Back in March, I blogged about a bizarre happening in Adelaide.
Nik (who is half English and half West Indian) said he had chosen to support the Essendon Australian rules football team because the team (who play in black and red) were once nicknamed ‘the Blood-Stained Niggers’ and now have more aboriginal players and fans than any other AFL team.
Goers told him he was a racist and to “Get the fuck out of my studio!”
A few days later, in a list of things to see and things to avoid printed in Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Mail newspaper in Australia, Peter Goers gave Nik Coppin “Minus Four Stars” as a “racist Fringe comedian”.
Nik took legal advice.
Last weekend, the Sunday Mail printed this in Peter Goers’ column:
APOLOGY: On Sunday, March 4, in my column’s “What’s Not” section I referred to comedian Nik Coppin as “painfully unfunny racist Fringe comedian at the Austral Hotel: Minus four stars”. I acknowledge that my comments were false and made without foundation. In fact, I had not seen his show at the time I wrote my comments. I have no reason to believe that Nik Coppin is a racist or that his Fringe show contained racist material. I withdraw those comments without reservation and apologise for any hurt or embarrassment caused.
Yesterday, Nik told me what had happened.
This is what he said:
The process involved in obtaining an apology and reparation for libellous and harmful comments printed in a newspaper is a very interesting one. In the eyes of the law, that which you feel would be perfectly reasonable to assume isn’t and that which you presume wouldn’t be, is.
The legal eagles certainly have a bewildering way of dealing with things.
A few people that I know and work with questioned whether it was worth it and warned that it could get very stressful, depending on how far I was willing to push it.
There is very little that I take too seriously, if I am honest. I mean, we’re all entertainers after all, right? Let’s just laugh it off and get some good ol’ fashioned PR out of it. But there surely must come a time in everybody’s existence on this here planet when you have to take a more solemn view of things and in some situations say to oneself, “Enough is enough”. You have to stand up and fight for what you believe is right.
In life, the press and certainly the world of comedy, all too often people take offence because they refuse to listen properly or shut off when they hear certain things said. This appears to be a natural reaction to things you might not want to hear, or that which touches a nerve, but it does not excuse what Mr Goers did and the Sunday Mail allowed to happen.
In my opinion, it was a vengeful and spiteful thing to do. Something you really would not expect from one of his years.
But, as laughable and nonsensical as this situation was, I had to take a more serious stance than to merely laugh off the bizarre and farcical comments. A half black man being accused of racism in possibly the most racist westernised country on the planet? My God, how ludicrous!
I should add, however, that I do not believe that Australians are racist. Well, not all of them anyway. I love visiting the place, doing the festivals, seeing the wildlife, having the banter and all the other delightful things that go along with being in such a beautiful country. But I think we all know that there are issues that need to be dealt with over there. The We’re too laid back to be racist or hate Aboriginals defence just isn’t good enough.
The amount of times I have heard white Australians say things like: “We give them money and offer them jobs, but they’re just lazy and want to get pissed all the time”.
Well, that says all you need to know about certain sentiments in a land where the indigenous population were slaughtered by the thousands and had their land, dignity, children and whatever else stolen from them.
I think any race that has suffered that and had their rights and entire way of life stripped away, has earned the right to ‘laze around’ and drink a few bevies if they choose to, don’t you?
I am not suggesting that they should attempt to ‘give back’ the country. Australia is predominately a white country but, in my opinion and many others, is black land. So those in privileged positions in Australia should be a bit more understanding and helpful in the future and support the Aboriginal as much as they can.
I mean, let’s face it, if you look at the table from the London 2012 Olympics and who won many of those medals for the UK and the US of A, maybe you could do a lot worse than support your black population, Australia. Then in a few years time maybe we Brits won’t be laughing at what little precious metal you took back ‘home’.
The thing about such a situation, though, is that – for one who earns his living as a comedian – the possibilities are many. I was considering writing a show about race and maybe religious issues and this story can underpin the whole thing.
So, while it was confusing, angering and frustrating having what I can only consider a foolish, arrogant Adelaidian ‘celebrity’ full of his own self-importance doing a childish, vindictive thing like calling me a “painfully unfunny racist” in a popular newspaper without even seeing my show or listening to me or doing his research properly… Was it worth it going through with the fight and standing up for what you believe in, in the face of a form of oppression?
And, to those who doubted whether it was the right thing to do, I say to you…
I would it again and again and again.
And so should you.