Racist remarks betray a lack of simple respect
Some people dismiss political correctness too easily.
Political correctness, when we are protesting a person being demeaned publicly, is simply about insisting that people pay due respect to others. At one level, it is about insisting on civility. At a deeper level, it is about upholding fundamental values about what it means to be human and to have dignity.
I know that many Australians, and especially in my experience of sports clubs, many Australian men, think that racist comments aren’t racist – they’re just funny.
The club jokesters that rely on racism for a laugh, the coaches and players who rely on racism for a psychological edge, pretend to themselves that there is nothing personal in humorous jibes or sledging based on race.
They convince themselves that any reaction from the target is irrational. But this is because they have never had to cope with the psychological segregation and ostracism that many of our fellow Australians from minority groups experience.
And you know that the message is not getting through when people insist that a particular incident involving a racist slur was just between the two people involved, that we should let them work it out amicably, or worse, it should stay on the field, or in the change-room.
This is why Timana Tahu’s stand against acquiescence and excuses was so important, and why Andrew Demetriou disowning Mal Brown, were crucial.
It’s why Craig Bellamy getting off so easy over Andrew Johns’ behaviour is so troubling. We seem to allow off too easily the key people in authority when racist banter becomes commonplace on their watch.
It struck me as surprising in the Tahu incident that the senior coach, the person responsible for setting the tone and conduct of the team, was not asked to explain why he was not aware of his assistant coach’s behaviour or why he had tolerated and therefore condoned this behaviour. Why was Johns’ conduct not an issue of explanation and possible sanction for Bellamy?
Some people think that racism and crudity is part of the knock-about character of Australians and our humour. Workers, apparently even the Prime Minister, can be foul-mouthed in the workplace. Police Officers should get used to offensive language directed against them. Women should not be offended when we talk about them as if they exist to serve the sensory needs of men.
And if you are black, brown or yellow, you should laugh along with us when we joke at your expense and simply accept that all is fair on the field when we use your colour against you tactically.
When it comes to tolerance of racist language and behaviour, we need to look in the mirror as a community – we will see Johns and Brown. We should realise that in many cases, political correctness is another term for manners and respect, and redouble our efforts to guarding against the fools who would demean us all for a laugh or for a win.
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