Adam Goodes the AFL star and duel Brownlow medalist has recently taken extended leave and is said to be considering retirement in the wake of the constant booing and abuse being hurled at him on the football field. In my opinion, this is a classic case of ‘intersectionality’. Intersectionality is where multiple forms of discrimination occur simultaneously.
The underlying issues that make intersectionality important are that Aboriginal disadvantage is reflected in every level of government, all domains of human services, and in urban, rural and remote locations. That is why governments all over Australia, governments of all persuasions have made a political commitment to ‘closing the gap’. ‘Closing the gap’, refers to the policy aim of minimising the disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in terms of life expectancy, educational achievement and employment opportunities. In order to restrict the continuing disadvantage facing Aboriginal people, we must recognise that the oppression they face is complex and multi-layered and we as a nation need to confront it.
A large number of prominent people have come out to collectively criticise Goodes. They have included sports journalists, radio shock jocks and ex-AFL greats, all citing that Goodes needs to ‘stop playing the victim’. This prominent collective have attributed the abuse to Goodes’ actions in calling out and standing up to a 13 year old girl who racially abused him a number of years ago. A few of the collective have also stated that Goodes made matters worse for himself, when he did an Aboriginal war dance and started to parade his Indigenous credentials strongly.
Some of the collectives’ public comments beggar belief. Sporting crowds don’t boo when New Zealand sides perform the Haka. The Haka is an ancient Maori traditional war dance, which fiercely displays a tribe’s pride, strength and unity. Our Indigenous should be encouraged to champion their heritage, not shunned and criticised for displaying pride in it.
Before people boo Adam Goodes and before the prominent collective continue to endorse such actions, perhaps they need to stop and think how they would feel if they were continually booed. How would the shock jocks feel if every time they went on air, callers rang in to boo them? How would the people doing the booing feel if they were constantly booed at their place of work, for no other apparent reason… apart from being themselves?
The marginalisation of Aboriginal people, both in terms of the prejudice and impediments that Indigenous Australians face is a fundamental issue that has to be challenged.
Adam Goodes is a role model. He is a proud Indigenous person who has taken a stand against blatant racism and called it out in a very public way. If there were more people like Adam Goodes, people who were willing to call the constant booing for what it is. Those doing the booing would be shunned and the prominent collective fanning the flames would soon follow.
We as a society need to encourage our Indigenous to impart their culture on the wider Australian community wherever possible. Australians need to get behind Adam Goodes and support him. Our public values of ‘equity’, ‘fairness’, ‘equality’ and ‘justice’, I am sure in the end will prevail. Those condoning and encouraging this type of behaviour need to also consider what message are we sending to our youth and those from vulnerable backgrounds?
Indigenous policy is a very complex area, as it involves multiple issues that do not exist for other Australians: a dynamic cultural life; a need to change social norms; unique forms of property rights, such as native title; and the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage, sometimes arising from problematic historical government interventions, such as, the ‘stolen generations’. Political and public commentators from all persuasions need to collective condemn those participating in the vile behaviour that Adam Goodes is being subject to. They need to partner with local sporting groups, schools, government and business to eradicate this type of behaviour once and for all.
Champions like Adam Goodes should be celebrated by our society. Adam Goodes was the 2014 Australian of the Year for his contribution to sport and Indigenous youth. Goodes has been instrumental in promoting education and healthy lifestyles. Goodes is someone who should be cheered, not jeered.
At the very essence of this ‘booing debacle’ is the fact that Australians need to start treating each other the way that they themselves would like to be treated. Together we can eliminate racism. Together we can treat each other as equals.