The clearest message that Buckley delivered is that he now has the beginning of a grasp of systemic racism. It is not the topmost layer of racism, which is obvious and abhorrent to all. It requires an antenna that many who have never had to confront it lack.
“It produces different outcomes for people who are not white and results, even if not intended, in a hostile environment for Indigenous people and people of colour,” the review says. “It is these more entrenched forms of racism that people find harder to identify.” That has application well beyond footy.
Buckley identifies an instance in which he was the culprit, a press conference in 2017 following the release of a documentary on Heritier Lumumba. “When I look back, it was dismissive,” he said, “And I need to be better than that.
“What I now understand is that is a form of systemic racism. The dismissing and denial of experience is not a direct act, but in many ways it reinforces the pain and trauma that Heritier felt and that [other former players] Andrew [Krakouer] and Leon [Davis] have spoken about. It’s feeling like they don’t have a voice and they don’t have somewhere to go and that’s the systemic aspect of it.”
Buckley does not try to excuse himself or mitigate his role. As per Do Better, he acknowledges past wrongs, apologises and demonstrates a widening of his mind (reparation is above his pay scale).
This is crucial. The first thing to learn about redressing racism is that it begins with unlearning, a long and discomfiting exercise. It is not like one of those online forms you fill in at the airport or the supermarket, a matter of ticking boxes serially until one that says “submit” lights up and the job is done.
On behalf of Collingwood, Buckley has checked a box. But it is only the first one.
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