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Greg Inglis aka Superman.

Greg Inglis aka Superman.

When I was in my early 20s and I'd had a massive night out, I'd jokingly tell people I'd been as "drunk as 10 Abos" and more often than not get a horrified laugh.

I had several Aboriginal mates and girlfriends in my teens, but even that intimacy hadn't opened my eyes to the fact what I was saying might be incredibly offensive and hurtful.

I'm pretty sure, aged 20, I would have argued that "Abo" was merely an abbreviation of the word "Aboriginal", similar to the term "Lebbo" and, like "Yank" or "Pom", just a harmless nickname.

I'd probably also have argued no one would be offended if I said I was "drunk as 10 Irish" or "Russians", so what's the big deal saying it about indigenous Australians?

The truth sank in about 15 years ago, when I realised I didn't get to choose what the word "Abo" meant and, however I intended its use, for many Aborigines it was a searing pejorative, loaded with cultural contempt.

So I stopped saying it because I respect indigenous people enormously and have since established and run a mentoring program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students wishing to work in the media.

(I also now use the expression "drunk as 10 homeless men" which, I guess, is insensitive to homeless men.)

I mention this because many Australians recently watched rugby league's first State of Origin match, played at Etihad Stadium, and the result was largely decided by a controversial try awarded to one of our pre-eminent indigenous athletes, Greg Inglis.

I know I'm not the only person to have watched his 100-plus kilogram frame slice elegantly through defenders at warp speed and mutter, awed,  "No way I'd tackle him."

I also know I wasn't the only person in the country to sit in a room last month and hear people scream "smash the Abo" as Inglis ran the ball (and if you doubt this still happens, I suggest you watch the next Anthony Mundine fight at a pub).

Tellingly, there wasn't an Aboriginal person in the room with the 15 friends I watched Origin with, but, equally tellingly, no one raised an objection; in fact, many laughed.

Everyone was drinking, we were having fun, and I guarantee those who shouted the epithets were saying it for shock value, not out of hatred for Inglis or Aborigines.

But still, there it was for us to reject and no one did. If we had, I'd wager someone would have called us "politically correct".

The next morning, I thought about why I'd stayed silent and realised I didn't want to shame a friend, to project superiority on an issue on which I've been less than circumspect myself.

I reflected, however, that, if someone had said something about Jews or Asians - not an uncommon occurrence in my suburb, either - I probably would have objected because I have close friends from both minorities.

I don't have close friends who are Aboriginal, just acquaintances, nor do I have friends who are disabled or morbidly obese.

Thus, when people voice slurs about "spastics", "retards" or "fatties", I have no familiar face to conjure on which to transpose the pain of the insult.

That's when I realised "political correctness" is not about controlling people's freedom of expression; it's simply about not hurting others - or their friends and relatives.

Yes, it's 2012 and I've just worked this out, but at least it's given me my response next time someone uses any of those terms in my presence.

"Fair dinkum, it's 2012, what year are you in?" I'll say.

I hope.

Sam de Brito's latest novel Hello Darkness is in bookstores now. You can follow him on Twitter here. His email address is here.

113 comments so far

  • and to top it all off, after a ridiculous ruling on a bog-standard, generations-old, on-field player insult during a boring AFL match this week, it's no longer acceptable to make "Your Mum" jokes.


    next stop on the PC Bus?


    **rolls eyes**

    far canal
    Date and time
    June 20, 2012, 6:50PM
    • My old friend Far Canal, it's been too long between comments. Come and visit me sometime? You know where to find me.

      Speaking of rangas, one day I was walking across the foot bridge from Darling Harbour to Pyrmont and I saw this gorgeous, fair skinned baby with bright orange hair. I thought to myself, 'you poor little thing, you have no idea what's in store for you' and some other such non complimentary things.

