Racism is alive and well in Australia.
You would think that such a statement would be relatively uncontroversial. But the shit-storm surrounding AFL footballer Adam Goodes’ decision to call out racism on the sporting field reveals how desperate a section of the establishment is to avoid any scrutiny about where racism comes from and how it is perpetuated.
They want to cling to the fiction that Goodes brought the whole controversy onto himself by “playing the victim”.
Goodes has been subjected to repeated booing by fans of opposition clubs for nearly the entire season. One of the catalysts for this vitriol seems to be his reaction to a young spectator who called him an “ape”.
The corporate media reaction has been polarised: some outlets have decried racism and supported Goodes and others have bent over backwards to find some other explanation for the booing that isn’t connected to racism.
Goodes, apparently, “takes himself too seriously”. He “plays the victim”. He “stages for free kicks”. He “did a war dance” — a reference to his moves after kicking a goal.
Apparently, too, ejecting spectators for racial vilification is “political correctness gone mad”.
There are plenty of other Aboriginal AFL players who are not being booed, so the problem cannot be racial but rather something to do with Goodes, his detractors claim. So why can’t Goodes be more like them?
The fact is that Goodes, a “Racism: It Stops With Me” ambassador, has had the temerity to stand up to racist bullying and taunting. That is what his detractors hate.
I don’t follow AFL so the only time I’ve heard Goodes’ name has been to do with football, winning awards or his community work. But given the bad behaviour from some footballers of all stripes, surely the football industry should be tripping over itself to promote Goodes as a role model.
The AFL does have a code of banning racial vilification at matches, on and off the field and has shown it is willing to eject fans who violate this. It should be more proactive in following its own codes.
The high-profile attacks on Goodes are not taking place in a vacuum. The Abbott government is promoting policies that continue the dispossession and marginalisation of Aboriginal people, including forcibly closing remote Aboriginal communities and discriminating against Aboriginal welfare recipients. It is also moving to strengthen the rights of bigots by doing away with racial vilification laws.
Racism is used to divide the working class. It distracts from the real cause of marginalisation and oppression — governments that put corporate profits ahead of ordinary people’s needs.
So while racism is institutionalised, we need to call it out wherever we see it: on the footy field, in our classrooms, in our work places and on the streets.
Green Left Weekly has always been proudly anti-racist and that’s another reason to support us. We need more outlets that challenge the racism and prejudice dished out in the corporate media.
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