Human rights

Racism or placism?

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Adam Goodes. (Image via

Nader Galil discusses Adam Goodes’ fight for a tolerant multicultural Australia and argues that if we can get this right, our reward will be an identity that will stand firm.

I MET a Canadian gentleman of Jamaican origin who has been living in Melbourne for the past five years. When asked what he thinks of Australia he answered:

“Australia is the most comfortably racist country in the world.”

Wow! I was expecting a typical response like "this is a great country" or "the people are so friendly!"

This bought mind to some personal experiences I had living abroad. While living in the UK, I was often working all over Europe. Whenever asked where I was from I would reply that I'm Australian. Every time without fail their faces would show that look of consolation as if to say “you poor bastard.” They would then ask me in that consolatory tone; “what’s that like - we know Australians are very racist.”

This deeply saddened me as I am a Melburnian, born and bred of Egyptian parents who came to Australia in the late 60s soon after the White Australia Policy was “relaxed”. After a while, whenever I was asked, I would end up saying that I was Egyptian just to diffuse the issue and not have to explain myself every time.

Being brought up in the predominantly white eastern suburbs of Melbourne in the 70s and 80s, I was racially vilified quite regularly at school and on the streets. Also, being a good AFL player didn’t help as I was always in the spotlight on field. This was the norm back then and I appreciate that Australia has changed significantly with the inception of the “superficial band aid solution” of political correctness in the 90s. What I have noticed is that there still an inherent culture of racism that exists in Australia — although we’re not allowed to say it out loud, it is still embedded in our psyche.

Being a huge sports fan, one thing that always makes me extremely emotional is watching the All Blacks performing the Hakka before their games. Eleven men of all ethnic backgrounds performing this sacred ritual together so passionately and with such belief. New Zealand recognised very early on the importance of their indigenous population and set structures in place to teach the history and the culture of the great Maori people. In turn, this has produced a very tolerant society with a significant national identity.

All Blacks Hakka

My thoughts then turn to sadness as I live in a country with no real national identity – or an identity that is based on a colonial or imperial past – one that appeals almost exclusively to the white population and with no regard to the Indigenous Australians or our “multicultural society” – something that we supposedly pride ourselves on.

Unfortunately, the average non-white Australian cannot identify with either Anzac or Australia Day. This excludes nearly half our population from these national “celebrations” which supposedly shape our National Identity. At school I was taught everything about Captain Cook, Horatio Nelson and the ANZACs but never knew anything about the rich Indigenous culture that existed in Australia. To me, Aboriginals were just petrol sniffing nomads that abused alcohol and their women.

The previously mentioned inherent racism sits at the core of our identity problems in Australia. I’m afraid that if this is not addressed on a national level, following generations of “Australians” will be subject to similar types of injustices.

Adam Goodes’ fight is not dissimilar to that of “The Greatest” Muhammad Ali or the late Nelson Mandela. They were ultimate humanitarians and were ridiculed and abused in their respective homelands by the unjust white majority. They were men who fought ultimately for humanity, common sense and equality — very basic human needs.

It really offends me when privileged, middle aged men like Alan Jones and Dermott Brereton share their opinions on something they know absolutely nothing about. They are saying that it’s not racism, and that Goodes has incited this backlash against him. This is utter rubbish! I would like to ask these people — “What does racism feel like?” White people cannot identify with racism as they have never been on the receiving end of it. If I can mention a quote from one of my favourite movies Any Given Sunday:

“Maybe it’s not racism, it’s placism – nigga gotta know his place.”

That is to say that you can have your fight as long as it’s under our terms — cross the line and we will come down on you like a tonne of bricks. Mix in good old Australian tall poppy syndrome and Goodes has cooked up a recipe for the perfect storm.

Damien Hardwick summed it up perfectly when he said it is, “at best bullying, at worst racism.” Whatever it is and in order to stop the bickering, we’ll call it semantics. In the end, we lack empathy and just like bullying or any antisocial behaviour it needs to be stamped out. Goodes is offended by it, so it needs to stop — simple!

Media commentators adding fuel to the fire saying that it is not racism just look ignorant and bigoted to nearly half the population and to billions around the world. They are polarising comments and their words incite ill feelings towards Australia — at home and abroad.

Adam Goodes may not know it yet, but his fight not only represents the Indigenous population but for all the non-white Australians. I identify with Adam as would all Indians, Asians, Africans and other minority groups, which make up nearly half of our supposedly multicultural population. For me, Goodes’ fight is for a tolerant multicultural Australia and I believe if we can get this right then there will be no stopping us as a nation and our national identity will stand firm.

You can follow Nader on Twitter @nadergalil.

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Racism or placism?

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