By Dr Stewart Hase
Humans are not particularly adept at accepting difference. I suspect that we are hard wired to at least be wary of others who are not the same as us. In fact, research studies have shown that there is a genetic influence in racism and in other areas such as political attitudes. There may well be an intolerance gene.
An aspect of wisdom or at least being civilised, you’d think, would be the ability to rise above impulse and to bring cognition into play. Sadly, there has been little of this lately. First, we had the unbelievable decision to upgrade Margaret Court’s gong. She received the original for her tennis achievements. Fair enough, she was able to repeatedly smash a tennis ball where she wanted to and made Australia look good on the world stage. But if you’re an observer from anywhere other than the awards committee, you can only conclude that her upgrade was for the homophobic bile she manages to spit out, using her position to influence the more feeble-minded that agree with her. Her rationale: that god’s word is the TV guide for life.
In the same vein, we then witness the leadership, if you want to call it that, at the St George Rugby League Club make the mind-numbing decision to negotiate with Israel Folau to return to Australia to play. Difficult to imagine what kind of logic that went into that idea. Luckily, the fear of losing sponsors and a backlash from fans slayed that dragon, but the fact they even thought about it was breathtaking.
Then we have the Collingwood scandal that exposed systemic racism at the club over many years, and the ugly reality that this is not an isolated case. This weekend, racism was called out again in football in the UK, albeit on social media by lunatic fans. Back here in Oz, Eddie Maguire managed to put his foot in his mouth again as he declared the release of the report on racism at Collingwood to be an historic and proud day.
Given his gaffe over Adam Goodes, does Eddie have a problem with language or is he inherently racist? I think the latter, given he was completely blind to what was happening at his club. The buck stops with him. I’m amazed that they are waiting until the end of the year for him to step down as chairman. Why was he not sacked last week?
We need to be careful to not assume that these high-profile cases are exceptions. They are the tip of the iceberg. I hear racist, homophobic and other slurs around difference at my local golf club and in other places where people mix, on a regular basis. And so do you. We damn the different, no matter what the form. We don’t value diversity, only diversity that makes others more the same as us, in other words, assimilation. We want migrants to be Australians, as long as they cook their authentic national dishes.
Sadly, we are not as civilised as we would like to think ourselves to be. I think we are getting better at calling out prejudice when we see it but we still need much more leadership from politicians and institutions such as those that support the events I’ve described above.
The quip of the week goes to Deborah Devine who talked about her son Dan Levy, the star of Schitt’s Creek, who is gay. She had a message to Dan’s bullies at a school camp when he was a boy: “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” Dan was hosting the prestigious program, a measure of his enormous success.
Stewart is a psychologist with a special interest in how people adapt and also learn. He’s written widely in these areas. He continues to consult, and annoy people who misuse power. Twitter: @stewarthase
This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.
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