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May 31, 2013

I am a racist and so are you

The Eddie McGuire-Adam Goodes fraccas is UFC for people who enjoy artisanal cheese. Everyone's a little bit racist, and if we all could just admit ...

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Helen Razer is a horrid racist who selfishly fails to understand the pain of indigenous Australia.

I make this declaration for two reasons. First, a simple cut’n’paste will now save several bloggers the trouble of typing it themselves. Second, it happens to be true.

I am white and I am Australian, and I believe that these data make the fact of my racism toward Aboriginal Australians ineluctable. A racism begun two centuries ago in explicitly genocidal policies — and continued in the implicitly genocidal Intervention — is in me as surely as it is in the social body. It doesn’t just leave because I say “scram”.

But, perhaps this is My Bad. It does seem there are an awful lot of Gubbas who’ve emptied themselves from history’s racist curse. Most of them, in fact, heaved their rich kindness onto the floor of Australian liberal media this week following the verbal abuse of Brownlow medalist Adam Goodes by a 13-year-old bint.

Would that I had the evolved compassion of a Sam de Brito sufficient to see Aboriginal Australians as “an ancient, unique people”. Perhaps I could work on seeing them as Mystic and Noble as well? Fortunately, many commentators did that work for me, with the Swan emerging as Rousseau’s Noble Savage in a great social media outpouring where we were reminded that Goodes was good.

I’m not sure what to make of all this, but I can’t help conclude that in order to be spared racism, you should be ancient or unique or really good with a footy and kids. The subeditor to an otherwise creditable piece by football fan Rhys Muldoon sees “Goodes rises above the pack”.

Oh. He’s a Tinted Inspiration To Us All!

This stuff — written for a white bourgeois liberal audience — does two unforgivable things. First, it casts Goodes as the Brave Aborigine who is a Credit to His People. Second, it outsources racism to the body of a 13-year-old girl and, later in the week, to Collingwood FC president Eddie McGuire.

If you want to know what McGuire or Miss Menarche said, Google it. I am not feeding the pornographic appetites of SEO for hate-speech. I will say, though, that anyone who has ever seen Hot Seat should not be surprised by McGuire’s hideous flub.  He’s that guy who reliably asks the heavyset lady when she’s due.

But, apparently, we must “call out racism” and we must see that McGuire undid “good work” and must be chastened.

Look. Yes. Eddie’s a dick. The man was made and is sustained by AFL so is obliged to take care when talking publicly about the league’s stars. Honestly, McGuire’s advantaged arse could probably do with a kicking for this nonsense. But a set-shot to the McGuire arse will score less than a behind.

One can hold that the incident highlights racism; that the pain so evident on Goodes’ face reminds all Australians of the horror of the Intervention or of the (widening) gap in quality of life between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.  A good piece in The Guardian reminds us that, in fact, that the incident should.

But it doesn’t.

It is not so much that censure of McGuire is a “distraction” from the matter of material reform; although of course, it is cheap liberal bourgeois entertainment. It is UFC for people who enjoy artisanal cheese. It is, rather, that our encroaching focus on the symbolic comes at the expense of the material. Chalk a rainbow. “Call out” s-xism. Say Sorry. All of these actions — great as they feel at the time — compound the idea that it is gestures and not healthcare that moves a society along.

It feels good to call somebody else a racist.  It is easy and rewarding for whitefellas to reprimand McGuire. It is difficult and thankless for us to confront the mess of guilt at our core.

I am white and I am Australian and I am a racist. The only way out of this shunless truth is to acknowledge it.

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