May 27, 2013 | Nick

Adam Goodes

This morning I read the Sydney Morning Herald’s letters page, which was largely devoted to Adam Goodes’ pointing out a racist slur during an AFL game the other night.
The reactions ranged from the typical schtick of the victimhood lobby to the ramblings of someone who tried to explain away Goodes’ being called an “ape” as a reference to an over-abundance of facial hair.
Yeah right.
The most consistent point was that a young girl shouldn’t be talking like that, but Goodes over-reacted. I don’t agree.
The guy was running along the field. Someone called him an ape. I’m a white man and I don’t think I’ll ever understand just how much a jibe like that will hurt a black man. One may safely bet it’s not the first time he’s suffered a slur like that. He’s an intelligent (and obviously gracious) man, so the likelihood is that he hears the slur with all its historical baggage, particularly in sport. Remember that Hitler and the Nazis apostrophised the great Jesse Owens and other ethnic Africans as apes.
In those circumstances, calling out the racism on the spur of the moment can hardly be regarded as an over-reaction.
Perhaps what followed could be so regarded. The girl who made the comment was marched from the stadium by Police, who, it is said, prevented her parents from following.
As has been said before, kids aren’t born this way. They pick these things up from somewhere. Was it really right to focus so much attention and heap so much embarrassment upon her?
I don’t know. If she is picking those views up at home, perhaps this sort of embarrassment will give her a previously unavailable opportunity to see another side. On the other hand, if it’s just what she picks up in her peer group, she’s probably now a bit of a hero in the school yard.
What do you think?

Posted by Nick at 9:25 am | Comments (10) |


  1. I think back to an incident where Bert Newton referred to Mohammad Ali as ‘boy’ during the logies(?) one year. You could see in the moment, Ali realised that he had said it with absolutely no racial connotations attached, and he handled it accordingly. Calling an african-american ‘boy’ is/was generally deemed to be racist. I think we’ve all gone a little too hysterical on the racism factor and yes, as offensive as it was to Adam, and as much as I’m for anti-racism everywhere; I think that she was genuinely calling him an ape in her ignorance, and directly referring to that disgustingly overgrown beard 🙂 I remember years ago saying that Shane O’Bree looked like an ape, or, caveman when he had a massive beard like that. What I don’t understand is; Jason Dunstall and Gary Lyon have had the absolute piss taken out of them for the last 10 years due to their bodies/hair etc. Surely Gary has some heritage up the chain that makes him more hairy? Does he cry out that it’s racist? This issue frustrates me a little bit because we’re too quick to call people racists. It’s about intent, and education. This girls intent was to sledge him, and she hit a nerve.

    Comment by Shaun — May 27, 2013 @ 10:35 am

  2. end should have read ‘and she accidentally hit a nerve, in her ignorance’. She wasn’t intending or trying to be racist.

    Comment by Shaun — May 27, 2013 @ 10:39 am

  3. Was it really right to focus so much attention and heap so much embarrassment upon her?
    I don’t know.

    Wow, you don’t know if it is right to heap so much abuse on a 13 year old….wow…. And wow again

    Why don’t you look up UNICEF’s provisions on child protection. To sum it up the welfare of a child overrides ALL other concerns. Full stop


    Comment by Nick — May 27, 2013 @ 11:08 am

  4. Fair point. What I’ve seen of the coverage hasn’t really been abusive, so that wasn’t what I had in mind. The coverage I saw was about getting her side of the story; hence my focus on embarrassment.

    Comment by Nick — May 27, 2013 @ 3:02 pm

  5. I have read somewhere that children aren’t born racist! It’s learned behaviour, and just as ignorant as homophobia.
    I disagree that the ejection was an over reaction.
    And I’m very sure no police person could have legally prevented a parent accompanying an ejected offending child.
    One would need to know which police persons were on duty, and which one(s) prevented a parent from accompanying a minor!?
    The parents must Identify which police person(s) gave that entirely illegal command, or withdraw the allegation.
    I find that claim nearly as disingenuous as the latter attempt on the part of parents, to downplay the hurt or offence.
    Yes sure, Adam’s reaction may have been a cumulation of a lifetime of racially motivated bullying, and or, the final straw that broke the camel’s back, to coin a phrase.
    Reinforcing, that there is simply no excuse for quite deliberate racial profiling or offence or bullying.
    Moreover, it cannot be condoned or made seem less hurtful by excuse makers or underplaying the offence, which could quite easily become a stepping stone to worse behaviour, such as the racially motivated beating meted out to our Indian guest students, some years ago now.
    Or the often shameful way we now treat legal asylum seekers?
    The Nazis were only able to do what they did, because they simply lacked NORMAL human empathy. And that has to start somewhere!
    Children aren’t born racist, or naturally engage in quite abnormal animal cruelty, or gravitate toward Nazism, but learn it, and or the quite calloused indifference, that makes any of it possible, at their Mother or Fathers knee?
    I mean, one might not see animal cruelty, as leading to later adult antisocial behaviour, that could even include rape/murder?
    But that is where it can and does lead, in some possibly radicalised/dehumanised/intellectually challenged individuals!
    Alan B. Goulding.

