Giving them the finger

Nicky Winmar

Adam goodes
These two guys, among many others, are heroic figures both in Aboriginal and AFL circles- though the changes that have taken place (and NOT taken place) in the time between the two photos is telling.
The first photo shows Nicky Winmar, a St Kilda player who, during a match with Collingwood in 1993, became so exasperated with the plainly racist taunts he was receiving, raised his shirt to the crowd, pointed to his skin and said, ‘I’m proud to be black.” To top it off, St Kilda beat Collingwood on that day.
To illustrate the times on that very year in AFL, Collingwood’s President Alan McAlister was quoted as saying of Aboriginal players

“As long as they conduct themselves like white people, well, off the field, everyone will admire them and respect them.”

To be ironically fair to McAlister, his view was probably not far from that of the general populace.

Zoom forward to 2013, and the second photo shows Adam Goodes pointing out (literally) a young spectator who called him an ape. On a day that the AFL specifically sets aside to “…celebrate our country’s Indigenous culture and players that have shaped Australia’s Game”. So- understandably a little pissed off by this casual racism, even (especially?) from a 13 year old child.

This photo arguably illustrates a change in attitude that has occurred between 1993 and 2013. From ‘this is me’ to ‘this is you’. Not that Aboriginal people should ever have to, but Winmar took it on himself to defiantly and proudly point out his blackness for all to see. Goodes however, as a similarly defiant and proud black man, took it on himself to point out the racism that exists in Australian culture- and simultaneously demand that it be dealt with. Not by him- it is NOT incumbent on victims of racism (or any other discrimination) to fix the problem- but by society, as represented by the AFL in this situation, but rightly implicating every one of us.

Of course, that is not to say racism is on the way out. AFL footballers are very well treated, remunerated and revered, even if only for their sporting prowess- so if an elite AFL footballer experiences racist abuse during a high-profile game on live television, and I’m sure other Aboriginal players cop the same abuse regularly, then you can multiply that many times for the average person on the street, both in quantity and type.