Racism scandal that wasn't

Share this story

Last week I wrote about how the smallest of issues become unnecessary stories that get blown out of proportion in the 24-hour news cycle, and the harm it ultimately causes us as a nation.

Right on cue, the issue struck again last weekend. This time the media and the AFL itself, combined to make a massive story out of something that should been over within a couple of minutes.

I happened to be in Melbourne last weekend, so I experienced the full force of the story that dominated the weekend in relation to Sydney Swans star Adam Goodes and a 13-year-old girl who made a so-called racist slur against him.

For those who don’t know the story, Goodes was playing for the Swans against Collingwood at the MCG last Friday night when he heard the girl call him an “ape”. He immediately informed security, who frogmarched the young teenager up the stairs of the MCG. From there, this story became a tsunami.

What followed was a series of media conferences, front page stories and widespread coverage and comment that painted a far more shameful light on us as a nation than the 13-year-old’s comment did in the first place.

Let me say from the outset that the girl, obviously, did the wrong thing.

Let me also say that racism is a very serious issue, and one that in no way am I attempting to downplay.

But the way this story exploded after the incident on Friday night is a disgrace – from so many angles.

Firstly, it is very ordinary that the hundreds of thousands of viewers on Friday night were shown the girl being marched away by security, whilst being heckled by fans.

Similar scenes of drunken louts being removed from sporting venues each and every weekend are not shown, and one could argue that alcohol abuse is just as much a blight on society as racism is.

Huge question marks currently hover over her treatment by security and police on the night in question. She is, after all, a minor.

To have a song and dance press conference the next day that was beamed live around the nation was ridiculous.

To have Collingwood President Eddie McGuire come out on Monday saying he was “shocked” and “gutted”, carrying on like he was the devastated but heroic figure of one of those B-grade disaster movies, was embarrassing.

Also on Monday, we had NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell ordering anti-racism material be recirculated in schools. Oh please, Barry – that’s a joke and not a very funny one. If there’s an issue with racism in schools – and I am sure there probably is in some cases – then it shouldn’t have taken the actions of a 13-year-old girl from country Victoria to remind us to keep students informed of the rights and wrongs of the world.

And as for the media, please, surely there are better things to focus on.

The girl is 13-years-old. Yes, she’s old enough to know what she did was wrong. But she’s also young enough to make mistakes in life that shouldn’t have the potential to scar her forever.

The way she has been hounded, spoken about and dealt with this week is shameful. Because the footage went live to air, anyone with even the smallest of computer skills can find her face simply by searching for the footage online.

If only the media gave so much attention to teenagers her age, and older, who perform the most abhorrent and disgraceful crimes, perhaps we could have more faith that our youth will grow up with the right values and visions.

Pretending that the worst thing a teenager in Australia did this week was call an AFL player an ape is treating us all like we’re stupid.

Adam Goodes didn’t deserve to be called an ape.

The fact that it was the AFL’s Indigenous Round makes this a much juicier story for lazy and narrow-minded journalists, but in truth it makes very little difference to the issue itself.

Catch a train at night, go to a sporting match on any weekend of the year, or walk the streets of Sydney after dark – then you’ll know the problems we have in terms of racism, and a whole heap of other issues.

If we as a nation legitimately want to tackle racism, there’s many, many ways to do it.

Targeting a 13-year-old girl and making her a scapegoat is not one of them.

Pretending we’re all so outraged and are suddenly such a model and clean-cut society isn’t either.

Share this story