I’ve never been a huge fan of AFL, but I’ve always been a fan of Adam Goodes.
The way he carried himself in the days, months, and even years after a 13-year-old girl called him an ‘ape’ during a match was incredible. The incessant booing that he endured for the rest of his career, not so much. For those in the peanut gallery still defending their boos while proclaiming their colourblind politics, let’s just get this out of the way now.
If you booed Adam Goodes, you were being racist.
It doesn’t matter if you say you did it because he staged for free kicks. It doesn’t matter if you did it because he called out a 13-year-old girl. What matters is that after Adam Goodes told you that it hurt him as an Indigenous Australian and as a proud Black man, you did it anyway.
The morning after the incident, Goodes called a press conference urging the public not to go after the young girl. ‘To hear a 13-year-old girl call me an ape, it was shattering,’ he said. ‘But it’s not her fault, she’s 13, she’s still so innocent, I don’t put any blame on her… it’s what she hears and the environment she’s grown up in.’ Considering the young girl’s mother asked Goodes to apologise to her daughter and not the other way around, I’d say he hit the nail on the head r.e upbringing. ‘He probably should apologise because maybe he should have picked his target a little bit better. She’d only turned 13 five days beforehand. She was technically still 12,’ said the girl’s mother, Joanne. I know, it’s a lot to unpack, but I have to ask. Technically, Joanne, what do you think a birthday is?
Yesterday, Adam Goodes and Stan Grant’s new documentary, The Australian Dream, came out in theatres across Australia. This film should be studied in every school across the country. Instead of whitewashing history with egregious reenactments of Captain Cook’s voyage and the arrival of the First Fleet, 13-year-old girls and boys need to be watching and learning from films made by Indigenous Australians about Indigenous Australians.
Aboriginal people have been in Australia for at least 60,000 years. White people have been in Australia for about 230 years. Upon invasion, white people raped, murdered, and enslaved the Indigenous people of Australia. Up until 1970, the Australian government implemented a policy known as the Stolen Generations, forcibly removing Aboriginal children from their families and raising them in white families. Adam Goodes’ own mother was removed when she was five. She was raised by strangers.
Imagine being the victim of such trauma, and then still having the strength to raise a son like Adam Goodes. To watch him, a proud, Black Indigenous man, become one of the most celebrated and popular football players in Australia. Then imagine hearing a crowd of angry, ignorant white Australians boo him for being Aboriginal. You can’t imagine it, and if you could—you would do everything in your power to stop it.
But instead, Australians did nothing. The AFL did nothing, the teams did nothing, I did nothing. The oafs at the Footy Show empowered the casual racists among us, while the conservative commentators roared behind their microphones and keyboards. When Goodes celebrated with an Indigenous war cry after scoring in the Indigenous round in 2015, Australia was up in arms. We love a good Haka before a rugby match, but an Aboriginal man asserting his presence? Unacceptable and un-Australian. As Stan Grant says in the film, ‘People don’t like the angry Aborigine.’
There are so many issues Goodes’ documentary raises, and as a white Australian, so many reasons to feel ashamed. Sadly, I’d say that 95% of us know someone who still thinks booing Goodes wasn’t racially motivated. Please take them along to see this film. It should shut them up real quick.