Tag Archives: Martin Luther King

Racist Attacks on Adam Goodes: The Tip of a Very Ugly Iceberg?

During the last week, what I hope is most Australians, have been rocked by ongoing racist remarks leveled at Adam Goodes, a much loved and honored Indigenous Aussie Rules (AFL) footballer and who was also named Australian of the Year 2014.

Many have come out strongly supporting Goodes, including setting up the hashtag #IStandWithAdam.

However, there are still some pretty vocal critics.

Adam Goodes (born 8 January 1980) is a professional Australian rules football player with the Sydney Swans in the Australian Football League (AFL). Goodes holds an elite place in VFL/AFL history as a dual Brownlow Medalist, dual premiership player, four-time All-Australian, member of the Indigenous Team of the Century and representing Australia in the International Rules Series. In addition, he currently holds the record for the most games played for an Indigenous player, surpassing Andrew McLeod’s record of 340 games during the 2014 AFL season.

I don’t know whether this story has made international headlines but it has reignited race debate here and personally, I think it’s about time racism made the front page and wasn’t hidden in the small print. Whether you believe that booing at Adam Goodes was racist or not, that doesn’t deny that our Indigenous Australians as a whole, cop what is often vile racist abuse. That what happens at a football match is just the tip of a very ugly iceberg. That there is endemic discrimination against Aboriginal people here and it has to stop!

Adam Goodes, Australian of the Year 2014

Adam Goodes, Australian of the Year 2014

Moreover, you don’t have to be an Indigenous Australian to see this. You just need two eyes, two ears and a heart…values. Even the smallest child has probably heard of the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated and that certainly doesn’t include calling anyone an “ape” or saying they “belong in the zoo.”!!

These racial taunts have been leveled at Adam Goodes from the crowd at games and it is nothing short of a disgrace!

I am not going to address the details here as you just need to do a quick Google search to get the run down.

However, here are a few links:

http://www.smh.com.au/national/in-a-dark-place-adam-goodes-the-nation-and-the-race-question-20150731-giolfa.html

http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/aug/01/noel-pearson-on-adam-goodes-booing-australia-is-looking-into-the-abyss-of-despair

The story started out back in 2013 when a 13 year old girl at a Swans match called Goodes “an ape” from the stands. Goodes confronted the girl and she was removed from the stadium and interviewed by Police. Goodes didn’t want her charged and she later apologised to Goodes and made amends. However, there are still rumblings from the sidelines about this. That Goodes was unfair to expose and out her and whether a 13 year old knows what is racist. This has taken the issue way beyond Goodes and the girl concerned and has launched a wider debate. Not so much saying that the girl should be charged but that Goodes made the wrong call.

Since then, there have been other racial taunts directed at Goodes as well as a lot of booing from the crowd.

On the way to see Swans vs West Coast Eagles at ANZ Stadium in 2009. Mister played on the field with his team at half-time as part of the junior Auskick program.

On the way to see Swans vs West Coast Eagles at ANZ Stadium in 2009. Mister played on the field with his team at half-time as part of the junior Auskick program.

I’ve been to a number of AFL matches and am a Sydney Swans supporter myself. I’ve heard that kind of booing at matches and know how a crowd can get carried away, However, even then it struck me as poor sportsmanship and this booing at Goodes falls into another category altogether. Even if it wasn’t intended to be racist in the past, now that it is being perceived that way, that’s what it means. It needs to stop!!

Somewhat friendly banter between opposing supporters at the Swans vs Essenden match July 2007: my husband and I!

Somewhat friendly banter between opposing supporters at the Swans vs Essenden match July 2007: my husband and I!

What I also find quite intriguing is how people talk about this girl being an “innocent 13 year old”. That she didn’t understand what she was saying. What it meant to call anyone a “ape”, even if she didn’t understand what that reference means to Aboriginal people in particular.

As far as I’m concerned, she knew exactly what she was saying. You and I both know that if anyone called a kid in the playground a ape, at the very least, they’d be labeled a bully…not an innocent. So what’s the difference here? Just because Goodes is older than her, that doesn’t give her the right to be racist!

Just to emphasise this point, while I’ve been working on this post, my daughter approached me and said: “How could she not know that calling someone an ape is racist?” Miss is only 9 and she knows!

My kids are incredibly proud of our Indigenous people and actually thought they were Aboriginal. You see, my aunt’s partner is Aboriginal and they simply know him as “Uncle Darryl”. Darryl’s children are my step-cousins and while we don’t see them often as we live on opposite sides of the country, the kids really became attached to Uncle Darryl and believed they were Aboriginal. Even when I tried to explain to them that we were related to my aunt, it simply didn’t sink in. They couldn’t grasp genetics and all of these scientific explanations. Darryl was their uncle. He is Aboriginal. They were Aboriginal. There was such beauty and love in this. One day my daughter finally asked me: “So we don’t have any Aboriginal blood? Not even a drop?” Both kids are very disappointed!

I don’t just attribute this pride to our family situation. Rather, our school has built close ties with the local Mingaletta People and they learn Aboriginal painting and stories at school. Indeed, Aboriginality is truly celebrated at our school and not just given lip service either! It is interwoven in so much of what we do.

A few weeks ago, my son even attended a didgeridoo playing session at Mingaletta with his friend from school and I know that moved him deeply inside. It was a spiritual experience for him.

A few weeks ago while we were catching the train, he also told me that he would be proud to be Aboriginal.

These weren’t things my kids have said or done to be politically correct. Their love and respect for Aboriginal people just flows from the heart as a mark of respect, love and I some sort of connection which defies explanation but I do hope that this is something which will nurture and grow.

My kids, imperfect as they are, show what is possible not only through education but through knowing Aboriginal people in our family, at school and in the community and also being taught over and over again that we are all equal regardless of race,gender,disability or class.

My question and what I see as the ultimate challenge, is how do we reach adults who espouse racism and the like in our community?

Quite frankly, we all need to periodically scrub our brains out with soap and clean out the crap. Acknowledge our own bigoted biases and change the way we think. This doesn’t just relate to racism but also just to plain snobbery. Thinking that you’re better than someone else just because of where you live, what you drive and where your children go to school NOT who you are on the inside and your own actions. We don’t need to knock other people down to build ourselves up.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

So along with the rest of my family, we step out firmly supporting Adam Goodes. More than that. We cheer him on for taking a stand against racism and also for all he has done to encourage, develop and support Indigenous Australians while promoting greater acceptance, understanding and connection among all Australians…and all peoples!

respect

It is a noble cause which echoes the words and deeds of many of the world’s greats but the words of Martin Luther King particularly come to mind:

“I have a dream that one day right there in Alabama little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

xx Rowena

You can read here how fans have come out in force to support Adam Goodes: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-02/sporting-stars-and-fans-support-adam-goodes/6665834

Australia’s “200th Birthday” Revisited.

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten”.

– Rudyard Kipling

Last week, Australians celebrated, lamented or slept through Australia Day which marks the arrival of the British First Fleet at Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) On the 26th  January,  1788. Governor Arthur Phillip raised the Union Jack claiming British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of Australia, which was then known as New Holland.  There was no treaty with the Aboriginal people, as there had been with the Maori in New Zealand and you will still hear Australians talk about how Captain Cook discovered Australia in 1770, even though Australia was never actually “lost”.

The Australian Women's Weekly, January, 1988.

The Australian Women’s Weekly, January, 1988.

 

 

If you have read my last post, you’ll know that I recently came across a vintage copy of The Australian Women’s Weekly from January, 1988. This was their “Bicentennial Souvenir: Special Collector’s Edition”, to celebrate Australia’s “200th Birthday”. It included a couple of pages of birthday wishes from around the world:

“Australia is the closest thing to Texas you can get…the women are beautiful, the men are tough and it has got great beer! Happy 200th, Australia.”

-Larry Hagman, who played J.R. Ewing in the hit series: Dallas[1].

“Although by birth I am English, I feel Australian and think of myself as Australian. Australia took me in, nurtured me and sent me out into the world with a sense of belonging   and a great outlook on life. Happy birthday, Australia.”

– Olivia Newton-John[2].

However, while I was reading the magazine, it struck me that there was no mention of Aboriginal people at all. That bothered me enough to put my detective’s hat on and to start digging.

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
George Orwell

The First Fleet Reenactment, 1988.

The First Fleet Reenactment, 1988.

Rewinding back to January 26, 1988…I was a young, 18 year old who had just finished school and was still reveling from celebrating “Schoolies Week” at Surfers Paradise on Queensland’s Gold Coast. This involved lying by the pool or on the beach by day and hitting the nightclubs by night and to be perfectly honest, I was probably more concerned about the state of my tan and of course, friends, relationships, fun.

Enjoying the party atmosphere on Australia Day, 26th January, 1988 , my boyfriend and I were jammed under the Sydney Harbour Bridge along with hundreds and thousands of other sardines on a characteristically hot summer’s day, spellbound as the Tall Ships in the First Fleet Reenactment sailed majestically through Sydney Harbour. I still remember battling to try to photograph the Tall Ships through the crowd with my humble Kodak camera, which was so old that you had to shove a film cartridge in the back. There was a woman standing right in front of me wearing the largest, brightest sunflower-yellow hat I’d ever seen. Indeed, the brim was so wide, that you could land a helicopter on it no worries. I passed the camera to my boyfriend, who being 6ft 4″ almost towered up into the clouds. With that camera, none of our photos were “good” but at least when he took he photos, you could pick the Tall Ships out over the hat.

That was my Australia Day.

Badge Protesting against celebrating Australia's Bicentenary.

Badge Protesting against celebrating Australia’s Bicentenary.

