How I became a member of the ‘I’m not racist, but’ club
I almost wish I hadn’t written this column last week. I argued that Adelaide recruiter Matthew Rendell should not have been forced to resign over his warning that AFL clubs could get to a point where they only recruited Aboriginal players with one white parent.
Rendell was pretty convincing when he argued he wasn’t suggesting this should be a policy; rather warning that this dire situation could come to pass. It was all about the context.
With the gloriousness of hindsight I would have written it differently because the AFL community engagement manager Rendell made the comments to – Jason Mifsud – has a slightly different account of the conversation that makes it sound less like a pie-in-the-sky throwaway line and more part of an ongoing stereotyping within the AFL.
Much of that conversation, the intentions behind it, and the extent of broader troubles in football remain a mystery.
I still think the AFL has forgiven greater sins than Rendell’s, and that he’s been hard done by.
The main reason I’m a little dismayed about the column was that it gave me a much-unwanted entry to the ‘I’m not racist, but…’ club.
People took my comments as some sort of indication that I was arguing racism is OK. Or that it’s not racist to say bad stuff about Aboriginal people. Or something.
People approached me in odd places as though we shared a secret handshake and said things like ‘about time someone stood up for those of us who think *insert racist stereotype here*’.
I hear people even rang radio stations to celebrate the fact I’d come to my senses about all this political correctness gone mad, and was instead embracing racism as ‘telling it like it is’.
It’s as though people are just bursting with all these nasty, ill-informed ideas and when they feel they have permission to let them spurt out, they do so immediately and enthusiastically.
In this job you get plenty of that vile bile online, from mostly anonymous commentators, and some very nonymous ones. It’s rarely even shocking anymore.
But what did surprise me was how apparently easy it is to lance the boil in real life, and for all that poisonous discharge to come leaking out.
I just wish that analogy could be extended to cleaning, disinfecting, and healing.
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