Thursday, December 07, 2006

Racist Rolf

Rolf Harris is an Australian-born artist and singer who is particularly popular as a children's entertainer in England. He has received the highest accolade possible for a portrait painter in that the Queen recently sat for him.

He has now apologised for using racist language in the song that launched his career, Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport, written in 1957:

"The opening lines tell of a dying stockman giving his friends instructions on how they should treat his pet animals, such as "keep me cockatoo cool, Curl" and "take me koala back, Jack" before the fifth verse:

Let me Abos go loose, Lou,
Let me Abos go loose.
They're of no further use, Lou,
So let me Abos go loose.
Altogether now!

In an interview with Radio Scotland to be broadcast on Sunday, 76-year-old Harris admitted that those lines were racist and said he wished he had never written them.


At the time, it was common for Aborigines (often abbreviated as "Abos") to work in the Australian cattle industry as cowboys etc. They were however viewed as unreliable employees (principallly because of their custom of "going walkabout" (decamping) at unpredictable and inconvenient times) and were paid less than white employees. It was however one of the few employment avenues open to many of them because of their low levels of education etc.

Subsequently, empoyers were forced by law to pay Aborigines at the same rate as white employees -- thus bringing to an almost total end Aboriginal employment in the cattle industry. They are now heavily dependant on welfare payments from the Federal government.

Interestingly, the judges who brought down the equal pay ruling said at the time that they knew that the Aborigines were less valued employees and that the ruling would throw most of them out of work. The Harris song did then express the common view of Aborigines at the time -- as being of little use. Similar views are probably still widely held but can no longer be safely expressed, of course.

Some people of ill-will have apparently suggested that the line in the song, "Let me Abos go loose" implies that Aborigines were enslaved at the time. Only a Leftist would think so. The evident meaning of the line is to "Let them go" in modern parlance -- i.e. cease to employ them.

No comments: