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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    • John A Neve says:

      06:01am | 18/06/10

      Why do we allow an issue such as racism to be confined to Black-V-White?
      The issue is far greater than that. Most of the worlds troubles have a racist content, the Balkans, Middle East, Africa and of course ourselves.

      Let’s face it, we are all racist to some degree, we even have reverse racism, walk through South London or Redfern, you’ll see reverse racism in all it’s glory.

      The upfront name calling racism is the least of our worries, more damaging is the secret, sly behind closed doors racism, that is the real worry. Sadly we never seem to address that issue, but then again there is a little racism in all of us.

    • Andrew says:

      10:11am | 18/06/10

      It’s not “Reverse racism”, it’s just racism.

      As Avenue Q so eloquently said, “bigotry has never been exclusively white”.

    • Elaine says:

      03:35pm | 18/06/10

      Well said John A Neve. There’s no such thing as reverse racism. It’s just racism & doesn’t belong in modern society.  I am an Australian person with fair skin. And I have been abused by others of differing race as being racist in the most demeaning terms for the most ridiclous reasons, the latest being that I would NOT sign up for a different electricity company by a man from the Indian sub-continent who was at my front door at 7:30 at night. I was polite but firm. He went ballistic simply because I said I was happy with my the company I was with, thank you. Maybe I am racist to a certain degree, but I truly try to watch what I say & do, AND think!

    • Eric says:

      06:19am | 18/06/10

      Political correctness is not, and never has been, about “civility” or “dignity”.

      It is simply a method of privileging certain groups - non-whites, women, gays - and declaring them above criticism. Any slight to a member of these protected species is punished with public humiliation of the offender, who may suffer financial loss or even legal sanctions.

      The truth is seen when the very exponents of political correctness make the most offensive proclamations about whites, men, and heterosexuals, without batting an eyelid and cheered on by their mates. It’s perfectly fine to be racist or sexist, as long as your targets are the socially approved ones.

      The whole thing is disgustingly hypocritical. PC is not against discrimination - it _is_ discrimination.

    • Cathz0r says:

      09:35am | 18/06/10

      I know what you’re saying Eric, and it is unfair. They seem to be thinking “Well, white men have basically been slaving everyone else for the past couple of thousand years, so lets do it to them”. Of course two wrongs don’t make a right, but humans aren’t perfect, and I’ve even seen some of your posts in the past that suggest men should get back at women for all the wrongs we’ve done to you. For the world to be a better place, everyone needs to start judging each other on individual merits, though something in our brains seems to prevent us from doing that..

    • Greek Snake says:

      11:35am | 18/06/10

      Wow, so right Eric. It isn’t against discrimination, it encourages reverse discrimination.

      Any of these particular minorities love the protection the PC brigade provides them. You can’t say anything about a Jew or about Israel without being branded antisemitic.

      You can’t say anything about women in the household or the workplace because that would make you sexist (but if the reverse was to occur it would be “aww a big man like you can’t take it?” equality my ass).

      You can’t say anything about queers because that would make you homophobic. Maybe we have to parade around in the streets celebrating the fact we have normal hetero sex? Or would that be discriminatory too?

      You can’t say anything about asians, blacks or hispanics because then you’d be a white supremacist…. What a damn joke.

      And don’t get me started on the hypocrisy surrounding the indigenous people of this country. To think Rudd wasted his breath on an apology… hahaha…

    • dancan says:

      11:37am | 18/06/10

      If you’re incapable of critiquing the person rather than the race then you’re racist.  It’s quite simple Eric. 

      As for political correctness, it doesn’t remove the ability to critique a person.  It merely attempts to remove the option to judge a person based off their sex, race, skin colour, age, religion etc. 

      I say attempt to remove, because there will always be people like Eric who in all walks of life will forever see any comment directed against them, or a person of similar appearance as a personal attack against their skin colour, race, sex because that’s the only way they are able to see the world.

    • Miles says:

      04:12pm | 18/06/10

      Yes, I do find it rather wrong how the person guilty of a comment (particularly where it was through stupidity rather than maliciousness) gets totally vilified, abused, and discriminated.  Way more so than what their so-called offence had caused.  In a way, it’s discrimination of opinion - as in only one opinion is right and superior.  Total hypocrisy.

    • Tom says:

      05:33pm | 18/06/10

      So given this whole controversy was provoked by Andrew Johns’ comments, what, pray tell Eric, did Johns’ comments have to do with criticism of Greg Inglis? I hardly see how Greg Inglis is privileged by having others objecting to him being referred to as a ‘black c***’.

