By CHARLIE PICKERING
“I’m just calling to talk about this whole Adam Goodes thing with Eddie McGuire and all that. I just wanted to say that I don’t think racism is that bad in Australia I just think it’s not such a big deal.”
-Jan from Hawthorn, white, first time caller, long time listener.
I know nothing about racism in Australia.
I cried with pride when an Australian Prime Minister finally apologised to the stolen generation on behalf of the Australian government.
I remember clearly the day that Nicky Winmar lifted his shirt to show how proud he was of his black skin. And I know why, for a significant and important part of our national community, January 26 is not a day of celebration.
But I know nothing about racism in Australia.
I know that until the 1967 referendum altered our constitution to include all Australians as enfranchised citizens, our first peoples were regulated by the Flora & Fauna Act. I know that this classification of Indigenous Australians as animals wasn’t just offensive on face value, but enabled the brutalisation and murder of countless human beings in a long, dark period of our history that should be remembered with shame.
I know that attitudes of white racial superiority weren’t just attitudes, they were structural planks of our legal framework. Prejudice wasn’t just a kind of bigoted ignorance, it was the law. For decades upon decades upon decades upon decades, Indigenous Australians lived in a land, their land, where in the eyes of the law they were literally classed as animals. And I know that goes some way to explaining why calling someone an ape is more than just a bit of juvenile name calling.