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All Football Players Look Primitive and Everyone is Descended from Primates

What should people be able to say and what should be prohibited? How does Australia progress as a nation? Do we have to be careful about what we say about sensitive topics or should we talk about it endlessly until we work it out and it is no longer sensitive? A story currently in the news cause me to reflect on this questions. 

From what I can gather, the current row over racism in the AFL started when a 13 year old girl, a Collingwood fan I believe, shouted out to Adam Goodes "Hey Ape!". Goodes stoped the game to point out the offending girl to security staff and demand that she be removed from the ground.

Let's discuss that part first. A lot of commentary has suggested that Adam Goodes was being too sensitive, that the offender was only a 13 year old girl and that after many seasons of AFL football he should have a thicker skin. I don't agree. Adam Goodes was being vilified, racially or otherwise, while he on the job at his workplace (a football field) and decided he wanted that person removed from his workplace before he would continue. Fine. He has that right quite frankly. Quite aside from the matter of racial vilification there is a matter here to do with rights in the workplace. We should support players who take a stand and say that they are not just Gladiators in the Colosseum sacrificed to the entertainment of the Romans. They are professional entertainers at their workplace and if you want to come and enjoy that entertainment you should show an appropriate level of respect. If that teenage girl was old enough to shout out at the players, she is also old enough to be ejected from the field and have a think about the way she should behave at the football ground.

Adam Goodes points out the racist girl

I will however say this: the poor girl looked absolutely gutted when rather than ignore her, Goodes turned around to point his finger at her until security came to have her removed. Even in this grainy pixelated picture you can see a look of terror on her face. Absolute confusion at the fact that there is in fact no invisible wall or imaginary distance between fans and players preventing players from reacting to the actions of fans. Fans are actually accountable for the their actions and the realisation of this horrible fact was written all over her face. I have been to football games before and seen how this works. Ordinarily players behave as if they are completely oblivious to the fans. People shout things out just to get a reaction because such reactions are usually so elusive. So I can imagine how upsetting it was for this young girl to get called to account for actions when so many fans, adults who should know better, are so frequently unaccountable for the things they shout out at players. It's also sad that this young girl is, based on the reports I have read, an indigenous Australian herself. Still by and large I think Goodes did the right thing. He took a stand for AFL players in their workplace and so long as the experience wasn't too traumatic, taught this girl a lesson about taking responsibility for her actions and perhaps a thing or 2 about showing some respect for the role models in the indigenous community.  

eddie_mcguire.jpgThat should have been the end of the story. No big deal. No cause for endless belly button gazing. Then Eddie McGuire had to stick his beak in. I'm sorry but I really dislike this guy. He is only marginally more charming than Kyle Sandilands and about as funny. It seems every other month he is saying something meant to be funny and then apologizing and taking it all back days later in a flurry of media and fanfare. On his stupid radio show Eddie opined regarding the matter above, that Adam Goodes would be a good person to promote the musical stage play King Kong. "Get Adam Goodes down for it, do you reckon?" he said before adding: "You can see them doing that can't you Goodsey? You know with the ape thing, the whole thing, I'm just saying pumping him up and mucking around, all that sort of stuff." Hur hur huuur derp. Dumb joke.

The joke was dumb but the apology was just plain offensive. At a press conference called in direct response to mounting anger at his comments, McGuire said: "I apologise to Adam Goodes, to the Indigenous people of Australia and every Indigenous sportsperson." He said he had spoken to Goodes earlier in the day and offered his apologies, which had been accepted by the player. "I couldn't have offered any more sympathy," he said. Fuck your sympathy Eddie. Nobody needs it. Every time Eddie makes one of these comments that he later has to retract and apologize over, it is clear that he doesn't know why he is doing so.

Lets deconstruct this piece by piece. What is actually meant when you call somebody "Ape" or "King Kong"? You are saying they are primitive men, an insult that would be apt of all football players. Not to put too fine a point on it but all football players look like perhaps the big hairy buggers would be more at home hunting Mammoth and dragging their women back to the cave by the hair. Not only do all Football players look like they might fit that particular epithet but the simple fact of the matter is that all human beings are descended from apes and cavemen.

Now. Here is the rub. When you classify "Ape" or "King Kong" as racial vilification you are effectively saying that Aboriginal or dark skinned players are more primitive than other players when in actual fact we are all descended from cavemen (and women).

Do you see where I am coming from? Racism is racist. But almost as damaging way is to be OVERLY offended by such racism. Do you feel me? I am not an Aboriginal player in the AFL. But if I were and somebody called me "King Kong" I would hope that I would reflect deeply on the matter. "Yeah I am kinda King Kong like. I am big, hairy, 6ft giant of a man. I have muscles in my neck that make it hard for me to check my blind spot when I drive. Maybe that is what people mean when they call me King Kong". Sure we should stamp out racism but is creating a media circus out of it the best way to stamp out racism? Wouldn't we deal with racism more constructively by just not feeding it any oxygen?

It almost displays a lack of self confidence and lack of pride in your ancestry to take too much offence when boofheads like Eddie McGuire make stupid jokes. Not to mention the fact that the whole bloody story is just a huge excuse for Eddie McGuire to talk about himself.

My other beef here is with the over the top political correctness of the matter. The notion that there are some things we are not allowed to say seems to suggest that there are some issues we are not allowed to discuss. How to achieve reconciliation in Australia? How do we bridge the gap between Aboriginal Australians and the rest of us? What are we willing to do and what are we unwilling to do to achieve this? If I can't say that Adam Goodes looks like King Kong what else is there that I can't say? If I can't say something as trivial as that on my radio show, how many serious things are there that I can't say on my radio show? What we know for absolute certain is that the matters that are not allowed to be discussed in the public sphere are certainly being discussed around the dining room table in the rest of Australia. If we are going to reach broad national agreement (read: reconciliation) over the place of Aboriginal Australia within the broader context of the rest of Australia, we need licence to discuss the matter honestly without fear of the Political Correctness Police. Prevent reconciliation issues from seeing the light of public discourse and you will allow ignorance and fear to determine the attitudes of the future. Yes it is true that calling somebody Ape of King Kong does not add anything useful to the discourse, but getting as upset as some people are seems to indicate to me a general sensitivity that could prevent genuine discussion.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Ryan Albrey published on May 30, 2013 12:35 PM.

General Election 13 was the previous entry in this blog.

Like Other Hardcore Labor Voters I Will Vote For Kevin... But I Won't Be Happy About It is the next entry in this blog.

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