      About 15 minutes later, I ran into an old friend and it turned out that was her baby. I'd been so taken by the baby that I hadn't noticed my friend walking by. I felt so disgusted with myself that I'd judged someone, an innocent, beautiful little baby just by her hair colour. I am still ashamed to this day of those thoughts.

      So yeah, it probably is super PC to get upset about a funny joke; but when you break it down to an aspect of a person that cannot be changed; I feel shameful to have even thought of it.

      Kudos to Sam for bringing it up and owning up to that space in time when you haven't said something when you should have. There is so much in this world that we cannot imagine what it feels like to be different to what we already are.

      And stepping off the soapbox now...

      Date and time
      June 21, 2012, 3:21AM
    • PC is a tool designed to limit independent thought and enforce the Cultural Marxist agenda.

      It is undermining freedom in the west and it will be stopped eventually. When someone speaks his (politically incorrect) mind and the few who shout him down get shouted down even more so by the majority, then this ridiculous totalitarian scam will have run its course. And civilisation will be better off.

      Frankfurt School
      Date and time
      June 21, 2012, 10:27AM
    • Frankfurt School, corporate raider in the marketplace of ideas. Cultural Marxism? What? Since when did "Hey, maybe if we tried to not be complete bigoted douchebags people might be a little better off and our society might function more harmoniously" turn into "we have to stop the spread of this scourge of collectivism before it destroys our way of life"? How is not being an overtly bigoted asshole an example of Cultural Marxism? How is a shift in social mores toward inclusivity a threat? If you feel threatened by no longer being able to hang shit on "abos" and "poofters" and "wogs" and whatnot then it's not society that's messed up, it's you.

      Date and time
      June 21, 2012, 1:50PM
    • @far canal It wasn't just a your mum joke, It most likely had connotations of sexual assault. The tired old argument of been able to say what you like is gone. Previously in the AFL for example one off comments on the field over 50 years have included:
      A player threatening to rape another's mother
      Racial abuse that didn't hold back
      A player telling another that he hoped his father burnt in hell (that players father had died that past week)
      A player telling another he wanted to ##&* the women that was tattooed on another players arm (The tattoo happened to be a players 6 yo daughter although the first player most likely did not know this).

      I don't follow NRL but I'm guessing similar comments have been said. I am aware most "sledging" is either good humoured" banter, stupid and childish and not worthy of commen or related to a teams performance or a players coverage.

      The problem is if you don't draw a line somewhere rarer but still existent comments like above get tossed about and players are forced to put up with it. And given the comments I first mentioned I challenge anyone to say they would accept that and thus anything goes.

      Similar to society if you don't draw a line on what is acceptable all sorts of stuff gets through the net and standards are not upheld and discrimination runs rife in certain quarters. I'm aware it still exists in less overt forms but to have a carte balnch attitude is like saying crimes will be committed so we shouldn't have criminal law.

      Date and time
      June 21, 2012, 3:09PM
    • "A world without humiliation dignifies us all!"
      Linda Hartling

      Date and time
      June 21, 2012, 3:13PM
    • @dale.
      they're awful comments you've listed and tbh i'd be shocked if i was a football player hearing that sort of shyte spouted on the field or anywhere for that matter. i can't imagine them being very common.

      the Your Mum 'jokes' i'm referring to are those similar to the one made famous by Warney when one of the opponents commented on his fatness and he retorted (something along the lines of) "that's because every time i pop over to see your mum she gives me a biscuit"

      far canal
      Date and time
      June 22, 2012, 9:34AM
  • ps was mentioning the fact you'd been intimate with (rooted) a few aboriginals in the past a minor #humblebrag designed to try and convince us that you'd convinced yourself you are not xenophobic?

    far canal
    Date and time
    June 20, 2012, 6:53PM
    • How can you be xenophobic towards aborigines?

      Date and time
      June 21, 2012, 2:16AM
    • because the actual definition and purpose of the saying is not restricted to "foreigners" as most would believe.

      far canal
      Date and time
      June 21, 2012, 1:00PM

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