      If Greg Inglis does anything wrong, he should be criticised on the basis of what he did wrong, not on the colour of his skin. I live in Wagga and grew up with quite a few Aboriginals. As I knew them quite well often I would refer to them in terms that would often be considered derogatory, there was no harm done as they knew I was a mate and didn’t mean anything by it. But the one thing I knew is to never, ever refer to any of them as ‘black c***’. It is beyond the pail and a tremendously insulting and hurtful term to them. Recognition of that is not political correctness, just basic respect.

      I can imagine from your post, Eric, that you are not a member of a minority, nor have you had much to do with any people from a minority. I can assure you that exercising a bit of discretion before opening your mouth (as a white Australian) is far preferable to copping abuse based upon the colour of your skin each day.

    • Eric says:

      06:05pm | 18/06/10

      It’s also important to note that many Politically Correct people are racist against their own race, and sexist against their own sex.

    • iansand says:

      06:45pm | 18/06/10

      So racist dickheads are victims.  Now I’ve read everything.

    • James1 says:

      02:05pm | 21/06/10

      While that may be partly true, Eric, none of it excuses racism, homophobia or sexism.

    • Craig Hendry says:

      07:55am | 18/06/10

      Here, here.  Well done.

    • Adam Diver says:

      08:03am | 18/06/10

      Can we have some commentry on real racism. Being called a name is grade 3 stuff. Are black afl or NRL players not given cntracts or scholarships? Are they paid less because of thier skin colour? Are they segregated from thier team mates? Are they enslaved? Killed? Assaulted? Or are they given all the same opportunities as everyone else. Including name calling?

      Both Brown and Johns have paid a heavy price, particularly in the court of public opinion, I am pretty sure the message is fairly clear, and that the issue can be redirected at real “racism” issues, if they do indeed still exist

    • Timothy says:

      09:53am | 18/06/10

      So we should justify calling people racist names because they are treated just like every one else? Irrespective of what colour or what privileges an individual is given they should not be mocked with racist comments.

      Also, how exactly do we define “real racism”?

    • Fred says:

      10:41am | 18/06/10

      Adam what you call ‘real’ racism and what I can only assume you call ‘fake’ racism both stem from the same thing.  Ignorance and a lack of tolerance encourage people to use offensive terms, ignorance and a lack of tolerance (among other things) is why Indigenous Australians weren’t even recognised as citizens until the late ‘60’s - that’s why these names are offensive, people connect the two.

    • Adam Diver says:

      11:55am | 18/06/10

      I think you both just illustrated my point. You want to bicker about a footballer calling someone “black” whilst the indigenous life expectancy hasn’t moved at all.

      You lefties have your head so far up your a**e you ignore real, difficult problems to come from the trees to destroy individuals with “uneducated” jokes as the cause and the solution to end all racism.

    • Fred says:

      01:26pm | 18/06/10

      Adam nobody said anything about solving these problems - I don’t understand why people have such a problem with this.  If one of your friends said to you “actually that word kind of offends me and my heritage” wouldn’t you stop saying it to stop offending him?? 

      By the way, the life expectancy has improved (VERY slightly) but how on earth can you draw a connection between improvement in life expectancy to a reason why people shouldn’t be offended at racist remarks baffles me.  They’re not mutually exclusive, nor should they be.

    • Tom says:

      05:36pm | 18/06/10

      ‘Black c***’ is probably the most offensive thing you can call an Aboriginal person. Before you criticise this as being ‘political correctness’, just imagine being basically written off as being of undesirable character, and copping a barrage of verbal abuse on regular occasions just because your skin is brown. This is real racism and it occurs every day.

    • James1 says:

      02:13pm | 21/06/10

      One can not help but wonder why Mr Diver - or indeed anyone - would go expend any effort at all to excuse such a racist insult.  I had thought the remark itself was beyond defending.  Are we to assume he has no problem with using that particular epithet?

    • T.Chong says:

      08:04am | 18/06/10

      Well said Chris Gardiner.
      Start to teach the young ones the right , civil, courteous, tolerant way of dealing with other people, and no doubt this will be reflected on the sports field.
      Now Chris, if we can only get such noble ideals into those who are signed up to be the in the police forces the world would be far nicer, and maybe, just maybe , fewer Deaths in Custody would occur.

    • DJ says:

      05:01pm | 21/06/10

      Young ones? in my experience the older pensioners are the ones who are incredibly racist, the young ones have grown up with PC whereas the oldies didn’t and have fallen into habit

    • Tara says:

      08:16am | 18/06/10

      Thank you for writing about this. I come across this VERY often in Australia. If you find blatantly racist jokes offensive and say something about it, then you are ‘oversensitive’ and deserve ridicule.

