For better or worse, The Final Quarter documentary that covered the relentless booing of Adam Goodes in his last years as a professional football player, has created more conversations and social media hype than any other program about racism in Australia than I can remember.
Migrating over to Australia in the mid 70’s – only a couple of years after the White Australia Policy has been abolished – my family and I have had more servings of racial vilification than we can count. Or care to.
It’s all relevant, right? From the drunken geezer in a pub who shouted “Go back to the rice fields, ya Ching!” to my brother.
Or the random lady who didn’t like the looks of me holding hands with my blonde blue eyed boyfriend walking down Oxford Street so decided to yell out obscenities telling me to “Find my own kind, ya black bitch!”
(To which my boyfriend promptly told her to “F** off!” No winners here).
In all of this, I can even count the time when helping out in my son’s kindergarten reading group, a kid made rude and derogatory comments about my skin colour. Twice.
I couldn’t believe what I had heard it the first time. So, I thought best to ignore it. She’s just a kid. She doesn’t realise what she’s saying. I’m sure she was just making an observation with the usual tactless style best known from a five year old. I let it lie.
Then it happened the following week. Same time, same classroom, same kid. And this time, her classmate overheard and decided to join in.
I said nothing. Just gave her a stern stare. She piped down. But I was livid.
After much deliberation, I let it all out on Facebook:
Friends were quick to jump and comment with some telling me it was the parents to blame as racism starts at home. Others in an attempt, to what I can only assume to calm me down, tried to reason saying a kid is just a kid: they meant no harm.
But I made it very clear: I posted not to be angry at the child or even the parents.
What I wanted to call out was that it was indeed racism that I had experienced.
There was no doubt in my mind. I had let it go the first time but the second time it was only too clear I needed to speak up.
I’m lucky, I have a lot of supportive friends. Even on Facebook.
They helped me find the courage to report it to the classroom teacher, who in turn, acted promptly in helping set up a meeting for me with the school principal who was completely empathetic. Even offering tissues when I teared up and told her that the incident was reverting me back to my own difficult childhood.
It was all eventually sorted out. The little girl was remorse and apologised, accompanied with a sorry letter. Her mother also approached me with her own apology.
I’m happy with how the issue was dealt. And it left me optimistic for Australia’s future because that would’ve never happened when I was growing up. Not only had I dealt with racist kids in the classrooms, teachers would be just as bad or if not, complacent at the least.
Even while there were those who questioned if it was actually racism and that perhaps, I was overreacting, especially on a little girl, I replied with this: Racism CANNOT be identified by any other than the person it directly affects.
I was apprehensive about watching The Final Quarter. It was sure to trigger some ugly memories.
Whether it’s directly pointed at me or not, nothing gets me angrier than racism. My gut tightens, a hot burning sensation reaches my chest which gives it an unbearable weight where it’s hard to breathe.
When my body has instinctively reacted all throughout my life, why let it go through all of that voluntarily?
But I don’t. I can’t. Something is conditioned in me to shut up when I’ve been racially profiled or attacked. I’ve done it for so long. Too long. So then it’s always the perpetrators who have the upper, winning hand.
But watch the documentary, I did. As painful as it is to see someone like Adam Goodes – who has such great intentions for his people and Australia as a whole – be so horribly treated and vilified for so long and so publicly, The Final Quarter gave me emotional and mental armour.
It’s so very telling to Adam Goodes’ calibre as a spokesman for the First Nation people; how composed he was each time he had to face the fire from reporters and the public. A stark contrast to the angry, disrespectful rants from the charming likes of Andrew Bolt and Sam Newman. Let’s not also forget the delightful Alan Jones.
We keep saying that racism is the conversation we need to have. But we don’t know where to start. We shy away, we just get angry and our discussions are left without purpose and unsubstantiated.
The Final Quarter has stepped up to being that conversation starter.
And I can’t wait for it to be shown in schools and sports clubs because this documentary has the potential to be the game changer for our children and the discussions they will lead.