Adam Goodes: Ugly racism has endured way too long
BACK in 1999 I was in Tasmania where through serendipitous good fortune I was able to attend the seventh annual Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Sports Awards.
It was the year Jimmy Little had been inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame.
His band was playing on stage in the Wrest Point convention hall at Sandy Bay on the Derwent and the room packed with indigenous sporting luminaries included Cathy Freeman, Manly legend Cliff Lyons, the irrepressible Nicky Winmar and now Noosa local Yvonne Cawley.
Winmar and Lyons were that year's National Sportsmen winners, with Freeman named the women's star even before she ascended the heavens in Sydney the following year.
Christened Neil Elvis Winmar the twice All-Australian representative, twice Saint Kilda Best and Fairest, team of the century and hall of famer brought the room to thunderous applause when he lifted his shirt to replicate his defining 1993 statement against racism in sport.
The 1993 incident was just one of many - sometimes considerably less eloquent reactions - he had in a career pock marked by the cancerous stain of racism that has endured in this country since white settlement.
In Round 19 of the 1990 season, Winmar was cited for eye gouging and kicking Dermott Brereton and suspended for 10 matches. Brereton later admitted having racially vilified the Saint Kilda player.
These days a commentator, Brereton in 2015 now blames Adam Goodes for the constant boos that have followed the Swans star for the past 16 weeks, claiming he needs to be less flamboyant.
Sage advice from Mr Flamboyance himself.
Dermott may have changed his ways but we know where he's come from.
Some inside and outside the AFL still want to paint the 16 weeks of abuse Goodes has now copped as nothing more than the typical barracking of fans.
He's been a target since before he was named Australian of the Year last year and more recently his introduction of a culturally-inspired celebration whenever he kicks a goal.
Two years ago Goodes called out a 13-year-old girl who had constantly racially abused him from behind the boundary fence.
The child wasn't born with a vocabulary of vilification pre-programmed. It's something she learnt and other children are still learning by example.
And is it any wonder?
Stereotyping on the basis of skin colour, ethnicity, circumstance and religion is something you don't have to go to a Sydney Swans away game to experience.
It remains alive and sickening well in the discourse of our federal politics, where refugees have become queue jumpers, Muslims terrorists and some children worthy of less care and support than others.
Many are blind to indigenous disadvantage, more concerned about their own weight than the rates of suicide among aboriginal men and more willing to wear rainbow for our gay brothers and sisters than the black of mourning for the gap between the mortality rates of aboriginal and white Australian babies.
Constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is now on the agenda.
Whether it can successfully navigate a referendum will be a test of what sort of nation we will become into the future.
But even if successful constitutional recognition would remain worthless without the willingness on the part of most of us to not only recognise racism when it occurs but to call it out for what it is.