Adam Goodes and Our Increasingly Racist Society

Adam Goodes is one of the most divisive figures in Australian sport. The mere mention of his name will draw a long list of superlatives, and an equally long list of criticisms.

The Swans veteran has more than fulfilled the promise that earned him the Rising Star Award in his debut season of 1999. His on-field achievements in the AFL are virtually unsurpassed; 358 games and counting (the games record for an Indigenous player), two Premiership medals, two Brownlow medals and four All-Australian selections in three different positions – as a ruckman, a wingman and a forward. He is without doubt an ornament of the game.

Off the field his contributions have been no less significant. Goodes has devoted years to working with disadvantaged youth in the Indigenous community, culminating in his co-founding of The Go Foundation which aims to provide youngsters with an education. His work, combined with his public profile, saw him recognised as Australian of the Year in 2014.

So why does he attract so much negativity?

The trendy explanation – albeit largely, or even entirely, without footing – is racism.

Those who prefer this explanation point to his race, ignoring dozens of other players who receive similar treatment on a weekly basis despite not sharing his heritage or skin colour and dozens of other Indigenous players who do not draw similar reactions.

If pressed they are forced to qualify their accusation, ‘it is not merely because he is Indigenous – per se – it is because he is outspoken on the issue.’

Unlike, say, Michael Long, Nicky Winmar, or Goodes’s co-founder of The Go Foundation and former teammate Michael O’Loughlin, all of whom are universally loved by the football community and society?

‘But this never happened before he was named Australian of the Year’, they will retort.

Of course this claim is not true either, as this article attests. Goodes was disliked long before he was publicly recognised as an Indigenous activist, shamed a naïve young girl on national television, or was floated as a potential prop to promote a stage production of King Kong by Eddie McGuire.

But if identity politics is not the driver, what is?

Goodes is the perfect storm of reasons to ‘boo’ a player. He is everything Australians love to hate.

Paradoxically, his excellence makes him a target. He is a victim of his own success. Be it through jealously, or a judgement of perceived arrogance, detractors will always emerge. Think of Nathan Buckley or James Hird, if they were not on your team chances are you held a severe and inexplicable disliking for them. Very few genuine superstars avoid this fate. Robert Harvey or Matthew Richardson make the small list of exceptions.

His game style does little to endear him to fans either. He has a well-earned reputation as a diver and has proven himself to be reckless, bordering on dirty, for some of his dangerous acts such as sliding into opponents feet or knee first. Yet despite these flaws he appears to be a protected species by the umpires, Match Review Panel and the tribunal.

He is outspoken, demonstrative and quite frankly a bit of a sook. He will complain to – or about – anyone; his teammates, opponents, the umpires, the AFL, media commentators and indeed the wider public.

Any factor on its own would draw a reaction, but combine all these traits into one and a significant response is to be expected. Were that amalgamation white, they would be the target of booing and criticism and nobody would care, or even notice, but because Goodes is Indigenous the scenario automatically becomes a racist outrage.

‘They are special racist “boos”, can’t you hear the difference?’

Well, no. I can’t. And neither can anyone else.

Search hard enough for hidden meaning and anything can be found in the Rorschach test. Those who see racism reveal more of themselves than their targets.

Unfortunately, we live in this hypersensitive politically correct whinge-fest called ‘modern society’ where certain elements – consumed with white guilt from an indoctrination into a deluded worldview* – project their own racism onto events to create, and then inflame, an imaginary situation. To them, if discrimination can possibly be perceived, it must be the root cause.

When a player like Jason Akermanis indulged in over-the-top celebrations, some liked it, others thought him a bit of a tool, while most couldn’t care less and the issue was relegated to history within seconds. When Goodes does likewise any disapproval or critique is ‘racist’. Then – for some inexplicable reason – people voicing a valid opinion independent of race don’t take kindly to being labelled a racist, and a culture war promptly ensues.

The entire debate is driven by a sensationalist media searching for controversy and the unsubstantiated accusations of well-intentioned but misguided ideologues who are merely imagining the potential thoughts and motivations of others. Racism is a considerable accusation, not one to be casually dispensed.

Search hard enough for hidden meaning and anything can be found in the Rorschach test. Those who see racism reveal more of themselves than their targets.

* The Sins of the Father

This abhorrent retributive principle, popularised in the Bible, appears to be one of the sources of the regression of self-proclaimed progressives to a more backwards stance than even their enemies on the right.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

— Exodus 20:4-6 (AKA ‘The Second Commandment’)

The other vital element is the notion that racism is not an act of racial prejudice, but rather an institution of oppression. As such, these people believe their own race-based self-loathing, or the prejudices and hypocrisy of non-whites, can never wear the racism label.

This definition allows people to engage in racism and encourage racial divides while placing the blame on innocent bystanders – based solely on their skin colour – even generations hence.

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  1. #1 by Ms Clooney on June 2, 2015 - 7:06 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Finally someone who has been able to write a comprehensive and sound argument about the many reasons people boo Goodes without the witch hunt frenzy and racist rant. I’m allowed to boo everyone else, Reiwoldt, Cloke, Watson, Selwood, Buddy, Cyrol, Judd… but with Goodes, I’m racist if I do.
    Great article summing up what lots of us are thinking but cannot eloquently express. When I’ve tried in 140 characters on Twitter, I’ve been branded a racist!

    Liked by 1 person

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