It was meant to be a feelgood story of celebrity generosity. George Smith has shaved off his trademark dreadlocks and is donating them to be auctioned by charity CanTeen. The Sunrise team on Channel 7 were having a nice time joking about how they might be bought by the South African rugby players, seeing as they are always grabbing them during the game.
Then someone blurted [paraphrasing] “but who’d want them really? Greasy things.” Another team member quickly said “No!” and then the hole was dug deeper “Yeah, you can’t wash them, can you?”
ACTUALLY, YES YOU CAN AND PEOPLE WITH LOCS WASH THEIR HAIR REGULARLY. IT IS A RACIST LIE THAT HAIR IN LOCS CANNOT BE WASHED AND IS DIRTY, SMELLY ETC. [link] YOU OWE THE MAN A PUBLIC APOLOGY.
[Update 8:07am: Mark Beretta has now read out an alleged SMS which says that locs actually are regularly washed and are not dirty and smelly, but that clarification falls far short of a proper apology for the original slur] Further updates below the fold.
I honestly can’t remember exactly who said it, although I’m pretty sure it was newsreader Natalie Barr (if I am wrong I will retract and apologise), whom I’ve seen make the occasional faux-pas blurt before. Did she mean to be deliberately racist? Almost definitely not, but it was a pig-ignorant thing to say, and someone in her position has no excuse for that.
Apologise to George Smith, and everybody who wears their hair in locs, whoever said it. And make that apology on air if you have any guts or class. A nice big donation to CanTeen wouldn’t go astray either.
Send Seven Sunrise an email [link]. I have.
[Update 9:25am: after writing this post I realised I had received an email time-stamped 7:11am from Mark Beretta in a gratifyingly rapid response to my complaint. I don't have permission to quote from his email, but essentially it merely acknowledged that he knew about "dreads" from talking to George Smith personally. There was no acknowledgement of my concerns about the slur on Smith's personal hygiene and the general racist slant to the slur, nor an identification of who said what.
I replied at 7:54am that since he knew better, why was he letting the slur stand? I then disclosed my connection to LP and the existence of this post, that I had tentatively identified Ms Barr as the utterer of the remarks and would appreciate clarification in order to make any necessary corrections. As noted above, the next news section on Sunrise included a weak clarification regarding the cleanliness of locs, but that was it. I had to go on the school run then, so I don't know what happened later in the programme. I do know I haven't received any further emails from anyone at Seven.]
crossposted at Larvatus Prodeo