their views and experiences as the non-indigenous, and the thousands of marchers – from all races and walks of life – who protested on Australia Day are not invalidated in their views because they allegedly aren’t also talking about sexual assault, extreme poverty, or visiting remote communities.
In the wake of the TV drama, there has been a lot of noise, some of it very ugly. Name calling and abuse rarely helps in these situations.
Encouraging people to open their ears to new perspectives often does help, enormously. Let’s talk, and more importantly, let’s listen.
So many minds can be changed that way.