    Comment by Alan B. Goulding — May 27, 2013 @ 4:51 pm

  6. If someone is going to earn their living in public displays of sporting prowess, & earn hundreds of thousands doing it, they had better be a bit tougher than this bloke.

    It appears he, as with many footballers is not adverse to handing out physical pain. In fact many footballers appear to be very like thugs on the field, which raises great emotion in the followers of their competitors. To not expect them to respond in some way is not only naive, but damn right stupid.

    This bloke, with his huge very black beard looks like an Arab to me, & I would expect many others. Regardless, his parentage is of no interest to me, & to most. You can’t expect a fan to investigate every players ethnicity before sledging, which is what the kid was doing.

    If a big tough foot baller is going to break down @ cry every time some kid yells something nasty, perhaps the delicate soul should try a different line of work.

    Comment by Hasbeen — May 28, 2013 @ 10:16 am

  7. This incident has highlighted something I had hoped we could avoid as a country – the idea that an insult directed at a person of a minority ethnic background must automatically be about race.
    The girl apologised saying she was sorry for being racist – then clarifies that she didn’t know it was racist, she hadn’t intended to say anything racist, and didn’t appear to be racist – yet she is still forced to apologise for being racist???
    Not a nice thing to say to someone – but why does it have to have been about race just because Goodesy is Aboriginal? No one assumed it was racist when George W Bush was called a monkey!

    Comment by john — May 28, 2013 @ 5:16 pm

  8. As long as we take delight from vulgarities directed towards others, we’ll never evolve into anything better as Aussies. Eddie’s current comment about Goodes & Apes (King Kong) is indeed a reflection of his innermost thoughts and ingrained prejudices. Frankly, knowing Eddie as a school boy, I never expected much from him anyway. A significant portion of Collingwood supporters have been known to be shallow and ingrained with past prejudices. Eddie is Collingwood through & through. He has only revealed how his mind works; its ugly, crass and cheap. No amount of apology is going to undo this, ugly man!!

    Comment by Jolly — May 29, 2013 @ 6:27 pm

  9. I find myself feeling quite uncomfortable about this whole issue. I’m not aboriginal, and I’m not a member of a group that has faced sustained discrimination across the whole of Australian society over hundreds of years.

    But Australia has dealt well with racial discrimination to the stage where the only vocal “racist” in a stadium full of thousands of people is a 13 year old girl, who claims she wasn’t aware there were racist connotations to what she said. That’s something to celebrate.

    Adam Goodes took offence to it. I think, without being him, that his taking offence was an over-reaction. What was done to the girl was certainly an over-reaction.

    What constitutes racism is an extremely movable feast. I remember, when I was a Young Liberal, people who I would not describe as racist referring to visiting dignitaries from Papua as “rock apes”. I wasn’t comfortable with the description, but it was as of one with their abusive assessments of other people, and I certainly didn’t see it as being racist.

    By comparison I can remember wincing at Neville Bonner’s funeral when his wife Heather referred to him as “my little blackman” and Jim Killen called him “my black tracker mate”.

    But Neville didn’t have a problem with these descriptions while he was alive, and no-one could accuse his wife and best friend of being racist.

    So what language is racist?

    Even Eddie Maguire’s “King Kong” moment, breathtakingly insensitive as it was, is not necessarily racist.

    But if you’re going to rush a 13 year old into custody for saying something similar, Maguire ought to be on the down escalator to major social Purgatory.

    Comment by Graham — May 29, 2013 @ 11:14 pm

  10. Up until the 1970s women who were on the receiving end of domestic violence from drunk husbands (especially on Thursdays (pay-day) and weekend) were told to dismiss these “manly acts” as domestic norms. The police and legal officials then simply could not see this injustice from their patriarchal viewpoint. Mothers counseled married daughters when the latter complained about physical abuse “I put up with that from your dad, they (husbands) get good as they age; so learn to put up with it”. To-day a single act of domestic violence will see a man or woman charged with assault; a criminal offence. This change came about only when women began to claim their rights by ensuring their views on what constitutes as violence towards them were heard. Women demanded that violence not be dismissed as a “domestic matter”. Prior to this domestic violence was simply the norm; men had the right to bash their women.

    Aboriginal people have been badly done by from day one. They were officially considered as fauna, as sub-species, as apes, as monkeys, and have been referred to by all kinds of derogatory terms. This is part of our ugly history; it is a fact of our uninformed past. These derogatory terms are racially motivated and there is no need to pretend that no racial connotation is implied or that a big boy like Goodes should be able to take it . Aboriginal people take offence to these references and rightly so. I am a bit surprised that there are no public marches to denounce this continued degradation of Aboriginals. We have robed them of their land, way of life, massacred some tribes and as if these are not bad enough, we continue to verbally abuse them even to-day. Please don’t tell me that ‘when we were young boys, we put up with all kinds of name calling..” bs. We are, hopefully, a more educated and sophisticated society than 200 years ago. Let’s play fair; lets not use language that offends others racially and lets not make excuses for those of us who behave or act to denigrate others. It doesn’t take much to be civil and courteous towards fellow Australians.

    Comment by Jolly — May 30, 2013 @ 11:44 pm

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