“Casual” racist sledging in sports affects more than just the players

Mick Gooda in SMH: Real people affected by racist taunts

Excusing comments that put anyone down on the basis of their race is not ok. It is irrelevant whether the joker or the immediate recipients are not offended.

What matters in this case, is that the Australian Indigenous population is largely offended.

The general public needs to know that, however unintentional, however seemingly inoffensive their defenders say they are, jokes and offensive descriptions that perpetuate stereotypes actually hurt Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Real people are affected by these incidents each time they happen. Like invisible tentacles, the jibes, the put downs and the stereotypes extend to other levels, ensnaring participants along the way – in the schoolyard, in the workplace, in shopping centres and in neighbourhoods around Australia.

Anotehr good SMH article by Sean Gorman : Ignorance lies at the heart of ‘innocent’ racist gibes

That sportsmen are not aware of their offence is part of the problem.

IT SAYS a lot about racism that a man such as NSW State of Origin assistant coach Andrew Johns can go through his entire professional and personal life and not understand that there’s something wrong with calling indigenous Australians, Maoris, or Torres Strait Islanders black c—s. Or that former Richmond player Mal Brown can describe Aboriginal players as ”cannibals” and say it is ”all in jest”.

Johns’s blustering quasi-apology made him appear somewhat anachronistic and, dare I say it, stupid. Perhaps we should be thanking Johns for the simple reason that due to his status as one of the all-time best rugby league players, the issue will be given oxygen and the conversation commenced once more.

This is the core of it. The intent of the sledgers doesn’t matter. Whether the sledged players who are on the field with them decide that it’s no big deal doesn’t matter. How it affects other people who look like those players because of the attitudes it appears to endorse – that’s what matters. That people could remain so ignorant of how a continuous low-level background of racist taunts is a horrible burden to place on people they call mates is what matters.

I wonder whether white middle-class Australia would have been so ready to accept the authoritarian NT intervention (which has yet to charge a single indigenous person with any paedophilia offences, despite how it was sold to the voters) if negative stereotypes of indigenous people weren’t emphasised and reinforced by the unexamined racial slurs that are seen as so acceptable to use when “just mucking around”?

Categories: arts & entertainment

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7 replies

  1. I refuse to believe that the so-called “sportsmen” who are participating in such racist sledging are truly “ignorant” of the damage they are doing. Comments along those lines are bad-mannered, rude, poor public relations, unmannerly, demeaning to oneself and others, and whichever other terms need to be used to explain them, and it doesn’t matter who you’re speaking to or speaking of. I would be highly surprised if Messrs Johns and Brown had not, at some time in their lives, been told that it was not acceptable behaviour to speak of other people in such a manner – possibly back at kindergarten and primary school age. That these men choose to act as though the normal social politenesses are not required of them does not mean they are ignorant – it means they are arrogant, and that they have entirely too great an opinion of their position in the social structure.
    “Sledging” is abuse, pure and simple. That the persons involved in it make a living out of kicking a piece of leather around a paddock, or hitting a piece of leather with a bit of wood, or hitting a bit of plastic with a club, or whatever, does not make the behaviour in and of itself any less abusive than if it were undertaken by a person who makes their living out of speaking to the public, or processing forms, or laying bricks. There is something deeply warped in the Australian national psyche when we can use the excuse that “they don’t know any better” to excuse the various social sins of sporting personalities.

  2. It’s so good to read all these thoughtful comment pieces from the MSM. There was one in The West this week too. I’ve been receiving a great deal of unprintable emails complaining that “it’s only racism when white people do it”. My brain has been about to explode with the ignorance and cruelty of that, so to have the MSM take a firm stance is encouraging.
    On the NT intervention, I heard last week that rather than repeal it (which I believe was a Kevin07 pledge), the Gvmt has decided to make it applicable to all people on “welfare” in the NT. Apparently to make it only applicable to Indigenous people is discriminatory. So they’re just going to apply it to all people who need society’s support. Some welfare system we’ve got here.

    • @shiny, WP,
      Apparently there’s already been some back-pedalling on the extension of compulsory welfare quarantining to other people in the NT (and eventually to other recipients around the country) – rumblings about it not being applied to those on disability pensions or old age pensions.
      That would be too stigmatising, apparently.
      The NT intervention looks, with my most cynical hat on, very much like a testing zone for the creeping apparatus of a police state. First apply it only to the people that “nice middle class voters” already find vexing as “tax-eaters” and watch the “nice middle class voters” nod approvingly. Then extend it to another class of “tax-eaters” considered dodgy. Then another, and then another, until eventually so many people come under the monitoring provisions that the “nice middle class voters” have nowhere left to go when eventually the government says it’s their turn for intrusive monitoring and why are they complaining after all why should they think they are special enough to be exempt?
      Paging Pastor Niemöller.

  3. Shiny, the intent was *always* to expand the welfare arrangements introduced as part of the ‘intervention’ to… well, actually, eventually to pretty much everyone…
    I’ve been watching the ‘sledging’ stuff with so much irritation: the amount of ‘but he didn’t mean it like that’ and ‘he’s not a racist’ (?!?!) have made me boggle. Sometimes I really can’t abide Australia 😦

  4. I wonder whether Tigtog ever bothers to check their facts? Tigtog confidently states that the NT intervention “has yet to charge a single indigenous person with any paedophilia offences, despite how it was sold to the voters”. However, as reported in The Australian today, there were nine convictions for child sexual assaults in 2008 in the NT, and ten in 2009. Of the 27 NT child-sex convictions since July 1 2007 (just after the Intervention began) only four were of non-Indigenous people.
    This kind of blindness in Tigtog’s reasoning does nothing to help Indigenous people or maintain the credibility of an otherwise excellent contribution..

