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The racism that resides here

3 Sep 2019

Racism. Indigenous people are experts on this subject. We face it daily. In the media, at work and school. Sometimes it is blatant and sometimes it is casual (although both are equally harmful).

Lowanna Gibson

Racism. Indigenous people are experts on this subject. We face it daily. In the media, at work and school. Sometimes it is blatant and sometimes it is casual (although both are equally harmful). Recently, news commentators such as Rita Panahi and Joe Hildebrand and politicians such as Warren Mundine, have recently argued and supported that racism is not really an issue in particular cases or worse, that we should probably not even care.

There have been a few incidents recently which highlight how the media immediately disregards the opinion of the person who are being racially vilified. This is something that happens in most cases. To Indigenous people, it is no shock as it is common for our opinions to not be treated as valid unless they adhere to a certain view point.

Recently, ‘The Final Quarter’ was released. This documentary outlined Adam Goodes’ struggle in facing the unreasonable and constant booing from the crowd and the media’s reaction. As is well known, the media did not take kindly to an Indigenous man calling out racism – because apparently being called a racist is worse than experiencing racism.

One key figure in the media, Panahi went as far as to claim that the incident was not racist whatsoever and instead pointed to the fact that Goodes was not playing to the fan’s standards – his alleged bad playing was debunked.

Last month Panahi gave her take on the Goodes saga on the program ‘Outsiders’. Predictably, she took the side of the perpetrator and somehow directed the conversation back to neglect and violence in Indigenous communities.

On the program, Panahi concluded that ‘key facts’ were omitted from the ‘Final Quarter’ and ultimately this rendered the documentary as ‘poorly made propaganda.’ The biggest issue with Panahi’s argument is not only did she omit key facts from her argument, she flat-out got the facts wrong. Panahi had a few poor arguments up her sleeve however, her argument in relation to Indigenous players being celebrated for speaking out on Indigenous issues and using Nicky Winmar as an example, was one that stuck out like a sore thumb.

Indigenous players are celebrated and loved until they act out of their entrenched position. They are celebrated and loved when they talk about issues which do not implicate racists.

Goodes is not the only footballer to have suffered from racial abuse. There is Greg Inglis, Timana Tahu, Anthony Mundine, Buddy Franklin and the latest, Latrell Mitchell, just to name a few. Furthermore, using Winmar as an example of Indigenous players being celebrated for speaking out against racism, is just poor journalism, as Winmar’s ‘gesture’ is probably the most famous example of an indigenous athlete taking a stand against racism. Even after taking that stand, Winmar was subject to racism by Sam Newman who appeared on the Footy Show in Blackface and more recently, Mal Brown who referred to Indigenous players as cannibals.

So clearly Panahi’s argument is redundant, as Winmar was definitely not celebrated by all for his famous stand.

As an Indigenous woman and ex-athlete myself, I am inclined to believe the person who has said they have suffered. I am inclined to believe them because, I have suffered from racial abuse also. Just as politician Warren Mundine has. In an interview with ‘The Drum’ on ABC in relation to Goodes, Mundine stated that he was in therapy due to the racial abuse he had suffered for over 58 years. Although I do not agree with Mundine 99% of the time, I can relate to this. Racial abuse is emotional abuse. According to Dr Tracey Westerman racism massively contributes to depression in Indigenous communities. The above statistic and the way in which people of colour in this country are gas lit are the reason I am disappointed to see a prominent indigenous man such as Mundine, publicly disregard athlete Ben Simmons when expressing his disdain at being allegedly racially vilified.

I won’t speculate but the reality of the situation is that Simmons felt singled out, a feeling a lot of people of colour have felt in during my graduate position at Sydney Trains where I was subject to hoops non-Indigenous colleagues were not. I cannot speak for other people of colour but not feeling trusted or believed is a common feeling Indigenous people have.

We live in a world where Indigenous people have died because medical practitioners have not believed their Indigenous patient. We live in a world where our former Prime Minister John Howard gaslit the entire Indigenous race by reiterating his belief that genocide did not occur, stating that he simply did not ‘subscribe to the black armband view of history’ (in other words, ‘I think I will just ignore this because it makes me uncomfortable.’)

All in all, even if you do not believe Goodes or Simmons have been racially vilified, the way in which the media treats them is abhorrent. These are men who are subject to the media relentlessly gaslighting them. The only thing possibly worse than the media gaslighting you, is influential figures such as Panahi, Newman, Hildebrand and even Trump who tell impressionable audiences that those upset at racist remarks (in particular, those made by a certain orange man) are ‘outrage addicts’ and spouting throw away lines such as ‘go back to where you come from.’

Being told to go back to where you came from, in all honesty, may not seem like a sentence fuelled with vitriol to those who do not face racism on the regular basis however, those very words seem to only be saved for people of colour. My father experienced this just a few weeks ago in Bondi – an Indigenous man! This man saw my father’s dark skin and immediately related to someone who is not from ‘here.’

People might argue that the racism experienced by these men is not even racism as it might not fall into the definition of racism. Racism is a tricky little word and we must remember that definitions change as society grows. This isn’t some leftist talking point, this is fact. However, if examined closely, the incidents I have mentioned are in line with the most recent definitions of racism.  Racism is entrenched in this country; we see it in the media when the non-indigenous or ‘white’ opinion is held as paramount. This satisfies the ‘superiority’ element. When the media constantly characterises Indigenous communities as violent, sexual and sadistic cesspools, this satisfies the ‘characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race’ (just to re-visit, yes KAK was racist).

In remedying this situation, we must listen to black voices too, instead of telling them to ‘shut up the dribble’ or gaslighting. I am not saying blindly believe people, I am saying listen. It’s pretty simple really, lets listen to the people who are suffering instead of those who keep telling us that we are not.

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