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Racism is quite a slippery customer. It moves around in an unprincipled way to put its targets down. Understanding how racism operates helps us to put racism down.

Here is one case study – in AFL football.

Recently on a television show, a retired AFL footballer described racially vilifying an Aboriginal player from another team. At the time, players and people in the general community adopted some typical racist strategies we can identify, and learn from:

  1. Attacking the people who stuck their head up first against racism in order to contain anti-racism
    The Aboriginal player who talked about racism in the AFL on a radio program soon became the target of organised, ugly and sustained racism
  2. De-valuing the impact of racism and normalising it
    Calling someone a black c_ _ t was no different than calling someone a c_ _ t
  3. Shifting views to wrong foot the target
    Calling the player a black c_ _ t (and other racist taunts) was said to put the Aboriginal player off his game – but there was no difference between calling him a black c_ _ t and c_ _ t
  4. Colluding with your enemy to make racist attacks
    Players from other teams rang up and said that racially vilifying this Aboriginal player put him off his game
  5. Making frequent and sustained racist taunts until the target can’t take it anymore
    The player snapped and reacted in ways he would probably not have chosen otherwise – which was the whole idea. It was reported that his team sent him for psychological counselling, suggesting it was his weakness – and not other’s racism – that was the problem
  6. Racism constantly changes its rules so the targets find it difficult to respond
    If the Aboriginal player put up with racism on the field, it showed he was weak because he put up with it; but, if he did not put up with racism it showed he was weak because he could not put up with it
  7. Recruiting racist allies
    A numbers of players celebrated the way literally thousands of spectators hurled racist abuse at the Aboriginal player
  8. Turning away
    There was virtually no response from the Aboriginal player’s team, the AFL Players’ Association, the AFL, the police, or human rights organisations