    • At the time I wrote that, I admit that I was repeating something I had read elsewhere. I did look to see what was available online, and didn’t find anything that contradicted the claim that I repeated. That report in The Australian came out after I wrote that.
      How does that number of convictions compare to the rate of conviction before the NT intervention began? It still seems awfully low considering the pre-intervention allegations of epidemic child sexual abuse. How many of those convicted in 2008 and 2009 were actually arrested after the Intervention rather than having their court cases take place after the Intervention? How many of those convicted of child sexual assault come from the 73 communities monitored by the Intervention?
      How does it compare to the per capita rate in other States? Because the NT intervention was sold to the voters as a child sexual abuse crisis above all else, and if the rates aren’t actually any different then the main point still stands – the electorate was lied to and the NT intervention always had another, discriminatory, agenda.

      The rate of substantiated child abuse rose from 16.8 per 1000 children in 2006-07 to 23.7 in 2007-08 and to 24.1 in 2008-09. From July to December last year, Mobile Child Protection Workers visited 45 of the 73 communities and were involved in investigating and providing follow-up services in 444 matters and 34 children were made subject to care orders.
      [ http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/intervention-figures-expose-level-of-abuse/story-e6frg6nf-1225881557154 ]

      I support the goals of ending violence and abuse in all communities, not just indigenous ones. While I know that the rate of violence is higher in some of those communities, the figures as they stand do not appear to support the rate of child sexual abuse as being any higher in indigenous communities than any other community. The sentences I quote above immediately followed a sentence about child sex convictions, as if all child abuse is sexual in nature. In fact, the primary types of maltreatment that constitute the child abuse statistics consist of Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse and then Sexual Abuse a distant fourth –

      How many reports are made to child protection services in Australia each year?
      The most recent national figures from the AIHW indicate that in Australia, during 2008-09, there were 339,454 reports of suspected child abuse and neglect made to state and territory authorities, which is an increase of 6.9% from the 317,526 reports made in 2007-08. This is a significant increase compared to the increase between 2006-07 and 2007-08, which had the smallest increase over the last 10 years of just 2.5%.
      [ http://www.aifs.gov.au/nch/pubs/sheets/rs1/rs1.html ]

      Of those 339,454 reports, 162,259 were investigated, 54,621 were substantiated, and 34,069 children were taken into care around Australia.

      Table 2: Percentage breakdown of primary substantiated maltreatment types in 2008-09 for Indigenous and non-Indigenous children
      Neglect ___________ 36.3% ________ 27.1%
      Emotional abuse____ 34.6% ________ 34.8%
      Physical abuse_____ 18.9% ________ 19.9%
      Sexual abuse ______ 10.2% ________18.2%
      Total _____________ 100% ________ 100%
      Source: AIHW (2010)
      [ http://www.aifs.gov.au/nch/pubs/sheets/rs10/rs10.html ]

      As shown in Table 2, the types of maltreatment experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and non-Indigenous children are similar. In sharp contrast to media images of maltreatment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, child sexual abuse was the least frequently substantiated maltreatment type for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. However, this is likely an under-estimation of the actual incidence of child sexual abuse (see box inset for discussion).
      The maltreatment type most frequently experienced by Indigenous children was child neglect. Neglect refers to the failure (usually by the parent) to provide for a child’s basic needs, including failure to provide adequate food, shelter, clothing, supervision, hygiene or medical attention. The high rates of neglect are consistent with the disadvantaged socio-economic conditions prevalent in many Indigenous communities, such as overcrowding, unemployment and lack of services (Calma, 2008).
      [ http://www.aifs.gov.au/nch/pubs/sheets/rs10/rs10.html ]

      Obviously, any abuse is horrible, and it’s a good thing that abused children are being taken away from their abusers (so long as sufficient care has been taken with the OOHC arrangements, as history shows that abuse often continues in care, just with a new abuser). The point about the fundamental dishonesty of how this was sold to the voters remains: the NT Intervention was sold to us all as being about stopping the kiddy-fiddlers, and kiddy-fiddlers simply are not the major problem.

  5. Tigtog
    Thanks for your thorough response. I accept your explanation for your honest mistake, as I am very familiar with the widespread problem amongst the trotskyite fragments and others of making crude propaganda and unresearched assertions out of this issue (almost as crude as Brough and Howard actually). They have continuously repeated such claims (that there have been no, or virtually no, charges laid against or convictions of Aboriginal paedophiles under the Intervention) ignoring media reports of instances where charges have been laid and convictions have begun to flow through the system. I am aware personally of a number of cases that have come up in courts, and others that will do so soon. Some of the other matters you raise are relevant and important (comparisons with like socio-economic groups, other states, other Indigenous cohorts etc). My understanding is that the NT is now identifying that its rates are comparable to the national rates, whereas before the NTER there were so few FACS and police staff actually investigating child sex abuse in the NT that under-reporting was endemic. Anderson and Wild were told of many cases where remote community residents (including myself) had made reports which had either not been followed up at all, or had not been adequately addressed. I think it will take another couple of years before the dust settles enough for us to get a clear picture of what the real figures are, and even then I may be thinking over-optimistically, as FACS is still experiencing extreme difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff (let alone adequately trained & experienced staff) for its work in remote communities, particularly in Central Australia.

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