Attitudes will alter perceptions 

THE video that came to light this week of foul-mouthed racists abusing a French woman on a Melbourne bus is disturbing to say the least.

But what's more disturbing is the undercurrent of bigotry in our community that it speaks to.

It starts with a group of French tourists at the back of the bus singing after a day at the beach.

Some intellectual giant at the front makes the retort, "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi, oi, oi" which sets off another bloke who tells the group to, "speak English or die motherf---er".

Red-faced from rage or booze or both, a cigarette tucked behind his ear and sunglasses on top of his head at 11pm, he's the reason people avoid public transport.

He threatens to cut the woman's breasts off, calls her a dog, a bitch and a fat, ugly c--- and rants about how black people should be kept at the back of buses.

A pack mentality soon develops though, and others join in. A commuter offers him a beer and the use of his fishing knife.

Another man joins in after taking a comment from the tourists as an insult of his "missus".

"I'll f---ing boxcutter you right now, dog," he screams. "Get off the bus."

His face is twisted in genuine rage as he wheels a pram out the door and smashes a window, which sprays the tourists with broken glass.

Take a look at the faces of these people. Why are the people so angry? How could you possibly become such a hate-filled person that someone singing could trip you into apoplectics.

What I found so deflating was asking myself what I would have done if I'd been on that bus.

We'd all like to think we'd stand up for the woman, tell the racist thugs to shut up but I worry I'd be too cowardly and just stare out the window, avoiding eye contact then feel ashamed afterwards.

There would have been many people on that bus who felt that way and it is shameful that no one spoke up for fear the mob would turn on them.

This flag-waving, Southern Cross tattooed, "oi, oi, oi" chanting, "we grew here, you flew here" mentality disgraces all decent Australians.

When you travel overseas and tell people you're Australian, you hope the country they connect you with is the egalitarian, humorous, multicultural one.

Unfortunately, this latest outburst of bigotry - joined with attacks on Indian students, the Cronulla riots and Sydney's Islamic protests - project an image of a country divided.

Sadly, the most enduring image of that bus video for me was not the abusers' contorted faces or the man yelling, "everyone on the bus wants to kill ya, haven't you worked that out".

It was the shocked and confused look on the face of the little boy as he followed his parents off the bus behind the pram.

What type of life will that little boy have? What type of attitudes will he develop? What hope is there for some kids?

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