Tag Archives: adam goodes

Australia, still in denial?

Australia’s acknowledgement of racism has grown considerably, since Adam Goodes was Australian of the Year (2014). This could be largely due to the fact that his cause was anti-racism. The Racism. It Stops With Me. campaign was launched soon after. Over 250 organisations joined the anti-racism campaign, which promoted racial equality (including All Together Now). It seemed that Australia was finally ready to kick racism out of the country once and for all.  However, it seemed in 2015, Australia once again took a step back as it questioned incidents of racism as actually being racist or not. The questioning of an incident being racist or not was seen most prominently during the booing bullying of AFL player Adam Goodes. People in the media questioned the validity of the incessant and constant targeted bullying, of this particular player, as being racist or not. It was undoubtedly fueled by racism, as the ‘issue’ that had people begin the booing of Goodes occurred after he displayed (during the Indigenous Round of AFL) an Indigenous symbol to the crowd as a victory showcase after scoring a goal. Idiotic though it may seem, racism is often just so.

We’d like to take the time to add to the discussion on Goodes, that being ‘politically correct’ is giving respect. It is the correct way to act. Denying respect includes denying racism. Or, as Marlon James put it, “most of us are non-racists” and are content to be so: “I won’t, I don’t, I’ve never” are not statements that change those individuals, groups or institutions that are prejudice, bigoted and racist. This ‘non-racism’ occurs when you know something is racist but by doing nothing it does not stop it from occurring. The question the comes to: How do we make active people trying to end racism?

We make active people trying to end racism by giving them knowledge of how it acts, interacts and attacks society and individuals ability to succeed, be unified and progress.

Non-racism along with racism denial are two important factors in the continuing of racism in Australia and internationally. So, here is a reminder of what racism denial looks like:

 

Racism Denial 2016 (Conflict Copy) (1)

We can learn from Desabafo Social Brazil

I am 21, and what have I achieved?

That was the burning question I found myself asking when I met Monique Evelle, founder and leader of Desabafo Social. The headquarters reflects the organisation’s commitment to youth, from the quasi-graffiti on the walls, to the group of young Afro-Brazilian women and girls that give us our briefing. The organisation, founded in 2011 when Monique was in high school, works across thirteen states to socially empower young Brazilians, particularly those of African descent, through creating safe spaces to gather, collaborate on and develop projects in their own communities to counter racism and inequality. Even in Australia, fighting both the overt and the subtle influence of race seems a mammoth task, one that many in the community are not ready or willing to confront. Nonetheless, open and shameless racism regularly stimulates public discourse against the perpetrators, as with Adam Goodes and more insidiously, with racial abuse on public transport. There is a sense of shame attached, in the mind of the majority, to blatant racism.


In Brazil, the social divides are infinite, complex, dynamic and extreme: the slightest changes in skin tone dictate which workplaces will hire you or not hire you for the position you are qualified for. If you happen to be ‘black’ or ‘coloured’ and highly qualified, while a less qualified applicant is ‘white’ then guess who will get the call back? LGBTIQ Brazilians, the poor, those who live in favelas (unplanned communities), women and people of colour will invariably face significant social challenges that simply don’t exist for others. In police organisations, there exist significant prejudices even between those of different shades of colour. We see this as racial profiling, but to authorities, it is simply preventative. In August, a bus ferrying fifteen teenagers from the city’s outer communities (read: of low socio-economic status) was stopped in the streets of Rio by the notorious military police, with those on board summarily detained and searched. None were carrying weapons or drugs. Fourteen of the fifteen were black.

Now imagine you ran an anti-racism organisation, like All Together Now. Imagine each day, you ran the risk of being detained arbitrarily outside your office, and routinely passed by young, black men being searched in the street solely for the colour of their skin. Imagine that you yourself are regularly stopped on your doorstep, or violently assailed in the street with little reason, outside your workplace that exists solely to counter this behaviour. The need for such an organisation is self-evident in Salvador, within metres of its headquarters: en route, two young men with backpacks, dressed much like myself and seemingly hanging out together in the city centre of the old city, are stopped in the street. Their hands behind their heads, legs spread, three heavily armed policemen that are at pains to emphasize their weapons assail them. Nothing is found on their person. Guess their skin colour.

That is Desabafo Social’s reality. For a society so entrenched in its own problems – economic, political and social – it appears to be a demoralising battle for survival in Brazil, but unless people who want to change this system can band together, it is bound by the lessons of history to repeat. Ignorance will breed ignorance, poverty breeds poverty. Human rights form the overarching narrative of what Desabafo aims to do: to promote an alternative vision of human rights to young people, and enshrine equality and fairness in a society so long bereft of them. Monique wants to interrupt this cycle, and in small ways, Desabafo Social is winning, and collecting accolades along the way.

