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 ...

Helen Razer — Writer and broadcaster

Helen Razer

Writer and broadcaster

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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55 thoughts on “I am a racist and so are you

  1. jonnowarren

    No silly, you don’t acknowledge your racism, you just acknowledge the “traditional owners” of the land and then magically all is good with the world.

  2. samistapol

    Absolutely right, and a darn sight more realistic than all those other goody twoshoes journalists falling over themselves to proudly and hypocritically proclaim how unracist they are.

    Racism is quite possibly endemic to humanity, but we can if we look ourselves in the mirror ameliorate the less desirable effects of it – like maybe not yelling racial insults in public. We will all get on better that way. Won’t mean we’re not racist, it would just mean we have grown up enough to be able to be polite in public.

  3. 2sheds

    ‘I’m a racist and so are you’ is a bit glib Helen. It’s like being self aware of our prejudices and just in case I’m not, I’ll make this motherhood statement just to cover anything I’ve missed (oh yeah and I will include everybody else as well in this preachy title – cause they are even more unaware of their latent racism than me). It’s like those who at meetings acknowledge the traditional owners up front…but I know that if you scratch the surface they are for many just often just words without substance. It makes me cringe and does little to benefit (and may even harm) the indigenous cause.

  4. mikeb

    If not being able to understand the black man’s pain is racist, then I’m a racist. If thinking that a black man is inferior to a white man is racist, then I’m not a racist. What to make of that?

  5. Holden Back

    How much I admire you for the use of “bint”.

  6. Lachlan Morton

    What made what Eddie said so bad, is that it reinforces a discourse we should be trying to stamp out.
    Eddie isn’t a deeply racist man, but his comments embolden the deeply racist people within Australia. If you scroll through the AFL related pages on Facebook, some peoples comments are so deeply hateful, Eddie encouraged all those people.

  7. Tom Jones

    So easy to embrace beiong a racist and then you can sit back and smirk at those who believe that public utterances matter and set the tone for actions beyond the radio and footy spheres.

    It is of course precisely the attitudes displayed openly by the Collingwood President and supporter that make an awful intervention possible in the first place, because it supports the view that Aboriginal people don’t deserve a say in what happens to them: an idea devised by the right wing, not anyone who was liberal, although it is liberal thinkers who are being mocked here. Respect comes first for any meaningful developments for Aboriginal people and that has been thin on the ground from the Collingwood tribe. Adam Goodes has shown a maturity far beyond that of the writer of this article. He is someone worthy of admiration despite the snide comments of Ms Razer.

    As usual a trite piece which lacks any kind of enlightenment. Keep on trying Ms Razer. You may find something of value to say one day.

  8. Bob Durnan

    Simplistic diatribes like this aren’t all that helpful. Does Helen not think that several decades of often tough struggle against racism by Indigenous and migrant peoples have shifted some segments of Australian society into less racist positions?
    By the way, is it useful for us to know what SEO and UFC stand for? If not, don’t worry about enlightening us plebs.

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