Were Sam Kerr’s alleged comments racist?

Matildas skipper Sam Kerr faces a UK trial next February.

Matildas skipper Sam Kerr faces a UK trial next February. Photo: Getty

Sam Kerr’s alleged comment towards a police officer has elicited strong responses, and experts say it is important to take into account the historical and social context of the incident before branding it racist or not.

During a court appearance earlier in the week, Kerr was accused of calling a London police officer a “stupid white bastard” after he was called to resolve a dispute over a taxi fare.

Former Socceroo and human rights advocate Craig Foster said racism “exists between and among all communities”.

“Interpersonal racism against a white person, though far less frequent in Australia and the UK, is still racism,” he said.

“The point is, referring to the alleged comments, that race should never be a factor, even if provoked, and all racism must be dealt with equally.”

Craig Foster was critical of Kerr’s comments. Photo: AAP

Foster also said it was irresponsible of Kerr not to have told Football Australia of her court date.

Kerr’s legal team is reportedly challenging that she called the police officer a ‘bastard’, and instead argue that she called him a ‘stupid white cop’.

Professor Jioji Ravulo, chair of social work and policy studies at the University of Sydney, said polarising views have emerged because people have been trying to determine if Kerr’s alleged behaviour constituted racism.

“We’re dealing with this idea that a person of colour who is [a] woman and queer, and what was alleged to have been said comes across for a lot of people, especially white people, as reverse discrimination,” he said.

“It is not reverse discrimination or racism, I believe, because it’s an expression of someone’s lived experiences and how they navigate and negotiate those power dynamics.”

Kerr’s father was born in Calcutta, India, to British and Indian parents.

Police and racism

Associate Professor Lauren Rosewarne, from Melbourne University’s School of Social and Political Sciences, said it was “inevitable that the conversation is going to be had”.

“I would argue that much media in Australia struggles with both nuance and also history,” she said.

“A case like Kerr’s often gets presented completely separate from important factors such as the very long and distressing history that minorities have had with law enforcement.”

Kerr’s legal team will challenge the charges as an abuse of process, based on how long it took to file after the incident.

Ravulo said policing practices in Australia and the UK have been “challenged to be oppressive”.

“Especially for people of colour and queer people, and they haven’t been helpful for women in regards to the way they’ve interacted with policing systems and practices,” she said.

“There has always been a question around the impartiality in the way in which police and their respective cultures interact and operate.”

The full story

When news broke that Kerr had been in court, with a trial date set for 2025, for racially aggravated harassment, there was no information on what had allegedly occurred.

Ravulo said there was a “national sigh of relief” when the alleged comments came out, particularly from diverse people.

“A lot of white people got up in arms because they thought this was a situation where they were being discriminated against,” he said.

“It’s like no, you’re missing the point of the nuance associated with what is alleged and how it plays out again for people who traditionally are oppressed because of western and white ideologies, perspectives, practises, views and values.”

He said despite this, it is important that Australia can critically discuss race and discrimination.

“Come and have conversations with people who have experienced racism, come and have conversations with people that strive to make sense of why racism continues to happen in western societies,” Ravulo said.

“When we have a shared understanding of these particular lived experiences, we can then create possible solutions moving forward.”

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