Adam Goodes, Eddie Maguire and the Heartbreak Kid.

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There is a fantastic scene in one of the all-time great Simpsons episodes, “Homer At The Bat.”

Mr Burns has constructed his MLB superteam that has gradually deconstructed one by one, due to Ken Griffey’s swollen head, Steve Sachs’ innumerable homicide arrests and Don Mattingly’s imaginary sideburns. The Power Plant employees all take their spots back except for one man: Daryl Strawberry. And naturally it’s Homer’s position he’s taking.

So in the big game, there’s Strawberry, fielding in the outer as Bart and Lisa lean over the fence and tauntingly chant, “Daaaa-ryl. Daaaa-ryl” in defense of their father. Marge takes issue with this, to which Bart replies, “Please Mum, he’s a professional athlete. This is like water off a duck’s back”. The camera pans round and shows Daryl Strawberry with a single tear flowing down his cheek.

It’s a scene I can’t help thinking of with regards to this week’s uproar over Adam Goodes.

 

Daaaaa-ryyyl…

Facts

I want to state a few clear facts up-front before I start rocking the boat.

1) Racism is bigoted, stupid and plain wrong.

2) Calling Adam Goodes an “ape” IS a racist slur. Please don’t bother arguing otherwise.

3) Indigenous Australians are racially abused and it needs to stop.

Media Mutations

In no way am I claiming that the jokey, tame chant of, “Daaa-ryl” from Bart and Lisa Simpson is equivalent to the racist abuse thrown at Adam Goodes. Where the similarity comes in is the reaction of the mainstream media and how they present and respond to the incident.

Melbourne’s The Age referred to Goodes as, “heartbroken”. The Sydney Morning Herald, “devastated”. The Australian, “shattered”. It’s hard to see Adam Goodes actually using any of these words, particularly in the light these papers tried to paint them in. They’re mostly used to increase web traffic and sell newspapers.

Goodes himself used words like, “gutted” and “cut” – much more realistic for a footy player. If that was half his reaction, it seems like the other half was simply, ‘Really, how could that happen?’

It’s the question a lot of Australians are asking this week. How could a 13-year old girl say such a thing?

The Mob Mentality

Everyone who has been to a footy game has heard abuse. Racial, sexual, physical or just straight-up abusive language. Ask a footy umpire how many death threats they hear from the crowd in an average week.

Human beings have a propensity for violence and stupidity when they gather in large crowds. We are swayed by powerful orators and specific moments. The amount of times I’ve been at AAMI Stadium and the video replay guy has ‘forgot’ to replay a contentious call…well, let’s just say someone’s making the right call up there. People go nuts. It’s the Colosseum Syndrome, the same thing that saw spectators scream angrily for blood from the early Christians as they were torn apart by lions.

The problem with that propensity is that there is something within us spurring that on. It doesn’t just come from nowhere.

It’s been fascinating and revolting to watch the Australian mainstream media respond this week, delightedly crucifying first a thirteen year-old girl and then perennial goat Eddie Mcguire. The dirty little secret within this crucifying is that mainstream media is…wait for it…mostly white! How that privilege must grate at them.

So within every self-righteous blog post (ahem) and aggressive opinion piece it seems to me there is a degree of latent white guilt coming out. White columnists go on the offensive to avoid being labeled as racist, but they do it by labeling others with different tags in order to make themselves feel better. I refuse to give traffic to it with a link, but an example is how The Age’s Sam De Brito promoted tolerance by calling Eddie McGuire an, “ignorant, smug arsehole.”

They take up an indigenous cause from their perspective, forgetting that white people – such as myself – don’t actually have an indigenous perspective.

We CAN’T have one!

If you’d like to look at things from the indigenous perspective, can I suggest you actually talk to someone indigenous. A good start would be to look into the Recognise movement, or read about one of the leaders spearheading it.

I don’t believe non-indigenous Australians can ever fully understand the suffering of our indigenous brothers and sisters throughout generations.

But we can stand behind those who do.

The Real Problem

I’d dare to suggest something that might anger a lot of people.

Racism isn’t the true problem here.

The true problem is a lack of empathy for the history, perspective and experiences of others. A lack of listening. A lack of understanding. A lack of caring for other people. And finally, a mob mentality that encourages overt displays of stupidity.

What is the media creating when they go on the offensive against white people? A better future? A less racist culture?

No.

They just perpetuate the new social media issue where we lay in wait like pirahnas for someone to slip off the boat into the water, where we devour them, ruin their life and then wait for the next feeding frenzy.

We are outraged when this stuff happens publicly, but where are the media in the everyday?  Where is their fight against racism and inequality outside of a high profile event?  Obviously their responsibility is to report the news, but as a voice to the nation have a massive responsibility to balance editorial.  But it’s quicker, cheaper and an easier sell to use shallow emotive headlines

 

Eddie Mcguire is not a bad guy.
(I know. It didn’t feel great writing that.)

 

Neither is the 13-year old girl.

They are representations of a form of stupidity present in all of us when we use any sort of unfair discrimination against other people.

Goodes on TV

The Goodes Legacy

Adam Goodes was already easily one of the 50 greatest AFL players of all-time. Two-time Brownlow Medallist, dual Premiership player, four-time All-Australian. It’s hard to look past him as the greatest indigenous player of all-time – apologies to Long, Wanganeen et al.

He is a legend on the football field.

But off it? He has now established a legacy.

No human being could have handled the situation with as much wisdom, class and dignity as Goodes did. Imagine the level of adrenaline and testosterone pumping through his veins as he’s belting down the field, only to suddenly be faced with a situation of that magnitude. It could have easily turned into physical violence. Don’t believe me? Go Google, “NBA”, “Ron Artest” and “Malice at the Palace”.

More has been made of less in the past.

Instead, Goodes took a stand, asked for security to remove the offending person, then played the rest of the game. He accepted a call from the offending teenager and accepted her apology. He dealt with the Maguire situation with class, not only accepting Eddie’s apology but doing it in a way that didn’t compromise or misrepresent the level of hurt that had been caused at the situation.

To me, though, the way that Goodes stood out the most is on his Twitter feed.

In the fashion of true idiotic bigotry, some of Goodes’ defenders had shown their “support” by verbally abusing this girl on Twitter. Imagine being 13 years old, saying something stupid and having that become the centre of Australia’s  – offensive, yes, but no more so than the average 13-year old hears in a schoolyard on a daily basis. Try being fat, gay, geeky, Christian, autistic or red-headed and see how you go. For that matter, try being thin, straight, dyslexic, Muslim, ADD or albino. There’s always something.

Goodes responded with simplicity and class.

Goodes tweet
So how do we overcome bigotry in Australia?

We point it out in all its forms. We look for genuine remorse and continue a process of education that starts at the personal level. Then we forgive, reconcile and move forward, KNOWING that the issue will raise its head again and being prepared to meet it with truth and kindness.

We seek to reach a place of empathy.

#racismitstopswithme

#bigotryitstopswithme

 

Mike
http://www.twitter.com/mikewardrop

 

For an excellent article on moving towards equality, check out Noel Pearson’s recent article in The Australian

For a well-formed blog post on the Adam Goodes incident, check out Peter FitzSimons’ recent article in The Age

For a brilliant perspective on reconciliation, read Katie Iles’ interview with Colin Darcy at Fruitful Bird

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