….here’s a Dennis Cometti classic call from the nineties:
Brereton: And the ball spills free to Kickett …
Cometti: Troy Cook you mean?
Brereton: Yes, well, they do look rather alike …
Cometti: How so Dermott?
Brereton: [Realising that sounded rather racist] Um, well, they are both, er …
Cometti: Midfielders, yes Dermott.
Really? It’s racist for Dermott Brereton to think that two people in a milling group of footballers look alike because each is dark skinned or even, God forbid, Aboriginal? Would it have been ‘racist’ if the two subjects were Italian? Was it racist of Dermott just to think it — or was saying it aloud the real crime?
Am I alone in being infuriated by this? Nothing so clearly demonstrates the corruption of the word ‘racist’ than the above, and it is poisoning our ability to debate important issues.
Dictionary.com defines racism as:
1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.
2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.
Where does Dermott’s putative offence fall within those parameters?
If I were to say “I don’t much like Russians”, (which is true), would that be racist? Of course not. Ah ah, you might say, it may not be racist but it’s xenophobic.
Nope. Dictionary.com defines xenophobia as:
an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange.
My dislike is based on my experiences with a group of Russians, as I observed them some time ago aboard cruise ship on which I was also passenger. That appraisal is entirely subjective, but I would argue that it is not unreasonable. Still, Russia being so on the nose internationally, I doubt many people will take offence. And, no doubt, were I met some individual Russians, I would find them charming, some anyway.
If I were to say “I don’t like Americans”, (which is certainly not true), I am likely to be cheered by many on the Left, who do, indeed, express that view. No racism or xenophobia there.
But if I were to say “I don’t like Aborigines”, (which, again, is certainly not true), that would be ‘racist’ pure and simple, no matter whatever personal provocation I might have suffered. Again, this is a hypothetical statement. I do not dislike Aborigines and have suffered no personal provocation, despite several Aboriginal identities have said things that I find provocative.
If I were to say “Mike Carlton is a stupid bastard”, because I believe that Carlton says stupid things and, in Australian vernacular, ‘bastard’ flows naturally after ‘stupid’, that would be insulting but certainly not racist.
But if I were to say “Noel Pearson is a stupid bastard”, because I believe he sometimes says stupid things and, in Australian vernacular, ‘bastard’ flows naturally after ‘stupid’, that would be ‘racist’ because clearly I mean that he is stupid because he’s Aboriginal and is illegitimate to boot.
Until we can get past this juvenile political correctness how can we possibly debate public policy issues such as asylum seekers and constitutional recognition?