      If someone says something extremely offensive and racist in a ‘joking tone’ then it is automatically considered to be not racist. Freudian theory about jokes says otherwise - it is just a means of expressing unacceptable thoughts (racist thoughts) in a seemingly ‘acceptable’ way (jokes).

      Even if it is said in a ‘light hearted’ manner, it is still perpetuating racism and gradually making it more acceptable in society; making us go backwards instead of forwards.

      I think more people need to pull racists up on these things - bravo to Tahu. I hope more like him come forward.

    • Nafe says:

      10:13am | 18/06/10

      Tara, Blonde jokes arn’t racist.

    • Tim says:

      10:19am | 18/06/10

      Tahu is a fool.
      If he had such a problem with what Johns said, why didn’t he say have a word to him and tell him that he was offended?

    • Max Power says:

      10:52pm | 18/06/10

      Blonde jokes aren’t racist, and neither are offensive comments based on skin colour, for the same reason. Nowdays the terms racist and racism are bandied around without people actually knowing what they mean.
      Racsim is the belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others. Racist is someone who believes the above.
      Making offensive comments or making derogatory remarks based on skin colour is discrimination, not racsim.
      Making offensive comments, or making derogatory remarks based on skin colour is no different to making similar remarks based on, hair colour, gender, sexuality, weight or height.
      Calling someone a Black C***, is no different to calling someone a Fat C***,  or Blonde Bimbo all can be offensive and inappropriate, none are racist, but are discrimination.
      In this politically correct world, anything involving someone with different skin colour is automatically labelled racist, when in the majority of cases, it is discrimination.

    • Cathz0r says:

      09:44am | 18/06/10

      I think people need to have a think about how they would feel if something like this was said about them. If a black person called me a white c*nt, then I would be pretty offended as it is a racist insult. Same goes for if I call a black person a black c*nt - I would expect them to be pretty insulted at such a racist insult. Aboriginals don’t like being called “Abos” either. Whites may not say it as an insult, but blacks would find it offensive because the word was used as an insult from the very beginning. I also think that there needs to be more education in schools about the very beginning of Australia. When I was a kid, we were taught that basically whites came over here and found a bunch of natives and colonised them. We were never taught about the horrors of what really occured - I had to find that out for myself. I’m not going to reduce myself to feeling ashamed, because I personally didn’t do anything against Aboriginals, but I think it is important that everyone knows what really happened because that’s the clue to fixing the problems to come.

    • Dave says:

      11:53am | 18/06/10

      A lot of people went missing when Andrew Symonds was racially abused….but

    • Markus says:

      01:52pm | 18/06/10

      This. Where were the journos up in arms when one of Australia’s ‘beloved sporting heroes’ (a little journalistic hyperbole) was the target of racial abuse by Indian fans and players?

      I guess it’s a lot easier to attack a target who isn’t going to fight back (Johns had already apologised wholeheartedly and stepped down before the media even knew what happened).

    • Rose says:

      02:20pm | 18/06/10

      No they didn’t. There was a whole swag of condemnation and disgust at those comments. He was afforded a great deal of support by much of the media, the problem is that that support evaporated when the court of public opinion judged him for his own behaviour which was considered inappropriate.

    • stephen says:

      11:54am | 18/06/10

      I once was meeting up with a couple of black fellas at a pub in Chippendale, and when we met together at the bar, one asked
        ‘we been yellin at you for 200 yards, why didn’t you come over ?’
      ‘Well er, I could hear yer but I couldn’t see yer.’ (It was night-time).
      He understood, and we had a laugh. True story.
      The hurt is in the malice. (This makes all the difference).
      Not so much context, as texture. Then I suppose, you kin have censure.

    • Phill says:

      03:17pm | 18/06/10

      There is a difference between racism and discrimination.  I have friends of various races.  Together we make jokes about their race as they make similar jokes about us “whitie’s”.  Does that make me racist?  I treat them no different to people of any other skin colour.  Making comment about the colour of someones skin or their ethnicity is not inherantly racist.  It needs to be taken in context and in the nature the comment was made.  In the case of Mal Brown (who has done a lot of work with Aboriginal footballers in the past) would the same reaction been given if he made the comment about not picking any redheads in case they got sunburnt?

