Adam Goodes and that Special Racism
Once again, white Australia has been plunged into a racial clusterfuck, this time about Indigenous football player Adam Goodes. Responses both in support of and deriding Adam Goodes are revealing of Australia’s denial of its deep historical racism. That there is a “debate” about whether or not the booing of Goodes was racist, and whether he has acted “appropriately” in response, is telling of how far the proverbial Australian head is up the proverbial Australian arse. Clowns who call themselves journalists are running around asking white experts such as James Packer, Andrew Bolt, Alan Jones, Jason Akermanis, and the mother of the girl who called Goodes an ape to pass judgement on the appropriateness an Aboriginal person’s response to racism.
The procession of articles wondering, “Is it racist? Can Australians be racist!?” would be amusing if it did not have real impacts on all People of Colour in this country. Seeing as we aren’t asked about it, I’m just going to go ahead and say: booing Adam Goodes is racist.
- If you don’t like Goodes because he is Indigenous, then this is what I call being a Mickey Mouse racist. This is the type of racist that white people think about when they think of racism. The kind of mean person that would berate someone on a train.
- If you apparently “don’t like the way he plays”, “don’t like how he plays for free kicks”, or whatever stupid reason, that’s racist too. Why? Presuming you aren’t just someone from the first category who is trying to be sly (and there are many, many of these depressingly obvious people), then what this means is that you are happy to knowingly boo alongside racist boos. The airing of your personal (read: pathetic) grievances against this Indigenous player is more important than declining to participate in an overtly racist activity. The fact that you are happy to ignore the context of a stadium of white people booing a black player (because, of course, your boos are legit boos) – this reveals the violent white bubble in which you sit, a bubble from which you perform and perpetuate racism. The failure to recognise this bubble, or the willingness to ignore it, this is racism.
It reminds me of a time I had a fruitless argument with a white person who argued that it was possible to support Apartheid South Africa while not being racist. The personal beliefs and motivations of a white person transcend the real life situations of People of Colour.
By calling out what is a mass manifestation of a festering Australian disease (that special racism reserved for Indigenous people), Goodes is getting blamed for his own situation (because, you know, racism doesn’t actually exist until someone points it out). Racial harmony means white comfort, and disturbing white comfort is literally reverse racism. Andrew Bolt has the audacity to say that Goodes would be lauded as a “hero” if he had not said anything to that girl; instead he is a bully who should be ashamed of himself. Of course no one points out that he had not been lauded as a hero up until that point, despite racial abuse he had withstood beforehand. Alan Jones has said that racism doesn’t exist because Indigenous people are actually allowed to play AFL. They’re even allowed to play tennis, for fuck’s sake. So shame on them for being greedy.
But if the bar is low for Bolt, Jones and their fans, it is not that much higher for the “progressive” people now trumpeting “I stand with Adam Goodes”. It is all well and good to “stand with Adam”, but what does that really mean? It means: when it is safe to do so, (i.e. when there are enough people already doing so, when the issue itself is not systemic, will not ripple further), “progressive” white people will say the right things, tut-tut the bogans, use the right hashtags, and tick the right boxes.
Forgive me if I don’t get teary eyed and feel better because I know that, really, there are good white people too. This movement against a manifestation of Australian racism is just that – a quashing of the manifestation. The cause, the core, that allows people to boo Goodes in a football stadium also results in police killing Aboriginal people with impunity. It results in the continuing Stolen Generations, and mass incarceration. Where were these good white people when Julieka Dhu got murdered by the police over unpaid fines? Where were they when TJ Hickey got impaled on a fence after being chased by the police? Australia incarcerates Indigenous people at world record levels – who has said anything about that? But they Stand With Adam! Hell, we even have the co-captains of Team Australia, Tony Shorten saying he “Stands with Adam Goodes” and Bill Abbott decrying anything that “smacks of racism”. Yet these two leaders, leaders that Australians vote in, the elected representatives, preside over the cutting of services to Indigenous people, the continuation of the NT Intervention, and the forced closures of Aboriginal communities.
Adam Goodes has become (through no fault of his own) a vehicle for the emancipation of the white soul. Editorials roundly condemning the booing simultaneously attribute it to an errant few, exempting the rest who also participate in the racist Australian system. And so “progressives” wash their hands of Mickey Mouse racism and give each other pats on the back, meanwhile carrying on with the systemic racism, the real racism, which they are party to by virtue of being witnesses and participating in the political, economic and cultural system. So pardon me if I am not glad.