When god made the human race he first prepared the dough and then put it in the oven. When he took the first people out, some of the people were a little burnt and they are the black people, some were underdone and they are the white people. Some were a beautiful golden yellow and they are the Asian people.

This Chinese fairytale underscores that xenophobia is universal. I thought that the “Red Faces about Blackfaces on Red Faces” BooHaHa had gone away but when I got up at 4:00 this morning to go to ABC Radio to do my real job, I discovered that it hadn’t.

Sky News had a dedicated news channel, the ABC overnight guy was doing a live link to the BBC and my cab driver was African.

“Are we racist in Australia?” I asked.

He paused. That, in itself, answered my question.

“I had a lot of trouble getting work when I first arrived here.”

Turns out were just as bad as the Chinese. And the Lithuanians.

Harry Connick Jr. was offended by a blackface Jackson Five caricature and voiced his objection immediately on the panel and at greater length, at his request, at the end of the show, an uncomfortable situation conducted with a degree of poise by the host Daryl Somers.

“Offend” is a verb that needs both subject and object. Americans are offended by blackface. Australians are largely not. It’s culturally specific and we have no particular history in regard to minstrel shows and “the portrayal of black people in these shows depicting them as buffoonish, lazy, superstitious ‘coons’ who were thieves, pathological liars and lascivious devils”. Sure, we’re racist but in a different way. In the UK they’re loving it. The story has media traction, because it confirms that we are the ignorant rednecks from prison island.

As one who is guilty by association, ( that’s me on the end, deflecting ) I’m now in the odd position of seeing the segment defended by people that I don’t want in my corner. There are a large number of implausible defences.

The act was performed by highly educated and intelligent adults.

The Michael Jackson impersonator was Indian.

The show is popular.

Harry Connick has appeared in blackface on American TV.

We never had slaves in Australia.

Transvestites don’t offend women.

It was just a joke.

When I got into the cab with the African driver this morning I had to suffer the ABC overnight guy linked to the BBC defend his country on the grounds that Australian TV is usually better than that. Good on yer.

Nuh. Irrelevant and off-topic. Here’s my take. A psychiatrist, a urologist, a cardiac specialist and a plastic surgeon walk into a television show and paint their faces black. They are not depicting the history of the black man and his place in American society. They are pretending to be the Jackson 5. Nobody laughs.

Red Symons is the nasty judge on Hey Hey’s Red Faces. He also presents the breakfast program on Melbourne’s ABC 774.