Much of this success is owed to the organisation’s use of technology. Monique has been recognised in Brazil as one of 25 most influential Afro-Brazilians on the internet. The internet empowers all users to collaborate, communicate and develop new ideas in a relatively safe space. Aprendizagem colaborativa, in English “collaborative knowledge,” is built collectively between peers and teachers and facilitated by the internet. Via this platform, the organisation frequently organises workshops, seminars and lectures on social entrepreneurship, effecting change, self-development and community organisation. Youth participation is paramount, and it is through investing time and energy into education that Desabafo aims to change endemic disadvantage.

Everything is about developing change in the long term, and investing in what we have now to reap change later. Social changes require patience; take Indigenous rights or same-sex marriage in this country. Children teach their children their values, after all. It’s a lesson many in Australia could learn.

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Racism: it’s all about you and me.

Racism. Difficult to escape this term as it’s been hitting the headlines a lot recently. Is this a sign there is an increase in racist behaviours or racial abuse? That our society has converted to bigotry and stereotypes? How do we deal with racism in general? And you, where do you stand about racism in your life?

While most of us can understand and recognise obvious sign of racism, most of the time it goes unnoticed: racism can be so infused in our everyday life that we fail to identify it.

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But what is racism exactly? Racism is the belief that some races are superior or inferior to others. It is expressed through attitudes, beliefs, behaviours, norms and practices and may be either intentional or unintentional.

The recent Adam Goodes affair shows that racism is more than an ugly word. It does have consequences, such as psychological pain, health problems and economic loss for the whole country; it takes courage, responsibility and respect to tackle it.

Racism is everyone’s problem. Not just the government’s problem, nor just the schools or the parents. All Together Now, the only national charity dedicated to tackling racism, recently ran a year-long project in Parramatta and asked people, “who is responsible for doing something about racism?

There were as many answers as interviewees. We concluded that all of us have a role to play in the fight against racism. Because it is not about them and us. It’s about you and I.
It can happen anywhere, not only in sport or public transport or in the media.

Young people are not spared. The 2009 Foundation For Young Australians survey examined youth experiences of racism. 70% of high school students experienced at least one form of racism, with those from migrant backgrounds experiencing the highest levels. The consequences are real, from feeling angry and frustrated, to not feeling like you belong to the local community, to isolation and sadness, to engaging in unhealthy activities like smoking, alcohol and drug use.

Racism can take many forms, including:

  • Casual racism: it’s not that you really hate people of another colour, but a good joke is harmless, right? Wrong. “Racist jokes aren’t about humour, they make the person targeted feel less than human”, ABC’s Andrea Ho said.
  • Overt racism: it’s what happens when people yell racial abuse at someone else in the bus. All Together Now created a great tool to help people deal with racist events in public transport.
  •  Systemic racism or institutional racism: it happens when an organisation (or its policies) maintains an environment that is unfair, Professor Houston explained. In schools, this can be treating minority students as if they are representative of stereotypes held about their racial/ethnic or cultural groups, or having lower expectations of minority students’ academic abilities.

The commonality among all these forms of racism is to destroy our connections as human beings living together in the same country. Is there really more racial abuse, racist behaviours and bigotry in our Lucky Country? Or is it mostly sensationalism fuelled by the media and commentators?

There is no single answer. But while it is true that Australia has come a long way since the 1967 referendum that recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as citizens, there is no cause to say that “racism isn’t a big deal”; it is pointless to keep commenting on whether or not Australians are racist. It’s time to acknowledge that – as quoted in Charlie Pickering’s own words

“as a nation we believe that race should not determine your place, your prospects or your standing in society.”

Unless we do this, it is no wonder that a 13-year old uses racist slurs without fully understanding them; no wonder that an experienced journalist “loses the control of his tongue” and says something unacceptable; that young people having experienced racist comments admit “I have been guilty of racist thoughts and speech myself”, as expressed by Benjamin Law.

Our society is not only shaped by the media, but also by our debates and young people have an important role to play. We all have the means to reduce racism.

The first step is to acknowledge it, to say something, to take a stand against racism. When we start taking action, we will be able to change our country for the better. And stop talking about “them”, or “the others”, but embracing the diversity of our rich culture.

A version of this article was first published on Vibewire on 12 June 2013.