15 July 2010
Ranga -- Derogatory and Offensive?
It is pretty hard to see how the Labor Party can pull this one out of the fire as they are behind in all the polls and it would seem that there is some Labor fatigue in the electorate.
However, where there is a will there is a way and O'Farrell would not be the first NSW Opposition leader to shoot themselves in the foot on the way into a seemingly un-lose-able election!
This is evident in a recent Twitter post the leader of the opposition made, supposedly off the record, to a journalist, Latika Bourke. He referred to Australia's current Prime Minister as a "Ranga". Now ranga is derived from the word orangutan (in Indonesia this is an abbreviation of the words orang hutan, which means simply forest dweller). The word reflects the colour of one's hair, in this case, red. There is little doubting that the PM's hair has been a topic of discussion over the years as it moves between various shades of red.
However, the offense is not so much singling the PM out for the colour of her hair, but rather referring to her as a monkey. It was not all that long ago Australians were up in arms when one of our cricketers, Andrew Symonds, was called a monkey by a visiting Indian player, Harbajan Singh. When will people realise that calling other people monkeys is going to attract attention, most probably negative, despite the intent.
The 'tweet' was regarding the problems that the Liberal Party was having in selecting candidates in key seats leading into the 'soon' to be announced Federal Election. Verbatim the tweet reads like this:
My guess is he could have said the same thing in a different way and made the same point, even though Twitter restricts posters to 140 characters or less. This also reflects how much more difficult it is to have things off the record in the twitter-verse. O'Farrell realised the error of his ways pretty quickly and removed the offending tweet. However, this was not done soon enough and people had already re-tweeted it and as they say, the rest is history.
As an aside, on my most recent practicum placement, I had a red-headed student in one of my classes and he was regularly referred to as a ranga. This did not seem to bother him though, and was seemingly accepted as par for the course. I was only observing the class, but apparently the offensive nature of the word had been discussed. Yet, the young lad referred to himself as a ranga as well. So, it is perhaps an interesting debate as to whether the context and the usage of the word is exclusively offensive or are there times when it can be co-opted and used as a source of empowerment.