Inspiring news out of Queensland this morning: The ES ‘Nigger’ Brown stand in Toowoomba will come down to make way for a statue.

For those who’ve missed this enduring and heart-warming tale, the rugby league grandstand was built in 1960 and named after a former Toowoomba league international and local legend, Edward Stanley Brown.

Ed — who by all accounts was a model citizen — was known among the locals as “Nigger”, apparently because he had snowy blonde hair and blue eyes or because he liked Nigger Brown shoe polish (the exact source of the nickname is unclear, but either way it was racially based).

Enter Stephen Hagan, an Aboriginal leader who moved to Toowoomba in the early ’90s and was horrified to discover the word “Nigger” writ large at the town oval. After unsuccessful attempts locally and nationally to have the name of the stand changed to simply “ES Stanley Brown”, Hagan applied to the UN in 2003. He won. The UN ruled the sign was clearly offensive and should come down.

The Toowoomba Sportsground Trust, the Queensland Premier and the Prime Minister remained unmoved. The stand should stay, they said. But this week, it was announced the stand was now a safety hazard and would have to be torn down. It will be rebuilt, and renamed.

But the Toowoomba Sportsground Trust has decided to erect a statue to “Nigger Brown” at the site. Trust chairman John McDonald told The Australian newspaper the statue would include the word nigger. “His name will live on and his name was Nigger Brown.”

The argument for the retention of the Nigger Brown stand (and thus soon to become the argument for the retention of the word nigger on a statue) is that it’s not offensive because it’s someone’s name.

Rubbish. It is someone’s nickname. There’s a vast difference.

The general view among “ordinary Australians” is that the Nigger Brown debate is not important, and that we should move on. I disagree. The Nigger Brown debate is fundamentally important. If commonsense — if not simple respect — can’t win the day on this debate, then what hope have we got of getting Australians to take seriously things like Aboriginal health, land rights, a treaty of all things that are important to Aboriginal people?

And what hope do we have of convincing the vast majority of Aboriginal people who want the sign removed that Australians value their culture, their feelings and their rights?

Ultimately, the question ordinary Australians need to ask themselves is what, exactly, are they fighting for? Are they fighting against political correctness?

Or are they really just fighting for the retention of the word ‘nigger’ in a public place, because they can? Could we be any more juvenile?

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