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Steady Eddie

The boss said what?

The boss said what?

Last week, I wrote a piece addressing the Eddie McGuire-King Kong debacle and made the point that if you were to use a term like "ape" or "n......" on the subway of a city like New York, you'd probably cop a beating.

The post had almost 600 comments before we shut them off to give our moderator time to put his hands in an ice bath. I also received more than 250 emails from readers, 98 per cent commending the piece, as well as hundreds of tweets, about 80 per cent in favour of what I'd written.

Many of those emails were from Indigenous Australians, others with Asian or Indian surnames and more than a few from Americans - black and white.

To sum up what they said: "You are right, Aussies just don't get it."

Interestingly, the main complaint about my post was that by suggesting you'd risk being punched for racially slurring a black man, I was perpetuating a stereotype of African-Americans as violent and thus engaging in the "casual racism" I was protesting against.

This was not my intention because racial sensitivity is not just a black thing in the US. I have witnessed aggressive encounters on American streets and in bars when racial slurs have been used against Italians, Jews, Asians and Hispanics as well.

This is not to say violence is the best way to deal with these situations - and having lived in New York for close to four years, I also saw many people laugh off ignorant pejoratives and simply walk away. But not often.

My point was and is that racial slurs are taken seriously in the US. They are a line people cross, knowing full well how incendiary they can be. There's not a 13-year-old girl in America who's dumb enough not to know that you're asking for trouble calling a black, superstar athlete an "ape".

In Australia, you can be in a bar watching State or Origin and scream "smash the Abo" and people will turn around to SMILE at you. You can even scream similar in a crowd at an AFL game and NO ONE SAYS A THING TO YOU.

The dynamic, of course, is about power. In the US, even minorities have populations large enough where their voices are heard in both the media and politics, thus the historic pretzel the Republican Party is now tying itself into trying to court Hispanic voters while also denying their relatives visas or citizenship.

Indigenous Australians occupy few positions of power in this country, so people feel safe in slurring them, casually or not, because there are no repercussions in either the corporate, sporting or real world. 

Other commenters on last week's post made the point that US broadcasters with histories of making racially offensive comments on air - men like Don Imus, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck - still hold jobs in the media.

After further reflection on the topic, I'd like to modify my statement about Eddie McGuire and it is this.

If he was the CEO of the Chicago Bulls, New York Giants, Florida Marlins, LA Dodgers or Lakers and he'd made a similar "slip of the tongue" he would no longer have a job.

Endy story.

Sure he might keep his gig as host of America's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, but he ain't shaking hands with Kobe Bryant, Charles Woodson, RG III or Big Papi in a dressing room again.

Yes, you can get away with being casually or outright racist on American radio if your ratings are good enough, but not in the sporting world, which is what McGuire was representing during his now infamous interview.

The reason for the zero-tolerance of racism in the American sport and sports media is because not only are their playing rosters stacked with "minorities", the executive offices of all of those organisations are full of Italians, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Jews - all of whom have endured discrimination at some point in the history of their adopted homeland.

And they got juice. They've got power and they use it to wipe out grubby little reminders of the discrimination, humiliation and pain they, their parents and grandparents experienced.

Indigenous Australians?

They've got no juice, which is why Eddie McGuire - as predicted - kept his job*.  

In fact, Indigenous Australians have so little juice in this country we in the press don't even feel the necessity to identify them by their chosen title.

Every Indigenous activist I've ever talked to asks me why newspapers don't capitalise "indigenous" like they do every other nationality - it's their proper name, it's how they want to be referred to.

"Sorry," I say "it's just a style thing".

And another tiny example of how little the majority of us understand discrimination and the almost surgical humiliation words can induce.

We live in their country, we devoured their culture and we're still largely ignorant (and many times outright hostile) to some of their most profound beliefs.

"Lucky Country?"

For some.

* For the record I don't think McGuire is racist. I'm certain if one of his children turned up at home in the future with an Indigenous partner and declared their intentions to marry, he'd welcome them with open arms. He is, however, a symbol, a powerful one - and the fact he was not punished for his words gives a tacit green light to every other person who wants to vilify (casually or intentionally) a minority.

You can follow Sam on Twitter here. His email address is here.

Please don't take it personally if I do not reply to your email as they come in thick and fast depending on the topic. Please know, I appreciate you taking the time to write and comment and would offer mummy hugs to all.

