Adam Goodes needs to “stop playing the race card”.
I’ve heard this said so many times these past few days as the ugly debate continues to rage around the indigenous AFL player who has taken leave from the game after persistent booing from the crowd whenever he touches the ball.
I know nothing about sport, but this isn’t just a sport story. This is a story about racism and bullying and the absolute worst of people trying to hide behind sport as an excuse to be appalling and drive a good man from the field. And then? When they’re called out? They blame Adam Goodes. They say his behaviour is what caused people to boo him. Even though there’s no other player in AFL history who has had to endure such relentless and persistant booing that he’s been forced to stop playing. Not even the most controversial or unpopular players in this or any other game. The first and only player to be so relentlessly plagued by booing is an indigenous player who has dared to defend himself and his people against racism. A proud man who has refused to be bullied or shamed into silence.
Don’t listen to me. This is the shared opinion of countless sporting commentators, coaches, club and match officials and the AFL players association who have all condemned it. They have all acknowledged that racism is at play here. The AFL community have been meeting all week to work out how to stop the booing. To stop Adam Goodes being taunted and vilified by a crowd who don’t like it when an indigenous man speaks up.
See Adam Goodes doing his signature celebration here (post continues after the video):
Those who claim Adam Goodes is “playing the race card” simply want him to remain passive and silent. They want him to shut up and stop complaining. Stop complaining about being called names. Stop complaining about the problems indigenous people face in Australia. Stop calling out racism and stop fighting back in the face of it.
The “race card” argument is lazy, dismissive and manipulative. It is deceptively powerful in the way it diverts attention from racists and deflects blame onto its victims. Accusing someone of ‘playing a card’ or urging them to ‘stop playing the victim’ when they call out racism, sexism or homophobia is aimed purely at gagging victims. It’s extreme passive aggression. It seeks to stop people from naming discriminatory behaviour and it’s always used by people who know nothing of discrimination.
Remember when Julia Gillard was told to “stop playing the gender card”?
It was when she dared speak up about being called a witch and a bitch and having her appearance used as a weapon against her in that powerful, impromptu speech about misogyny that went viral?
A reminder of the power of Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech (post continues after the video):
The gender card? Please. When you’re treated badly for reasons of gender, race, ability or sexuality it takes guts to speak up. It takes courage. It is not playing a card it is speaking your truth and you should be applauded for it not castigated.
It would be easier if people didn’t mention sexism and racism and homophobia wouldn’t it? If indigenous people and gay people and women just shut up and knew their place. More convenient. Less confronting for everyone. We’d all prefer not to think about the underbelly of our national psyche. It’s uncomfortable. There is no racism in Australia. Adam Goodes is just a mouthy player who brought it on himself with his provocative behaviour. Right?
That’s the fervent wish of every jerk who chastises someone for ‘playing the victim’ or ‘playing the race/gay/gender card’ every time they dare to stand up to a bully. Every time they refuse to shut up and remain meek and mild in the face of shitty treatment.
Julia Gillard and Adam Goodes were not playing cards.
They were calling out discrimination, injustice, racism and sexism for what it is. They have every right to do that. They should do that. They must do that. We all must do that. Because trying to silence people when they complain about mistreatment makes you no better than the thugs who are booing in the first place.
For more posts like this one, be sure to take a look at these: