By ANDREA HO
“It’s been blown out of all proportion. I mean it was meant as a joke. Occasionally you have to have jokes that aren’t quite in good taste, that’s all.”
– Unnamed person on the streets of Canberra, as heard on 666 ABC Canberra this morning
“I don’t think Eddie’s being racial at all. I think it was, just, like you said, a slip of the tongue and it was a bit of a joke.”
– Caller to 774 ABC Melbourne last night
Dear complainant, thank you for your comments. Have you finished? Thanks. Now I have a few comments of my own, which I trust you’ll listen to in return.
Adam Goodes is right to call racism when he hears it. I’m sure he’s had plenty of practice at spotting it. More than you, clearly.
I’ve had some practice identifying racism. More than forty years of it. Like Adam, I’m born and bred Australian; my skin is brown, and I am subject to racism all the time.
‘Just joking – can’t you take a joke?’ I’m here to tell you: you’re not funny.
Racist jokes are crass. Vulgar. Hurtful. With your joke, you judge me before you even know me. You make me less than equal, less than human. You affect my employment chances, my promotion options. You affect how shopkeepers and security guards treat me. You humiliate me in front of colleagues, friends, family, strangers. You’re willing to get a laugh from people at my expense. Your joke is dangerous.
I’m not going to pretend this is acceptable any more.
‘Harden up, it’s just words; get over it.’
I’ve spent my whole life hardening up so you can have a soft time, making easy jokes and engaging in comfortable, casual bigotry. But I’ve got over a great deal this week, including the hurdles of politeness that made me hold my tongue to keep the peace, excused your ignorance so as not to offend you, cried in the toilet rather than stick up for myself. I’ve had so much practice at being hard, I’m now prepared to reciprocate with some hard words of my own.
They are: you’re racist.