178 comments

  • Some 30 years ago, a sports gambling pundit called Jimmy the Greek shot his career to bits because he stated why he believed African American athletes were superior to those of other ethnicities. Masters breeding slaves and fast twitch muscles were a part of it.

    Eddie McGuire is an idiot who is in his rightful place, at the top of his industry in a stupid, ignorant country.

    Commenter
    hired goon
    Date and time
    June 03, 2013, 5:50PM
    • This comment is why so many people are so sick of this.

      Australia is not stupid and ignorant and neither, over all, are Australians.

      Commenter
      RG
      Date and time
      June 03, 2013, 6:26PM
    • I've met lots of Australians though. A lot of them are pretty ignorant.

      Great country, don't get me wrong, but stupidity reigns.

      Commenter
      hired goon
      Date and time
      June 03, 2013, 8:20PM
    • I've met lots of Australians though. A lot of them are pretty ignorant.

      Great country, don't get me wrong, but stupidity reigns.

      Commenter
      hired goon
      Date and time
      June 03, 2013, 8:24PM
    • As an Aussie who travels a great deal I an vouch that I am increasingly being asked why Australians are so racist considering how good a lifestyle we have.

      I explain that it is the lifestyle that is the issue.

      We see little to no news from our region of the world and are happy to believe we can pull he drawbridge up behind us and keep the majority of the world out. Our media and politicians actively fuel this irrational belief as it is easier than attempting to change it.

      Racism appears as a side effect, as most Aussies have no idea of the sophistication and strength of Asia, nor the tensions existing today in and between nations.

      Indigenous Australians have always been at the bottom of the pile, and remain so. There's a god reason they come last in FAHCSIA!

      Commenter
      Craig
      Date and time
      June 04, 2013, 4:07AM
    • Eddy didn't lose his job because AFL is a successful social mind control experiment that exceeds anybody's expectation. If you don't have a team your an outsider in AFL cities. Your an outccast. It is the opiate of the masses in these States.

      Eddy didn't lose his job because he is at the top of the totem pole in this cult movement. Let's get real how can you get excited about a bloke kicking a ball twenty yards between a big space twenty times a game.

      Dumb game followed by cult members, beware everybody AFL is coming for you

      Commenter
      kellybellyfonte
      Date and time
      June 04, 2013, 8:59AM
    • The squeaky wheel gets the grease

      Its OK to call a group of people (Australians) ignorant and stupid, but if you said this about Indians or Chinese there would be an outcry.

      Someone will always be offended by something no matter how innocuous it is, is the solution never to try and communicate again?

      The trick is to call the medium to big stuff, rather than every single little thing, its too tiresome otherwise.

      Many people (i.e. foreigners) still like to insult Australians by calling them convicts, however, as we own the word its charged use mostly fails.

      Sam, you seem like one of those types that would have spent hours talking about the feminist movement to women in order to get in their pants. I doubt your true motivation

      Commenter
      El Diablo
      Location
      Melb
      Date and time
      June 04, 2013, 9:13AM
    • I think you're being a touch too forgiving there, Craig. Racism isn't a side effect - more a direct consequence of the intellectual laziness of mainstream 'straya

      Commenter
      hired goon
      Date and time
      June 04, 2013, 9:13AM
    • @El Diablo: That's because we're in Australia. If we were in China (and Chinese), we'd have every right to call Chinese people stupid (in fact, people in China do that all the time).

      It's like if you see a fat person on the street and call out "Hey Lardarse!", it'd be considered rude. But if you call yourself fat, nobody is going to care.

      Commenter
      Bob
      Date and time
      June 04, 2013, 1:33PM
    • @Bob

      You are right. Partly.

      I was going to make a similar point (seeing as I don't seem to be doing any work today) so this is a decent segue.

      If Sam was saying: "Indians are racist", I think that would be considered rather poor form. Not because they are Indians, but because Sam is here in Australia throwing accusations at another nation's people.

      That's the same sentiment as your example of calling someone else a "lardarse" and yes, that's darn rude.

      What Sam is doing, however is NOT the same as your counterpoint of someone calling THEMSELF fat. I.e, he is not calling himself a racist - he is calling ALL white Australia racist. That IS calling other people racist and, just as calling someone else 'lardarse' is rude, so too is it rude to call other people racist.

      Unfortunately, it seems that so long as you include yourself by saying 'we', it's okay and now irrefutable. Sam is ascribing a negative attribute and behaviour to an entire country with the only mitigating factor being that he is part of that country.

      Commenter
      RG
      Date and time
      June 04, 2013, 2:56PM

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