Meanwhile, there was a protest movement of upwards of 40,000 Indigenous Australians and sympathisers marching through Sydney. For them, Australia Day was Invasion Day and 1988 would be a year of mourning. This was the largest march in Sydney since the Vietnam moratorium. The march ended at Hyde Park where several prominent Aboriginal leaders and activists spoke, among them activist Gary Foley; ‘Let’s hope Bob Hawke and his Government gets this message loud and clear from all these people here today. It’s so magnificent to see black and white Australians together in harmony! This is what Australia could and should be like.’

Aboriginal protests on Sydney Harbour, Australia Day, 1988

Aboriginal protests on Sydney Harbour, Australia Day, 1988

While I can be a bit oblivious, I find it hard to believe that I missed a march of that magnitude and it’s only now, some 24 years later, that I’ve been enlightened.

“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ”
― Michael Crichton

That said, I’m still fairly ignorant. It’s simply impossible to pick up all the nuances on this flying visit and understand what happened. There are others who have done the research and also lived through the times, who can give a much better account than I. As I said, this is just a fleeting visit sparked by a magazine I’d bought at the op shop and my relationships with my extended Aboriginal family.

Bicentennial celebrations exposed differing views both about our history, our future and our identity as a nation. While it was only 24 years ago, I’d like to think we were in a different place back then when where racist jokes were the norm and most Australians really couldn’t understand what the fuss was all about. Why couldn’t the Aboriginal people just join the rest of us under The Bridge and enjoy a piece of birthday cake and enjoy the “celebration of a nation”?   What was their problem and why didn’t somebody lock all those radicals up? Indeed, a disproportionate number of Indigenous people were already in gaol and there was mounting anger about black deaths in custody.

I am not an Aboriginal activist, historian or anybody who really has an understanding of the rights and wrongs involved but I am a person who has a disability and has experienced discrimination enough to know that even the well-intentioned who at least try to get into my wobbilly feet, don’t necessarily know what it’s like to walk in my shoes. Therefore, I don’t pretend to know what it is to be an Indigenous person in Australia…then or now.

However, I do care.

As much as I believe in equality for all and respecting all peoples, it is particularly harsh when someone comes into your country and treats you like shit. Takes away your land, your children and gives immigrants preferential treatment and won’t even give you the vote. Moreover, once some of these things were finally acknowledged, it wasn’t until February 2008 that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd finally managed to say “Sorry”…some 20 years after the Bicentenary!

I am also in an interesting position because my uncle is Aboriginal and because of him, my children identified themselves as being Aboriginal. No matter how much I seemed to explain to them about genetics and pointed out that we were related to my aunt, they still believed they were Aboriginal until quite recently. The penny finally dropped when, after a long discussion with our daughter, she finally asked rather sadly: “Not even a drop?” “No,” I replied. “Not even a drop”. They wish they were Aboriginal and are very proud of Australia’s Indigenous people, culture and history. We don’t see a lot of my aunt and uncle so I believe this connection has been strengthened by their school. Our school says: “Welcome to Country” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welcome_to_Country_and_Acknowledgement_of_Country) at assemblies and events and the children learn Aboriginal arts and culture in way that goes way beyond anything we ever did at school. They have local elders come into the school and talk to the kids as well. About 10% of kids at our school “identify” as being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and we have an Aboriginal Liaison Officer on staff. We are very proud of our school’s passion and commitment.

It has been interesting seeing how buying a vintage magazine at the op shop has opened my eyes to so many things and made me see the Australian Bicentenary in a completely different light. That said, I have been conscious for some time that celebrating Australia Day on 26th January is not showing sensitivity or compassion towards our Indigenous people who were displaced and so often subjected to horrific crimes of abuse throughout history. This is our national shame and we shouldn’t just bury that under the carpet and pretend that nothing ever happened. We can’t. To be honest, it continues today.

I don’t know what, if anything, I can do about it personally other than write about it, which does seem a bit lame but we each have our role in the body, in our community and as I have said before, I always hope the pen is mightier than the sword. That through writing we can highlight prejudice and injustice and also love and embrace all peoples.

In this, I join with Dr Martin Luther King (Jnr) and say “I have a dream”. I haven’t quite worked out all the details yet but have joined at least 1000 other people who will be writing about compassion on 20th February, 2015…the UN International Day of Social Justice: 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion. I encourage you to also participate. You can check out the details here:

https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/bloggers-unite-for-a-better-world-1000-voices-speak-for-compassion/

We need to keep working on the foundations laid by trail blazers like Dr Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela and see love, compassion and equality triumph!

xx Rowena

PS I have compiled a series of quotes relating to the Bicentenary, which is coming up next.

[1] The Australian Women’s Weekly, January 1988, pg 7.

[2] The Australian Women’s Weekly, January 1988, pg 7.

[3] The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995) Saturday 7 March 1987 p 9

[4] Woroni (Canberra, ACT : 1950 – 2007) Monday 7 March 1988 p 19 Article

[5] The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995) Wednesday 1 June 1988 p 30

[6] The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995) Saturday 25 January 1986 p 3

[7] http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm