Another day, another AFL racism so-called scandal.
The AFL Memes Facebook “scandal” is probably the lamest yet. But it still has much to teach us.
The first is that any journo who finds anything to do with footy that even remotely smells like racism can call the AFL, send them the link or the screenshot, and immediately have a story: “AFL hits out at XXXXXXXXX”.
(If you can somehow link it to Majak Daw, all the better. He seems to be the papers’ target of choice these days and the AFL will go the extra yard for anything Majak-related. Whether that is good or bad for Majak is up for debate.)
This is because, quite rightly, the AFL has a zero-tolerance policy for racism of any sort. It has to be that way.
There is indeed some very funny stuff on the AFL Memes. But there is racist stuff too. Undeniably racist pictures comparing indigenous players to animals, making light of petrol sniffing, rehashing tired old American racist stereotypes about African Americans and transferring them onto Majak Daw, an African-Australian.
I’m not going to get into a debate about why a “joke” about whether Majak Daw being hard to see in the dark is racist or not – because there is no debate. It is racist full stop. It is making a joke predicated on the colour of the man’s skin, his race.
What I find interesting is not just the level of ignorance involved in thinking that a plainly racist image is funny, but that putting it on a public forum using your real name.
Surely after the Ben Polis episode people would have worked out that Facebook is all public now and that if you put something on Facebook, for all intents and purposes, you may as well be writing an article in the Herald Sun.
The state of Victoria, along with others, has quite well-defined racial vilification laws. Were the AFL minded to really make a statement on this, they could ask the police follow the example of the Welsh cops who arrested and charged Liam Stacey with making racially offensive comments about Fabrice Muamba on Twitter after the Bolton midfielder collapsed on the pitch.
Stacey got a few months in jail for his trouble and while I don’t feel that jail is the correct response to this kind of thing, I don’t hand out sentences. It may be there’s a magistrate who finds the kind of racism AFL Memes indulged in does warrant a few weeks inside. The AFL would probably like that. A lot.
There’s an argument against what I’m saying that is traditionally made by types who feel that making racist jokes is OK.
It is that those opposing are crazed politically correct types who believe no jokes can be made regarding people of a non-white colour.
This isn’t true: make all the jokes you want about Majak being suspended for missing rehab sessions because he was out on the lash or about how Betts is a front runner. Just don’t make jokes about the colour of their skin.
But then really, some people are just plain ignorant. Even a simple concept like that above is beyond them. The bloke who runs AFL Memes – which is affiliated with the turgidly boring thisisafl.com mob – popped up on BigFooty to tell us:
“I’m actually the admin of the page. As of yet I haven’t heard anything from anyone regarding taking the page down or deleting photos, so I just took it upon myself to delete some and take the logos off.
“The one the article [everyone] seems to have a problem with is one with Brad Scott talking to Majak, with the caption ‘F*** man we need to get you playing some night games’. Now just because I wasn’t offended doesn’t mean that it wasn’t offensive I guess, but honestly, the guy has dark skin.
“At night it’s harder to see him. It had nothing to do with race, and honestly, I think placing a sub-heading ‘No Memes about black people’ would be more racist in the true meaning of the word.
“I can admit whole heartedly that 90% of the trash that gets posted to me is awful. There are some seriously offensive ones that get a truckload of likes, but I have tried to keep the ones I re-post on the wall clean and genuinely funny. Hopefully it all blows over soon. I’m sure people are going to get sick of the page eventually anyway…”
Two things come from this. The first is that this bloke honestly cannot see why ‘a black people can’t be seen at night’ “joke” is racist. I suspect he never will.
I don’t know the bloke personally. I doubt he’s an active racist in that I’m pretty sure he doesn’t lynch Sudanese blokes he sees out with white girls, but racism is far more insidious than that these “jokes” are the thin end of the wedge.
The second and far more concerning element of his statement is that he gets stuff he doesn’t put up that he thinks is “seriously offensive”.
This from a bloke who found a picture of Eddie Betts compared to a monkey (and Majak being invisible in the dark) suitable for public consumption.
The mind boggles at what this must involve. The fact that there’s plenty of people out there who are making things worse than Eddie Betts being compared to a monkey that they think are suitable for publishing demonstrates just how far we still have to go.
The AFL is right to call for the closure of AFL Memes. The presence of some funny jokes does not outweigh the publication of offensive racist images. That people honestly think it is acceptable to have the AFL logo on a page featuring nakedly racist imagery proves that a zero-tolerance policy is still needed.
And probably always will be.