How stupid are you?

12 06 2014

So who’s stupid? Not you, of course. Certainly not me. Hey, maybe none of us.

No, that’s not what people were saying today as journalist Mark Sawyer opined that anything less than white supremacy was not racist, parsing a quote from an Australian Army officer condemning the sexual abuse and harassment of women in the defence forces that included the word ‘’standard’’.

Here was another cretinism, depressingly fresh on the heels of Mia Freedman’s insight that Madonna’s poor brown children from a poor brown country were better off skiing with the rich people.

It may pay to look at the bigger picture pays to have a long, hard look at ourselves. We’re living in a an era when evil critical thought is an outmoded concept, when there are no bad people, only bad acts only baddies and more baddies.

Yes, of course, ‘‘the stupid I walk past is the stupid I accept’’, to paraphrase the angry Army officer again vogue reasoning . Sorry #notsorry but I stopped walking past it plenty of times.

I stopped walking past it when a man in Spain told me not to put my Masters degree on my CV, because I ‘look too smart on paper’, when the mother of an old friend asked if I still ‘had my little job’ and when an old lady in country NSW offered me his ultimate accolade a bewildered stare: ‘Press secretary? Are you from the typing pool?’

Hey, I also stopped walking past it when people assert that Australia is a uniquely wicked racist <WAIT… DIDN’T HE SAY TEH EVILS WERE NO MORE?> country. I said Australia wasn’t unique, or wicked, but we are home to a hella bunch of racists.

You see, indigenous Australians once won a court case against Andrew Bolt. From this came the appointment of a Freedom Commissioner to protect us from the oppressive dictatorships which terrorises us daily … what exactly? To fight for the freedom of satirists to call someone a dog fucker on a comedy programme oh wait that didn’t happen.

But how many people alive today are honest to god stupid? You know, willing to grandstand at the school gates like a southern US governor in the 1950s and ’60s on panel shows and say “you shall not pass university without incurring crippling debt”? Refuse to not quit Twitter WHEN YOU PROMISE IT, drama monarchs (© Dan Savage)? Oddly, when Prime Minister Abbott failed to offer his hand to European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton kick Russia out of the G20 there was not a glimmer of protest from those who are “for freedom” and apparently little else. Abbott saw fit to call Russian President Vladimir Putin a “bully”. Truly, a foreign policy colossus.

Are white South African migrants to Australia racist? Are black Zimbabwean leaders racist for pushing whites off farms? Considering the hierarchy of oppression that is so fashionable now, are any non-white people racist at all? Fuuuuuuuuck… shelve your bullshit “what about Mugabe” logical fallacies.

<INSERT RANDOM EXAMPLE OF RACISM>

For seemingly endless days in May 2013, Australia was obsessed with the Eddie McGuire controversy. The ‘Who Wants to Be A Millionaire/Hot Seat/Hotpants/whatever it’s called these days’ host and President of the Collingwood Football Club doubled down on racist comments about Adam Goodes. He now has to sell the franchise and will end his days as a pariah called a laughable press conference, kept all of his lucrative media gigs, including ‘Press Red for Ed’. Isn’t that enough? Not for Sam Newman, though The Footy Show was not alone. Fox Sports’ AFL 360 anchors weighed every nuance, reading tweets from another brown AFL player Eddie took on the show with him to prove he wasn’t racist, interviewing each other endlessly.

For what? Only because there was bad press at stake for the AFL did McGuire even try and weasel out of his ‘brainfade’. And yet plenty of stupid people think and say and write in the most appalling “English” on any social media platform/online comment section they can find, McGuire’s racism is the fault of the brown person who should STFU & HTFU. I’d rather ask how healthy it is for the leader of any sporting team to be owned by a single plutocrat this level of stupidity to go unchecked. Minimising racism emboldens other racists.

