Adam Goodes makes a point about racism

Back in the mid 1990s, when Pauline Hanson was espousing her views on Aborigines – that they received more benefits than non-Aborigines – I noticed something I called “Fourth Beer Syndrome,” or “Fourth Beer Truth Serum.”
The syndrome occurred in pubs, of course, and it went like this:
One regular said to the other regular: “What about that Pauline Hanson?” The reply: “Oh, yeah, she’s terrible, isn’t she? All that stuff about Aborigines and Asian immigration.”
Then about the fourth beer, the second regular added a comment: “But you know, she does say a lot of good things.”
That pub patron did not think of himself as racist, and that’s the key to it. We are, as another drinker said yesterday, “comfortably racist.” You do not get rid of racism until you acknowledge that you have racist attitudes.
I have written about this in previous blog posts, but was reminded of it on the weekend when the Sydney Swans star, Adam Goodes, stood up against racism in the first match of the Indigenous Round. He had just scored his third goal in the fourth quarter and as he ran past Collingwood supporters in the stands, he heard something he didn’t like. You could see him thinking for a second, and then he stopped and pointed out a young girl in the front row to a stadium staffer (see photo above. I didn’t show the girl as I think she needs protection).
She had just called him an “ape.” Goodes was so upset he went to the sidelines and then into the dressing room, not waiting to celebrate the Swans’ famous victory over the Magpies. As he said in a press conference on Saturday morning: “I am pretty gutted, to be honest. To win, the first of its kind in 13 years, to win by 47 points against Collingwood, to play such a pivotal role, it sort of means nothing. To come to the boundary line, to hear a 13-year-old girl call me an ape – and it’s not the first time on a footy field that I have been referred to as a monkey or an ape – it was shattering.”
Collingwood president Eddie McGuire did exactly the right thing by going into the Swans dressing room and apologising to Goodes on behalf of the club. He also said the right thing by commenting that the girl needed to be educated. She was evicted from the ground, and later apologised to Goodes, saying she did not know calling an indigenous player an ape was racial vilification. That proves the point. Too many Australians do not realise they have racist leanings.
Adam Goodes showed his class by making an issue of the incident, without criticising the teenager. He wants her to be protected, and he explained to her why it was so hurtful to him. When he was her age, he was being called an ape by his classmates. But he admitted at the press conference, he said nothing at the time.
I hope this is a watershed in race relations in Australia, and that teachers around the nation take the time to use the story, which led nearly every news bulletin on Saturday night, to educate their students. To teach them that there is a little bit of racism in all of us, and we need to be aware of it. To explain what empathy means, and to tell the students if they can put themselves in someone else’s shoes, it will help them realise how much pain a racist epithet can cause.
It is one of the most important issues this nation can face. I’m fairly certain it will be one of the topics we will be covering on the first edition of The Observer Effect on SBS1 this Sunday night. Our main guest and observer will be Senator Barnaby Joyce. Sally Jackson has written a nice piece about the program in The Australian Media Section today.
And apologies to regular readers of my blog. I’ve been a bit busy with the show lately and have missed a week or two. But I had to write about Adam Goodes and his brave stance. I dips me lid to him, and I believe he has advanced the cause of racial relations in the nation by at least a decade. And if I may be permitted a personal note, Go Swannies!
UPDATE: I would love to write another column on the Eddie McGuire gaffe, but we are preparing for our first program on Sunday and I simply don’t have time. Let me just say that after praising the Collingwood president for his handling of the original Goodes racist comment by a 13-year-old girl last Friday, I couldn’t believe what he said on Wednesday morning — suggesting Adam Goodes could be used to promote King Kong, the musical. Collingwood footballer Harry O’Brien said it best in his tweet on Wednesday: “To me Australia is very casual with racism. I would argue that many people in this country would not think what Eddie or the 13-year-old girl said last Friday is bad. In my opinion race relations in this country is systematically a national disgrace.” I agree with Harry.
The Sydney Swans play Essendon tomorrow at the SCG. Like the Bombers in the early part of the season and their support of James Hird, the Swans will be inspired by the courage of Adam Goodes, who has been hurt more by Eddie McGuire’s comments than the 13-year-old Collingwood supporter. I predict a Swans’ victory dedicated to Adam Goodes, and eventually a triumph over racism in this country. Like the Rev Martin Luther King Jnr, I have a dream.
Tom Krause is the series producer of The Observer Effect, hosted by Ellen Fanning, which will be launched this Sunday night on SBS1 at 8.30pm. His views are his own, always have been.

2 thoughts on “Adam Goodes makes a point about racism

  1. Good wrap of the situation, but don’t forget families shape the minds of 13year olds as well. Teachers are a key source, but parents can’t be excepted from responsibility. Go A.G., Go Swannies!

    • Thanks, Julia. You’re right, of course, and parents are the most important source of education. I had mentioned that in tweets the day before, and was concentrating on teachers as they play an important part, too. Go AG and Go Swannies!

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