Giving Discrimination The Boot

The past five days in the Australian media have been some that won’t soon be forgotten in the fight for the rights of all professional Aussie rules players in the AFL, and subsequently Australians worldwide, who are discriminated against because of their heritage and the colour of their skin.

Friday night at the MCG gave us a sickening sneak peek at what the next generation of Australians could be bringing to the public in regards to their views on acceptance and equality in our society.

A thirteen year old girl, sitting front row at the Sydney v Collingwood football match, yelled a racist slur at Adam Goodes and was immediately ejected from the game.

She may not have known what she was saying or what the things she was saying could mean to a player – but more importantly a person – of Aboriginal descent, but the truth is, this girl heard this kind of talk from someone, and believed it to be okay.

To further rub salt into the open wound of discrimination in our society, there was a severely divided backlash on the issue. Some stood up against the words of the teenage girl, and adamantly stated that this was not the Australia that they called home, and callous language, racial or otherwise, would not be tolerated. Others, sadly, fired back asking if the world had gone ‘soft’, and that players and others fighting against this language were ‘precious’.

Then, Wednesday morning, the issue was re-opened and people’s opinions reignited.

Eddie McGuire, Collingwood President, television personality and radio DJ, made a racist gaffe at the expense of Adam Goodes. He was immediately shocked and distraught about the error of his words, and what the resulting statement had insinuated about him as a person, as well as his views of indigenous players.

Mr McGuire immediately issued a public apology and did the media rounds to both try and clear up what was meant in his poor choice of words, and to make amends with the thousands he had offended as a result of this.

McGuire appeared on Foxtel’s 360 program, a weekly wrap-up of all things football, alongside Brazilian/Congolese Collingwood footballer, Harry O’Brien, who had condemned his President via Twitter earlier that day for his comments. O’Brien stated that although he knew that McGuire was a deeply respectful and professional man, the result of his ‘casual racism’, deliberate or not, just added to the growing number of taunts O’Brien and other players receive on a daily basis.

O’Brien also stated that Australia’s controversial views on refugees was a ‘top-down’ issue, with the Australian Government being partly to blame for these forms of racism with their fear mongering of refugees and asylum seekers as ‘illegal’ and igniting their arrival on Australian shores as an invasion on our land.

O’Brien went on to talk about how only those who have a different skin colour or heritage can really feel and assess the impact that these words have on their communities.

But it is possible to experience the damage felt by others by others in situations like these by putting ourselves in their shoes.

Sitting on the couch watching this interview, I put myself in Adam Goodes’ or Harry O’Brien’s shoes and put myself into a similar situation in which I was to be vilified.

What if I was playing on a sports field and I was called a ‘fag’ by a thirteen year old girl?

What if I was listening to the radio and heard Eddie McGuire say that I would be a good spokesperson for The Boy From Oz simply because I was gay?

And how would I feel knowing that this problem probably isn’t going to get any better quickly because the Government and the churches are still so adamant that the LGBT community, MY community, are going to ruin societies values if they ever give us the same rights as everyone else?

It is so easy to judge others.

It is so easy to write off a snide comment as humorous if we aren’t the ones victimized by it.

It is so easy to say that society has gone ‘soft’ when we stand up and fight against those belittling or vilifying us with their language and their views.

But what society seems to find hard to do is to accept that we are all different, and that just because someone doesn’t share the same race, religion, sexual orientation and so on, it should not be seen to be a reason to treat them with any less respect and any less worth.

We can all be picked on, we all have something different about us, but we can also all make a stand to stop this discrimination.