    • Amy says:

      03:20pm | 18/06/10

      I’m going to be totally destroyed for this, I know it.  But here’s the thing.  Call me crazy, but I never quite understood why calling someone a “Black C” was racist.  I mean, he is black (right?), and in this case Johns was using ‘black’ as an adjective.  What he’s really calling Inlgis is a C.  Which, you know, isn’t very nice, but it’s not exactly racist, is it?  Maybe the other stuff Johns has said that hasn’t been released is what’s really offensive here, I simply don’t know, but this doesn’t seem racist to me.  Just to be clear, Johns is clearly an idiot.  I mean, he should have known what Tahu’s reaction would have been having had a relationship with him across two clubs for a long period of time, but aside from stupid and probably individually insensitive, is what he said particularly racist?

      When I went to school, my grade was almost a third Aboriginal, because of the relationship the school has with an Aboriginal Youth Hostel, I also live in a multicultural area, with a wide range of economic profiles.  As a consequence, I had friends across many racial and cultural backgrounds.  We had some issues, like any school, but no one ever made them about race.  If someone was a douche, it didn’t matter whether they were black, white or purple, he was still a douche.  And this is the part I don’t get.  What part of what Johns said is so offensive?  It’s not like he was using a racial stereotype to get his point across, or stating that his judgement of Inglis as a C was somehow due to the fact that Inglis is of Aboriginal extraction.  Maybe it’s just that I don’t see things in racist terms, you’re either a great person or you’re not.  I just… I don’t get it.

    • iansand says:

      06:48pm | 18/06/10

      Pretty straightforward.  Black c*** is a ritual pejorative term.  It implies something beyond the separate meanings of the individual words.

    • Josh says:

      04:23pm | 18/06/10

      Education in language mostly is delivered at school, while education in behaviour mostly is delivered at home. Poorly educated (at school and/or home) people often have no idea how offensive they are being.

      Those who are offended, for precisely the same couple of reasons, often misunderstand perfectly respectful comments.

      Wouldn’t it be nice to have a definition of what’s OK, so we can avoid saying things on “the list” or stand up for things NOT on “the list”?

    • Lisa says:

      04:46pm | 18/06/10

      Excellent article Chris!  The effect of racist comments is a hard concept for most whites to grasp.  I am of Indian background and as a child became introverted by the comments.  I did feel ostracised and wished I was white, not because I really wanted white skin but simply to fit in and not have to endure nasty joke comments.  It’s great these athletes are taking a stand against it.

    • AdamC says:

      04:48pm | 18/06/10

      I think a lot of the commenters here should do what I do: whenever you see the term ‘racism’ or ‘xenophobia’, just ignore it. Change the channel, stop reading the article or navigate away from the website. Over 90% of the time, the term ‘racist’ is a just a smear, a term of abuse. The instances where it isn’t (say, in the Doomadgee death-in-cutsody case) it is normally fairly clear.

      One of the strange aspects about Australian society is we have managed to create one of (if not the) least racist society in the entirety of human existence and we allow ourselves to be constantly derided as racist. That is not to say there isn’t any racism in Australia (of course there is) but I am certainly not prepared to be browbeaten by PC fascists about it ad nauseum. Other Australians should do the same.

    • Ashley says:

      07:51pm | 18/06/10

      When it comes to understanding any form of discrimination it’s pretty hard when you’re in the majority to understand what impact it has and how it affects the individual and it’s not simple as using a saying as ‘sticks and stones’ to dismiss it. 

      Timana Tahu’s actions were needed, he showed he is a person who was impacted by racial slurs against him. And it was a far more powerful statement for him to stand up and express how he feels rather than having someone from the majority speak on his behalf.

      Political correctness shouldn’t be dismissed as form of western leftist apologist tripe (in fact it’s the followers of sloppy leftist ideology which have misunderstood its purpose and meaning and have given it a bad name ).  It is a sign of respect to use language which installs dignity and empowers to whom the words are spoken.  Nor does the usage of political correct vernacular mean you cannot express how you feel, it’s the opposite you strengthen your opinion and beliefs from it, it means choosing your words wisely.  You can still tell a individual they are acting inappropriately (being a moron) based on their character without resorting to using an aspect other than their character as a point of reference.

    • Duck Dodger says:

      10:22am | 19/06/10

      To call someone a name based on skin colour is not racist, for the simple reason, not all black people are from the same race, not all white people are from the same race, not all brown people are from the same race and not all yellow people are from the same race.
      For Andrew Johns’ comments to be racist, he would have had to say something which implies that Beau Scott is superior to Greg Inglis because Inglis is an Aboriginal, and that Inglis’ Aboriginal descent means he has an inferior ability.
      If the offensive comment is based on colour, it is discrimination.


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