Recently, I saw the recent Australian documentary film ‘The Australian Dream’ featuring Adam Goodes as himself. My partner, Janet, was moved to tears by the film, and she was not the only one in the audience who was.
For those of you who have been living on Mars, Adam Goodes is a former superstar of Australian Rules Football. The film uses significant events in Goodes’ life to make a convincing case for tolerance and against racism in Australia and, by natural extension, elsewhere.
We are all familiar with the xenophobic catch-cry ‘Go Back To Where You Came From’, used in quite a number of contexts, including (ironically) as unsolicited advice to indigenous Australians. I would like to add another catch-cry to the pantheon: ‘You Should Be Used To It By Now’. It is frequently used when people like Goodes take a stand against racism. The person using it means ‘I have the right to express my opinion publicly, so you, the victim of my slurs, need to toughen up.’ It is a classic case of blaming the victim. I’m sure Adam Goodes would have heard it said.
Let me give you another example.
Some years back, when the populist politician Pauline Hanson was due to speak in Rockhampton, my partner and I turned out to protest Hanson’s objection to Asian immigration, and to Asians generally. We brandished a large white bed-sheet on which was written, ‘My beautiful adopted Australian-born half-Chinese daughter was recently told: you should go back to where you came from. Thanks Pauline.’ A photograph of the daughter, then aged about 30, was attached. She was Janet’s younger daughter, who was adopted by Janet a few weeks after her birth, who was brought up in an Australian environment, and who knows no language other than English.
We hung the bed-sheet on a fence while we went for lunch. When we came back eating our souvlakia, we found two men with shoes and broad-brimmed hats in white, reading our message. They were stereotypes of what was then (and perhaps is even now) known as the ‘white shoe brigade’. They were clearly here to support Hanson. When I asked them what they thought of our message, guess what their reply was?
‘She Should Be Used To It By Now.’
These people certainly know their lines. It’s like they are all reading from the same cheat sheet.
I like to think most people in this country are happy to have worthy people like Adam Goodes and Janet’s daughter thrive without being subjected to the degree of intolerance I describe above. But there are quite visible and vocal elements in our midst that would shove their extreme intolerance down our throats. We should push back against these people whenever they raise their ugly heads.
Oh, and … make sure you see the film ‘The Australian Dream’.