Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Race Over

Carolyn Habib, Liberal candidate for the South Australian seat of Elder, has described this pamphlet (pictured at right) and distributed in her electorate by the ALP as filthy and racist.

I have scoured this pamphlet, and I cannot find a single suggestion of ethnicity, culture, skin colour or religion anywhere. Oddly enough, neither can Ms Habib! According to News Limited, she finds the pamphlet 

“…very very offensive and very un-Australian
“I think it is a very thinly veiled racist attack against my surname,” she said. 
“It’s a new low and a very, very filthy campaign in what has already been a dirty campaign over the past few weeks.”

Let’s think about that for a moment. Ms Habib’s only complaint is that it’s an attack against her surname? She’s not claiming that the flyer contains an untruths, any reference to her ethnic heritage or skin colour?

Does Ms Habib find her own surname to be racially offensive?

I too have an unusual surname with challenging ethnic roots, but I don’t scream for the racism police every time someone uses it as, say, on an envelope addressed to me, as part of my email address or in reference to me. It’s my name, and I’m actually proud of it, despite having called “La Cookooracha” or “Piranha” since I started school. 

If Ms Habib was serving in the Australian military, she’d be wearing a uniform with her surname on it every single day. It's not healthy to dislike your name.

There is the possibility that the intent of this pamphlet was to emphasise the surname in the hope that voters would see a middle-eastern name and perform some gold medal standard jumping to conclusions that would lead them to vote for someone else. If so, it’s racism by assumption. But we can’t know that. We can only go on the face value of the pamphlet, which is entirely free of racism.

It’s something of a moot point anyway. The name “Habib” will be printed on the ballet papers, and if voters have that much of problem with it, they won’t write 1 in the box beside the name. If the owner of the name believes it’s damaging her chances of winning the election, she needs to find a better PR team – or change it to something she believes is more palatable to Liberal voters. Smith, perhaps? 

Having said that, I’d like to sit down and chat with whoever put the pamphlet together and with the person who authorised its use. It’s poorly written, and poorly laid out and the imagery doesn’t seem to be connected to the message. I don’t understand the choice of fonts or colours. I’d hold this up as an example of mediocre campaign material, and I’d leave it out of my portfolio. The ALP needs to do better.

But it’s not supposed to be pretty, or arty. It’s the pamphlet version of an attack ad. It’s the Habib equivalent of Kevin-O-Lemon. It makes the point about rate increases during Ms Habib’s time as a councillor, although the rest of the message is a bit lost due to the poor wording. It's unlikely to have much of an impact on voting intention.

Ms Habib needs to learn to love her name, and stop whipping out the race card at every opportunity. This unreasonable charge of filthy racism is only undermining her own cause.

Random Thought: If this is a strategy to get Ms Habib out into the limelight and make her Australian identity known, it may be a masterstroke. After this, her name should not be an issue with anyone except the most ignorant and racist voters. If that's the case, well done.

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