<THANKS, EDDIE. THIS IS A GREAT EXAMPLE OF WHAT MARK SAWYER WOULD CALL “NOT RACISM”>

My contention is that people can say racist things because they are afflicted, temporarily or permanently, with stupidity racism. Why? Because I believe there are that many racists, even if they lack the self-awareness to realise they are, in fact, racist. These would be people <FAIRFAX YOU REALLY NEEDED YOUR SUBS> obsessed with the supremacy of their race feels to the exclusion of facts. They are out there. And their numbers are significant. And the best frontman they can present is not the Prime Minister, as John Oliver found in Last Week Tonight last fortnight, he ain’t growing the brand. Scott Morrison. Seriously. He is my worst nightmare. Because he would win a poll held whenever in a canter. Because of the stupid racists.

I’d wager that the overwhelming majority of us, no matter the colour, are roughly as ‘‘racist’’ our formal education, are is not as stupid as each other <OK WHOEVER PRESSED ‘GO’ WITHOUT SUBBING THIS COLUMN IS DOING MY HEAD IN>. In other words, let’s stop the stupid. Not just the stupid things we say. Stop electing stupid governments. Stop watching unqualified people erect plaster board and selling their bodgy renos to stupid people with more money than sense. Stop labelling basic human decency and not being a racist as “political correctness”. Stop appropriating the future by thinking about electricity bills. Stop decrying learning and instead reach for something beyond ourselves. Just stop being so bloody stupid.

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On sport, and identity | Part II

3 01 2014

‘Everyone has at least two flags.’

Sunder Katwala, Director, British Future

11 June 2012

For many Australians, dual citizenship and ancestry provisions to European countries are a flag of convenience, a way of avoiding the tiresome business of obtaining visas on a three-week holiday or enjoying the privileges a global economy entails for the annual exodus of 18-27 year olds we now label ‘gap years’ (a very British term). It’s de rigueur for young Australians to see how far the old countries will strain and stretch to accommodate us – ‘is one of eight great-grandparents good enough for me to get a jammy European Union passport?’ – yet we love to argue the toss about the national identity of English cricketers. Replying to tweets from cricketing commentator David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd defending the foreign-born players wearing the Three Lions of England on their shirts, I was struck by the vociferous negativity the subject generates. What makes someone ‘English’ enough to wear the blue cap in our green and gold bucket-headed minds?

