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September 27, 2021

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: Dear Adam Goodes

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Dear Adam Goodes,

Sorry about that booing incident the other day. It’s not just that, Adam. I am really sorry about us. We’re an embarrassment. No, we’re worse than that. We’re bullies.

I never watch AFL. In fact I am not interested in football of any code. But I do feel that as a white Australian and on behalf of all us stupid, ignorant bullying racist whities who refuse to acknowledge that we are stupid, or ignorant or bullying or racist – because some of us have ‘black’ friends or a Bill Cosby CD or Ernie Dingo’s autograph – that we owe Adam, and his brothers and sisters, a heartfelt apology for the deeply embedded toxic racism that runs to our marrow. Buried deeper than coal.

It’s why we never wanted to say sorry for the stolen children, for your stolen land and your stolen lives. I am sorry none of us has ever seen it as our fault. Because our grandparents did it. Or their grandparents. I am sorry we are racists in denial. I am sorry the picture we Aussies have of ourselves is not actually who we are. I am sorry that the level playing field is actually not a level playing field, and that most white people never get to know this because when they step foot on the field it is level.

The reason there is an under-representation of Indigenous people in universities and an over-representation in jails is that the so-called level playing field tends to tilt when black men and women run on it, making it hard to make the climb but easy to slip to the bottom.

I am sorry about Alan Jones, and Shane Warne and Miranda Devine and all the other smug middle-class Whities with so much privilege yet so little understanding or insight into culture and history that they think it’s okay to boo a black man because we can also boo a white man. I am sorry that white Australians don’t understand the context of racism. I am sorry that because it doesn’t happen to us we don’t include it in our dialogue of understanding. I am sorry that we refuse to listen to what racism feels like because it makes us uncomfortable and because it doesn’t happen to us. I am sorry that we tell you that things that don’t happen to us don’t exist.

I am sorry that we now tell you that our racism doesn’t exist and you are making it up. I am sorry you got called an ape in public by a 13-year-old girl. Of course everyone was outraged because we realised that, unlike booing, ape definitely was racist. Until it was discovered it was a 13-year-old who made the call – and apparently this was okay because we allow our children to be racist because they ‘don’t know what they are saying’. I am sorry that we expected you to say sorry to a child who called you an ape. I am sorry that one little white girl is worth about 100 black men.

I am sorry that standing up for yourself made you the bad guy. I am sorry that you have been humiliated publicly. I am sorry that the colour of your skin becomes a talking point for white Australians who say it’s nothing to do with the colour of your skin. I am sorry that white Australians want to pretend you aren’t black. Except if they were friends with you and they’d use your blackness as proof that they’re not racist by saying stuff like, ‘See, I’m not racist. Some of my friends are black. Like Adam Goodes.’

I am sorry that when you were made Australian of the Year that we expected you to play nice. To be appreciative of the induction into the Colony Hall of Fame. To be a black man gifted with the special ‘access all areas’ card that we Whities are born with. I am sorry that Australia is not ready for an outspoken black man. That Australia is not ready for a proud black man. That Australia is not ready for a political black man. I am sorry that Australia doesn’t understand that racism hurts.

I am sorry that we find your pain provocative. I am sorry that we continue to wrap ourselves in a flag stained in the blood of a black nation. We are Racism Deniers, stepping onto the moral ground declaring it, like we did this country: Terra Nullius. Sorry we keep having to say Sorry.

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  1. When I hear the preface “Im not racist, BUT…” it translates as “I’m racist and please allow me to be so”.
    Well put Mandy, I am truly sorry as well Adam.

  2. Racism is so ingrained in our society that we don’t even recognise much of it. Thank you Mandy for showing some of the many ways that racism is played out. As a nation it seems that we have a very rosy but unreal idea of who we are, an open friendly lot of people – but only to people much the same as ourselves. By and large we don’t like: Aboriginal Aussies, anyone from the Middle East, anyone Asian, anyone fleeing persecution. Basically we only like white Anglo Saxons but we still value the idea of giving people a ‘fair go’. What a joke.

  3. Beautifully written Mandy. White privilege needs to be understood in order for change. This country needs an inclusive name, legal system, flag and anthem. Sorry Adam. I stand with you against racism.

  4. I am sorry too. It is about time we took a long hard look at ourselves. Why for instance is the haka accepted but a war dance with an imaginary spear by one of our own proud Indigenous men apparently not? Well said Mandy.


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