Latrell Mitchell of the Roosters reacts during the Round 21 NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the Sydney Rosters at GIO Stadium in Canberra, Sunday, August 11, 2019. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Latrell Mitchell of the Roosters reacts during the Round 21 NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the Sydney Rosters at GIO Stadium in Canberra, Sunday, August 11, 2019. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Mal: Imagine it was your kid facing bigotry

As you read this column, I would like you for a moment to stop and try a little exercise.

Think about the person in your life that means the most to you.

It might be your son or daughter, a grandchild, maybe your mum or dad, your spouse or significant other, your closest friend.

Picture them in your mind, and focus on a specific feature that you love about them.

Maybe it's their blonde hair, maybe it is green eyes. Maybe they have freckles that you find adorable, their curly hair, or the way they smile.

Think of something about them that puts a smile on your face.

Now imagine the person that means more to you than anyone else in the world coming to you in tears because they had been abused, threatened or attacked because of that feature that helps to make them so special to you.

Someone they didn't know insulted them because that person had different hair colour to theirs.

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The vile racism Latrell Mitchell has copped needs to be stamped out of our country. Picture: Phil Hillyard
The vile racism Latrell Mitchell has copped needs to be stamped out of our country. Picture: Phil Hillyard

 

Someone told them their eye colour was ugly, their freckles were stupid, or having curly hair made them look silly.

Now imagine if your loved one was mistreated like this every day, and came to you distraught, wanting to know why people treated them badly because of the things that you love, things that couldn't be changed even if you wanted to.

If you are picturing a six-year-old child being called names and thinking it is ridiculous, you are right. It is.

Now imagine how the parents and the family of Latrell Mitchell felt the other night to read how someone they don't know took to social media to abuse their son for the colour of his skin and hoping that he breaks his neck.

It is no less ridiculous. But this was the snapshot of modern Australia that was presented to us this week.

This is not the Australia I know, or at least, as Australians we claim it to be. We want to live in a different Australia than that.

Australia is a multicultural society, that is what makes it so great.

Mitchell spoke out against the abuse.
Mitchell spoke out against the abuse.

It is a country that was born in Indigenous history and built upon the contributions by the multitude of people that came here from other countries.

The people that came here to work hard and make a better life for themselves.

This is the promised land, the Lucky Country. The place where everyone is supposed to get a fair go.

I am a part of that, with my Australian South Sea islander heritage.

My great-grandfather decided to jump off the rocks on Tanna Island and swim out to a boat called the Roderick Du to come and work in the sugar industry in Queensland, chasing a better life.

He wasn't black-birded or coerced. He made a conscious decision to come here to make a better life for himself and his family.

Most Australians can trace their ancestors back to foreign shores. Yet there are still elements that look down on people who came here from another country and, hypocritically, also disrespect those descended from our nation's first people.

Australia is not a racist country, but there are undoubtedly racists within in.

The person who wrote that message about Latrell the other day could be a father, setting an example to his own child and showing by his actions that it is acceptable to treat someone else this way.

Nobody should have to face racism in this day and age. Picture by Phil Hillyard.
Nobody should have to face racism in this day and age. Picture by Phil Hillyard.

It's not OK. It shouldn't be happening.

The cloak of anonymity that people can hide behind on social media makes the issue even worse, no question.

It is doubtful that anyone posting these sorts of things on social media platforms would have the courage to deliver them personally, or even under their real name.

But the bigger issue is why do these prejudices even exist? Why do people think this way? What makes them think they can make a judgment on someone's character by the colour of their skin, any more than the colour of someone's eyes or hair, religion or anything else?

Australia is better than this, and rugby league is better than this. Our game leads the way in celebrating diversity, and we don't want racists supporting rugby league.

At the end of the day, you must remember it is just a game.

It is great to be passionate, and to have genuine emotions for your club.

But this does not extend to racially abusing someone because of the colour of their skin, or the colour of their jersey.

I have dealt with racism a lot in my life, on the field and off the field. It is a difficult thing to brush off, and to not let it get to you.

 

LISTEN! On a very special episode of the Matty Johns Show one of Matty's sporting heroes is welcomed to the studio - Liverpool legend Craig Johnston

 

My father told me once that racial abuse is water off a duck's back, because it was a sign of weakness from the abuser, and proof that you had the better of them if they had to resort to personal attacks.

I guess that would be my advice to Latrell or anyone in similar situations this morning. As difficult as it is, don't let it get to you. The hate is there because they are trying to bring you down.

Tall poppy syndrome is alive and well. It's hurtful, but you are bigger than that. Stay your path and prove the bigots wrong.

For the rest of Australia, my advice would be another word of wisdom from my father - Treat others the way they treat you.

When you next give your loved one a hug - your child, grandchild, parent or partner - hope that others treat them and see them the same way that you do.

This is the Australia we all deserve.



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