‘The English squad for The Ashes has 3 South Africans, a Zimbabwean, a Irishman and a Kiwi.’

~~~

‘… a changing-room comprising, say, six Englishmen, two West Indians, two South Africans and a New Zealander…’

Dennis Carnahan describes his song, ‘That’s In Englandas a poke at the Barmy Army over the English Cricket Board’s selection policies. The usual suspects – Pietersen, Trott, Prior – feature, presumably for squeezing the tits of a universal system which places the thirst for first above immigration policy. The problem with questioning the ‘Englishness’ of these white, South African-born players is not knowing where to stop. Carnahan went on to tell an Indian outlet that players should spend more time in the country they choose to represent. How much more? Ben Stokes spent the first 11 years of his life in New Zealand. Should he pull a Gordon Greenidge? Born and raised in Barbados, Greenidge’s family moved to England when he was a teenager. He played county cricket and was eligible for selection in England, but chose to return to the Caribbean, as detailed in this Wisden entry on its 1977 cricketer of the year. As Peter Wilby noted in this excellent piece from 2006, racism clearly plays a part in the declining popularity of cricket among young Britons of Afro-Caribbean and Asian descent, and pressured the-then Immigration Minister, Brendan O’Connor to approve Fawad Ahmed’s previously ‘groundless’ asylum seeker bid, yet Cricket Australia has no problem promoting Carnahan’s YouTube clip, which includes a line on the history of ‘non-English’ England players:

they’ve rolled out ‘Englishmen’ whose blood was not quite blue’

 over a montage of former cricketers including the late Basil D’Oliveira and Colin Cowdrey; Nasser Hussein; Gladstone Small; Devon Malcolm as well as Allan Lamb and Derek Pringle. Geraint Jones (no, not a rugby player from the Valleys but a PNG-born, Queensland-raised Ashes-winning wicketkeeper) took the song in his stride, tweeting, ‘at least i am mentioned with some greats for one thing!’; but when those greats include the mixed-race D’Oliviera (banned from playing first class cricket under South Africa’s apartheid regime, died in 2011) and not the most instantly recognisable ‘non-English’ England captain to most Australians (the late Tony Greig), it begs the question: is Greig off limits because he spent 30-odd years working for Kerry Packer in Australia? Geraint Jones might not have a problem with the song, but given Malcolm settled out of court over Wisden Cricket Monthly’s publication of Robert Henderson’s infamous 1995 essay, Is it in the Blood?, I wonder what his reaction would be to once again having his patriotism questioned – even ‘casually’, ‘playfully’, in a song by an Australian satirist, or in the Australian press? As this piece by Derek Pringle (another furriner in an England cap) for The Independent notes, why should he have to put up with it? Why do we care about cricketers who up stumps and question the depth of their identity with the country they live in? Instead of facing our own questions on sport and identity, we frame a faux ‘debate’ over ‘Englishness’. The UK gutter press does a sterling job of the ‘Plastic Brits’ nonsense already, as British Future’s Sunder Katwala elegantly sums up here. Everyone’s got at least two flags. How difficult is it to understand?





A great fortnight for people who aren’t racist

29 05 2013

Disclaimer: I am a privileged white female who loves football, football and cycling.

Last week, Captain Kangaroo – the late, great Johnny Warren – would have turned 70. I couldn’t help of thinking, ‘WWJD’ if he’d heard GWS Giants coach Kevin Sheedy’s comments about immigration officers recruiting fans for his cross-code football rivals, Western Sydney Wanderers.

The paltry crowd that gathered at Skoda Stadium to witness the Mother’s Day clash between Essendon and the Giants may frustrate Sheedy. My feelpinion is he’s embarrassed. A man used to being feted or hated for his every utterance in Melbourne has come to Sydney to start a new club and no one really cares what he says, unless he’s starting faux hostilities with the Swans or needling Melbourne clubs.

It was never going to be an easy task – something the Sydney Swans’ retiring President, Richard Colless, had warned Sheedy. For every Johnny Come Lately AFL convert like me, the Swans have, at its core, a group of supporters who have stuck with the club through the razzle-dazzle of the Edelsten days and been there financially when the club almost folded. The Swans also had the head start of being a relocated Melbourne club with a rich history it refers to at every opportunity; but enough about my team.

What I found jarring was the number of people who came out to support Sheedy. He’s not a racist. He’s done more for multiculturalism than anyone else. He’s not a racist. He said the wrong thing but people who are objecting are really blowing it out of proportion. Yep, Sheedy said the wrong thing. On the scale of wrong things, it was a lazy throwback to the ‘sheilas, wogs and poofters’ view of football (at least):

“That’s what happens when you channel a lot of people into a country and put them into Western Sydney.”

