There are a number of f-words that bring joy to people including food, fun and festivities. This appears to be what prestigious St Pauls College in Sydney was aiming for as part of its Colonial-India themed dinner. The theme saw guests arrive in white tie or colonial uniform whilst they were served by Indian and south-Asian waiters in traditional garb.
It had all have gone pretty much unnoticed until the university newspaper published a letter from outraged student, Mason McCann. This set off a fiery debate on Facebook escalating this morning to an article in Sydney Morning Herald and even eliciting a response from theNSW Anti-Discrimination Board president, Stephan Kerkyasharian.
The root question being, ‘is this form of reenactment discrimination?’. Angry student Mason McCann thinks so, whilst the catering manager who provided the Indian staff and the Anti-Discrimination Board president do not. The SMH records a response from the catering company Sodexo state manager Ram Devagiri, that all his staff who have south Asian backgrounds were having an “absolute ball” and had become “annoyed” at the insinuation of racial undertones. “We didn’t go looking for a couple of Indian-looking blokes and bring them in. They work there [at college] all the time”.
Anti-Discrimination Board president Stephan Kerkyasharian’s opinion concurs that since there was no insistence that only people from the Indian sub-continent could serve as waiters, there was in fact no discrimination, and whilst the act might offend some people, it did not intend to vilify.
Across in US, Civil War reenactments are a common and popular past time. Reliving history, including demonstrations of black slave auctions at theme park Colonial Williamsburg, give todays generation an appreciation of time and place.
However this political debate is only one half of the equation, the second being economics. NSW is host to a significant south-Asian community where international students from the sub-continent are a tremendous economic life-line to the university and one of Australia’s biggest exports. Considering that racial discrimination is a debate that quickly flares into an uncontrollable blaze, we must enter conscientiously into celebrating when the economic consequences may be our greatest profit or very downfall.
Inter-cultural communication is a fundamental in the day-to-day, it is must be reviewed and revisited regularly. Our cultural communications training will illustrate the method to effective communication to answer the economic equation, alongside the socially politically solution.