I’ve been told that there are certain stories or moments in a journalist’s life that shape how they report on the world. I’d thought this was a bit extreme, a bit too serious.
The other night, staring at the end credits and listening to Paul Kelly, it clicked. Following a restless night of internal debate on the ground-breaking documentary The Final Quarter, I thought I’d learnt something.
Then I had a look at social media, and a different lesson shone through in brutal coldness.
The reflection on the latter stages of Adam Goodes’ career had severely challenged me. I remember the incidents mentioned. I remember hearing he was ‘staging’, acting, sliding in with the knees. A pitiful excuse for a tirade of boos. Is there a more negative sound than an aggressive and hostile boo?
But at the time, I knew no better. I agreed that some of his actions weren’t great, and I was blinded by a nation of hatred. Watching the documentary, guilt racked me. Took me over. Despite being barely a teenager, I was a part of an ignorant collective who provided no respite.
Throughout the remaining hours of the night, questions and answers flickered through my mind like an intense press conference. Why did no one think the booing, even if intended for non-racist reasons, would look terribly like ignorant discrimination due to its timing and duration?
Were people aggravated by Goodes celebrating with a traditional dance because it was directed straight at the Carlton cheer squad or because it was a defiant display of cultural pride? The way I kept coming to my answers told me I’d learnt a lot about perspective.
Every answer was ultimately decided by wondering what the reaction would be if a white man did the same things. It’s something I’m glad I know sooner rather than later.
All I could feel was immense sorrow for Goodes. He should be remembered as a champion of the game. One of the best. Two Brownlows, a swagger of Best and Fairests and two flags is just a small part of a wonderful list.
Add to that an Australian of the Year and he should be one of the biggest personalities Australia has ever seen.
His level-headed demeanour would be perfect for a political scene in need of some logic and diversity. But now he will be eternally shrouded in controversy, of a delayed apology that can never heal his heartbreak and disappointment.
The let-down of an Australian society that is now showing the façade of acceptance it places up over a coat of racism.
With this clarity and whirlwind of emotions, social media changed it all. Seeing just the average reaction to the situation on a range of pages and groups was horrific.
So many people who refused to watch the documentary, labelling Goodes a sook, an attention seeker, a child abuser. It then hit me pretty hard that Australia is up there as one of the most racist countries in the world.
How people can decide this is a time for more abuse shocks me.
Firstly, calling Goodes a child abuser just upholds the racism so heavily entrenched in our society. Goodes pointed out a 13-year-old girl who called him an ape. The following day he spoke with clarity that he held no anger towards her, as she was reflective of Australian people as a whole.
How could he have just stood there and said nothing? He should have been praised for not just letting it go, for challenging it and teaching a young girl an important lesson.
It could have been anyone, and Goodes’ message would’ve been the same. So how is it abusive to point a child out for saying horrific things when in the long run it will only help her?
Calling him an attention-seeker doesn’t sit well with me. Waleed Aly summed it up so well when he said our society is accepting until the minorities challenge their position. That’s exactly what Goodes did, and he got relentlessly abused and booed for the last two years of a superb career because of that.
Just because you tacked on later with the booing because he dived for a free kick or two doesn’t absolve anyone. We all should’ve been aware what it would look like to Indigenous people, and the victim of Goodes.
Believing the boos can be separated into racist and non-racist boos just reiterates the ignorance that is problematic for us.
Lastly, the worst thing that was a constant in comments was questions about why Goodes was the only Indigenous person booed. If they only abused Goodes, then it couldn’t be racist. So many people (and mainly ones who were too lazy to watch the documentary) held this view.
If you think about it, Sydney Stack recently did a war dance at the Dreamtime at the ‘G match with the same spear-throwing action as Goodes did in 2015. He was praised, lauded. When Goodes did it, he was aggressive. Goodes was the only Indigenous player booed because he was the only one confident and courageous enough to challenge Australian society.
As an Australian of the Year, he rightly worked to introduce a constitutional change that would stamp out racism and ignorance. To make our nation a better and harmonious place. But the white majority didn’t like being put in their place, and unleashed on Goodes in a manner that put him out of the game.
Seeing comments like these even on Collingwood pages made me feel sick. For the first day in my life, I felt ashamed to barrack for the club that had so many people upholding this abhorrent racism. To everyone too lazy to watch, to those people relentlessly abusing Goodes still; you are racist.
You are backwards and you cause immense pain to an Australian of the Year and our Indigenous culture. Just because they want to be accepted.
If there’s anything this whole situation has taught me, it’s that Australia can be both a wonderful yet shockingly terrible place. And it’s a place in need of a change from the younger generations who are increasingly aware of perspective and acceptance.