Seriously? This from a fella who thought he could drag in the leaguies by recruiting Israel Folau? When that didn’t work (embarrassingly), turns his attention from competing with rugby league as the game of the Western Suburbs to whining about the success of the Wanderers in building a club – yep, pretty much overnight. I don’t think anyone could have predicted just how big an impact Wanderers would make on the A-League. I have a hometown bias towards the Newcastle Jets. Having paid to see A-League games in Sydney, I don’t go anymore. The reason? The worst racism from a crowd I’ve ever witnessed from the cheap seats in any sport. I’ve heard Australian cricket fans call the greatest player I’ve ever had the privilege of watching an, ‘Indian takeaway delivery boy’ – much to the mirth of an Australian player fielding on the boundary. I stood up, full of drink, and abused them in some florid and foul language. I think I got more daggers from the Indian fans around me for swearing in front of their children.

Back to the A-League, and why I won’t go again. A Brisbane Roar player, Kosovar-Albanian international Besart (Mark) Berisha, was taunted (if that’s what you can call, ‘die in a gas chamber, Gypsy’) by a group of low-life Sydney FC ‘supporters’ whose pea-brains use the worst excesses of 1970s terrace action as their template. Oh, the irony of their club’s owner being a Jew who escaped the Holocaust. This time, I said nothing. I’m ashamed to say I was scared of them. A few weeks ago, I had it ‘splained to me that I didn’t understand Berisha’s ‘history’ with Sydney FC. Whatever. I was intimidated, and saddened by what I heard. I’m ashamed that I didn’t say anything, more ashamed that I stayed.

A few weeks ago, I tweeted this. The source was at the game and saw the incident first-hand. I had no reason to doubt his word. An AFL journalist retweeted me, and I am proud to say that the response was 95 per cent positive. Unfortunately and infuriatingly, I was accused of making things up. Interestingly, few of the people having a pop at me went for the person who said he saw the incident. Nothing came of it, unlike previous (and jaw-droppingly) continuing reports of racist abuse targeting North Melbourne’s Majak Daw. UPDATE: while Goodes may not have heard it, but as per the original tweets, it appears Swans staff did & the club reported it to the AFL. We await its response … or not.

The most infuriating thing is being seen as biased or overreacting if you object to racism. I’m biased because Goodes is ‘a protected species’. Well, that explains this, I guess. It is as ugly as the day when St Kilda’s Nicky Winmar pulled up his guernsey in front of a section of Collingwood supporters, defying their idiocy in a gesture which screamed, ‘yes, I am proud of the heart beating under my skin – and yet all you see is the colour of my skin.’ Fast forward to last Friday. Watching the Swans-Collingwood game on TV & live tweeting it, it was very evident late in the game that someone had said something that made Adam Goodes stop in his tracks. He didn’t ignore it. He stood tall, he stood proud, and he pointed out his abuser. That she was a 13 year-old girl makes the point that ‘casual racism’ breeds ‘overt racism’. This tweet sums it up for me.

Today, Adam Goodes woke up to the news that Collingwood President, Eddie McGuire, had tried to riff off last Friday’s incident in his morning radio show. Not funny, Ed. Not even remotely amusing. Harking back to ‘ye olde days’ when talking about King Kong subtly perpetuates the worst of the eugenics argument: that black people are somehow less evolved. As Richard Colless said today, the best thing that can be said is the whole thing is ‘bewildering’, particularly as McGuire had been widely praised for his fast and emphatic response on Friday night. The AFL is ‘dealing with McGuire under its racial vilification policy. Goodes’ message on Saturday – that the 13 year-old needed education, support and to take responsibility for her actions – was the mark of the man. Eddie McGuire would have been well served to take notes before his press conference.

I’m a privileged white woman. I don’t know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of racism, ‘casual’ or not. I’m over the ‘casual racism’ tag. It’s starting to sound like a cheap way out of for people who don’t think what they say or do is racist. Like Eddie McGuire or Kevin Sheedy. Is this racist if it’s preceded by this? Nah, totes casual. I saw this and felt uncomfortable, but I said nothing. It’s not enough. Twenty years’ ago, Nicky Winmar pointed to himself. Adam Goodes pointed at all of us and said enough. Watch the vision of AC Milan’s Kevin Prince Boateng walking off the pitch after he was racially abused by fans of fourth division team, Pro Patria, during a friendly. Then watch as his teammates follow in support. Hear Adam Goodes’ pain trivialised by a radio host. Read Harry O’Brien’s response – to HIS club President. You can be sickened and heartened in a few minutes and reminded that all of us can be better – at a football match, on social media, when our Dad’s 1960s worldview deserves public challenging, on a bus. We are all capable of following these simple words, and standing up – not for people, but with them.

Racism. It stops with me.