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Adam Goodes kicks goals for Australia's race industry

By John Slater - posted Tuesday, 4 August 2015


It may well be the case that the ongoing booing of Adam Goodes has gone beyond the pale of good sportsmanship and crowd decorum. But the saga says little about the state of race relations in Australia.

The central charge laid by the collective efforts of Australia's race-baiting industry is that the fact that Adam Goodes is sometimes booed reveals an ugly racist impulse that is latent in Australian culture. It is one that deserves to be strenuously rejected.

Waleed Aly, a leading lobbyist of Australia's race industry has said that it reveals that Australians are generally tolerant of minorities "until they demonstrate that they don't know their place…the moment a person in a minority position acts as though they're not a mere supplicant then we lose our minds… we say you need to get back in your box."

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David Rowe, an intellectual from the University of Western Sydney Agrees, claiming the reason behind the crowd treatment of Goodes is because "he won't be a nice quiet Aboriginal boy who's grateful to be a footballer."

Colin Tatz of the Australian National University is of the same mind "We're pretending that we're one monolithic nation. But when one colour stands out from the crowd, it spills over into something very different."

So let's get this straight. Australians only like minorities who toe the line, know there place, and show appropriate deference to the bigoted white majority.

Since when did the revelry and rancour of fans at live football qualify as serious grounds to bemoan Australia's lack of racial harmony?

This vision of Australian multiculturalism as a hierarchy whereby benighted minorities are held under the thumb of the white ruling class is both fashionable and well rehearsed. But is there a more nuanced explanation behind the Goodes saga other than every boo symbolising an endemic nationwide disdain for 'disobedient' minorities?

In truth, booing has always been a part of live sport. Jason Akermanis was routinely booed for his antics on the AFL field. Cricketers Steve Smith and Shane Warne have also weathered the hectoring of rowdy crowds. Tennis players Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios have been on the receiving end of countless taunts and reprimands in the national media, many of which have been far more acerbic than the heckles of intemperate spectators.

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Putting the merits of each of these incidents aside, they share a common feature: people perceived their behaviour as obnoxious, unsportsmanlike or arrogant. Not coincidentally, this is the type of behaviour that has long been shunned by Australian sporting culture.

Were some of the thousands of people who have booed Adam Goodes racially motivated? Quite possibly. But what of those who found Goodes' on field spear throwing antics inflammatory? What of those who remain disappointed that after receiving the high honour of Australian of the year, felt Adam Goodes' decided to deploy the divisive term 'invasion day?' What about those who in the animal high emotion of a live football game simply felt compelled to boo the bravado of an extremely talented player who had probably just scored a goal against their home team?

The view that the Adam Goodes' controversy is more nuanced than blind racism is usually scoffed at by race-baiters, who seem to think white people can't understand racism and therefore aren't allowed an opinion on the subject. Enter Sydney Morning Herald columnist Peter FitzSimons:

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About the Author

John Slater is the Executive Director of the H R Nicholls Society.

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