I have been shocked by some of the media this past week- Barrie Cassidy writing for ABC or Jenny Noyes writing for Daily Life are two examples of articles being regularl cited that exemplify the problem. Both contain speculation and lead to confusion, shedding more heat than light, and unfortunatly both are bereft of solid, rational, nuanced arguments or any kind of, you know, evidence to support their strong views. The worst one I personally read was the one on The Conversation by a lecturer in Sports Management from Sydney- it is legitimately jaw droppingly illogical in the sense that it makes huge statements without a shred of supporting evidence. Just big statement after big statement, supposing that Australia’s sporting culture is completely racist. It’s simply a horrendous and blatant example of someone picking up the Goodes issue and using it to jump on their personal soapbox. I find the article offensive- being a long time sporting fan who actually attends sporting matches of various sports and participates in them at community level- to read stuff like that from an ivory tower grandstander.
However, Waleed Aly has taken the cake by virtue of the sheer amount of people jerking off after listening to his comments, and the amount of people making statements like “Waleed has the final word”. Even an ex basketball teammate of mine- who has had a distinguished career in sports journalism and now holds a senior position on one of Australia's premier sporting websites- approvingly quoted Aly, claiming he'd hit the nail on the head.
But what did the untouchable Waleed actually say? (You can watch the Youtube video but it only went for a minute or two- this is the crux of his view and what everybody has been raving about and quoting). As summarised in an Online Opinion piece:
Waleed Aly has said that it reveals that Australians are generally tolerant of minorities "until they demonstrate that they don't know their place…the moment a person in a minority position acts as though they're not a mere supplicant then we lose our minds… we say you need to get back in your box."
But, let’s analyse this for a second.
This is a country who had an unmarried female, atheist, childless, prime minister. Those are all things –being childless, being unmarried, self-identifying as an atheist- that are minority positions in Australia.
This is a sporting code which was the first sport in Australia - in the 1990’s- to take the proactive step of enacting race legislation in its own code. A sporting code where over 10% of the players are of indigenous heritage (compared to their 2% representation in the population) and where reported events of actual proven racial discrimination are extremely rare- both on field and from spectators. This is a sport with about two or three times as many people attending matches compared to any other sport in the country. Yet how often is there a player making an official complaint of legitimate racism from another player or a spectator? Very rare. The previous CEO of the AFL- who reigned for 11 years and presided over what has so far been easily the most successful period in the game’s history- is the son of Greek immigrants.
Australia is the third most multi-cultural country in the OECD. Melbourne and Sydney – where Goodes plays 80% of his football- must be two of the most multi cultural cities in the world. The stats show that 80% of second generation Australians marry someone with a different ethnic background. I have experienced this myself! This is an extremely multicultural place, and by and large we live in peace. So in this context, what does “minority” actually mean? There certainly isn’t a clear “Majority” in Australia like there is almost anywhere else around the world.
Melbourne is where Waleed is based. It is the home of footy, and it is a place where we had a female premier nearly 30 years ago, where the most successful leader of this century is of Lebanese heritage, and where our longest ever serving Lord Mayor was an Asian with an accent so strong that at times he was hard to understand- but we loved him anyway. In fact, many of us loved him BECAUSE of that!
So what on earth is Waleed going on about? I’d honestly love to know. And more importantly, why are so many people fawning over his comments? Listening to him you could get the impression that minorities are despised or devoid of opportunity. But that’s not the case- the facts suggest otherwise.
I wonder who is is sowing seeds of division here- the sporting fans getting stuck into Adam Goodes, or our media commentators who are creating a hypothetical world where Australians hate minorities- a world that has little resemblance to the real world I’ve been describing above? Possibly both. The difference is, one of these groups will now stop.