Loathe as I am to add another voice to the cacophany of commentary on the issue of Adam Goodes, frankly I’ve had all I can stands and I can’t stands no more. More than anything, I just feel like most people are entirely missing the point. So I’m weighing in, readers beware.
I cannot count the number of people I have seen in the last week – on my news feed, in comments sections, on talkback radio, in opinion pieces – the sheer number of people I’ve seen fiercely defending their inalienable right to boo Adam Goodes. A staggering number of people who have said some variation of the following:
“I’m not booing Goodes because I’m racist, I’m booing because he’s a flog/grubby/on the other team”
“Plenty of footy players get booed, he needs to harden up”
“He’s the racist one because x, y and z”
“I’m not racist, but x, y and z”
“He deserves it for acting like a dickhead”
And so on. If you are one of those people, or if you have liked posts or comments made by those people, or are just thinking about becoming one of those people, let me give you some free advice.
Shut. The fuck. Up.
I mean it. Shut the fuck up. Just stop talking. This is NOT about your right to boo football players. This is NOT about whether or not you are personally a racist. In fact this issue actually has nothing to do with you, beyond the horrible message that you are sending with your boorish, entitled, selfish responses.
I repeat: this is not about you. So shut the fuck up.
Let’s recap what you’ve missed on previous episodes of The Adam Goodes Saga. In 2013, he was racially taunted by a girl in the crowd and pointed her out to security. In 2014, he was awarded the Australian of the Year, for his work for the Indigenous community and work fighting against racism. Since then he has spoken publicly about his desire to amend the Constitution to reflect the place of Indigenous Australia in our country. Two months ago, Goodes celebrated AFL Indigenous Round by performing an Indigenous-style dance after scoring a goal. Just last week, he was booed so vociferously by Eagles fans that Lewis Jetta performed a similar dance in solidarity, creating this week’s media shitstorm. And now Goodes, one of the great players of the modern game, has been so beleaguered by weeks, months and years of booing, racial vilification and public backlash to these events that he can’t even face running out for his team this weekend. Goodes has literally been driven out of AFL this week by his detractors.
And all you have to say on the subject is “I’m not booing him because he’s black!” …?
Me, me, me! Do whatever you want to this man, but don’t blame me, whatever you do! I’M not a racist!
Maybe, just maybe, if we have a very prominent, very successful Indigenous man, a man who plies his trade in the great Australian pastime: sport, and still can’t get through a footy season without experiencing racial abuse in some form or another…instead of finding ever more creative ways to make this about yourselves, and instead of finding ever more creative ways to victim-shame, maybe you could just stop talking and actually listen to what he has to say.
When Goodes was racially taunted by a crowd member who happened to be a 13 year old girl, did you listen to him explain why he was “gutted” to hear that coming from a child, but that he didn’t blame her and wanted her to receive support, privacy from the media and to be educated about what her words mean? Or did you just call him “sensitive” for “overreacting”? Did you talk, or did you listen?
When Goodes won the Australian of the Year for his work on Indigenous issues and racism, and used the platform of his acceptance speech to speak about – shock horror – Indigenous issues and racism, did you take the time to watch his speech, or read the text, to see what he had to say? Or did you listen to talkback radio and then complain that he shouldn’t have “bagged” Australia when it gave him an honour? Did you talk, or listen?
When Goodes spoke out about the Australian Constitution, about the inherent racism in certain sections of a hundred year old document, and about wanting an amendment to recognise Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander Australians, did you actually listen to his arguments? Did you take a look at the Constitution and read the offending sections to see if he was right? Or did you whinge about Adam Goodes being “ungrateful” or even “racist” towards Australia again? Did you talk, or listen?
When Adam Goodes decided to celebrate AFL Indigenous Round (Indigenous Round!!) by performing a war cry from his culture, did you watch his expression of pride in the heat of the moment, or listen to his later explanation that he was taking the opportunity of Indigenous Round (In-di-ge-nous Round!!!) to represent his heritage upon scoring (just like Greg Inglis and many others do on a weekly basis in all sports), or did you criticise him for “threatening” Carlton supporters with an imaginary spear? Or perhaps you just started booing him every time he touched the ball for being a “flog”, and then defended to the death your right to act like an asshat when others condemned systematic and sustained abuse of an outspoken Indigenous figure for what it is: racism.
But I’M not a racist! I can boo whoever I want! Just try and stop me! Me, me, ME!
When an Indigenous leader like Adam Goodes speaks out about facing racism in this country, don’t bag him. Don’t even talk. Just listen. For that matter, when an Indigenous person speaks out about facing racism in this country, don’t talk. Listen. You might learn something.
For instance, you might learn that even though you’re not a racist, even though you happened to boo Goodes because you think he staged for that free, that abuse has now taken on a racial character, whether you like it or not. It makes the victim of the abuse feel racially vilified by the community, whether you like it or not. We as white people cannot dictate to an Indigenous person when they can or cannot feel racially abused. What we can do is stop perpetrating the behaviour that makes them feel that way. And eliminating that shit from the game is FAR more important than your need to boo a Swans player. I’m sorry, it just is. This is not your problem. I repeat: this is not YOUR problem. It is his problem, and he wants it to stop.
So seriously, for the love of God, just shut the fuck up.