Bruce Djite challenges Australian football to tackle racism head-on

© The Daily Telegraph  |  Article link

March 20, 2014

A centre-forward’s job isn’t for the faint-hearted and he’ll prove that once more against Sydney FC.

But flying boots aren’t the only thing the Adelaide striker is prepared to risk. As an ambassador for the anti-racism charity All Together Now, Djite wants to shine a light on some elements of society we might prefer to ignore.

The message is simple — that while Australia is by and large not overtly racist, there are still attitudes to change and incidents to confront, and we all have a responsibility to do so.

The timing is particularly apt, with Harmony Day marked today and Ali Abbas’s claims of racial abuse to be heard next week.

“I’ve been pretty lucky,” Djite said. “With the privileges of playing a high-profile sport and especially playing overseas, people make life as easy as they can for you.

“I’ve been the beneficiary of that, but I’ve had friends and seen people treated differently and approached differently.”

“For example, you could have some people of Middle Eastern appearance hanging out in the west of Sydney, and the police might approach them and start questioning why they’re there.”

“Other people, the ­majority, wouldn’t necessarily be the subject of that kind of judgment call, that assumption based on ­appearance.”

Djite is happy to make clear he has never encountered racist abuse on the pitch — the issue is either a more subliminal kind of discrimination, such as walking into a shop and being treated differently, or the cesspit that social media can be.

“People’s true thoughts come out when they think they have no risk of getting caught or getting in trouble,” he said.

“Twitter’s a perfect example. It gives you a true reflection of the kind of society we live in. In 2014, it’s not socially acceptable to be openly racist or anti-­Semitic in public.”

“But if you have a fake profile on Twitter, or you’re talking to your mates when no one else is around, those true thoughts come out.”

“That’s why the biggest challenge is to educate people, to change the way they think in the first place.”

“The society we live in today would look very, very different if people in the past didn’t stand up and make a stand for what they believe in. Without those heroes of the past, there’s no way we could live as we do now.”

“It needs people to say: ‘No, I’m not taking this, it’s not acceptable’.”

“It’s when you say you’re used to it, or you don’t want to cause trouble, that’s when you will always have problems.”

On Monday, Abbas will tell a tribunal that he was abused by Wanderers striker Brendon Santalab for his religion and race — there’s an obvious limit to what can be said about that, but Djite does applaud anyone who takes a stand when they perceive something wrong.

“It’s not just words, or having an Erase Racism round to tick the box of social responsibility,” he said.

“It’s about people doing tangible things that make people feel times are changing and that they should change their thinking accordingly.”

“It’s my firm belief that in Australia the vast majority aren’t racist and do believe in a multicultural society.”

“But it is still an issue, and making people aware of that can certainly help. I’ve got a lot of Anglo-Saxon mates, all very good people — they’re cool, I love them.”

“But they are privileged. They don’t understand.”

“I don’t know anyone who’s been racially abused for being white, or having blue eyes and blonde hair.”