By Mark Schwarzer
I don’t blame the kid. He probably had no clue what he was saying.
He’d teased me before. As the son of German immigrants, being heckled was nothing new to me.
But this time felt especially upsetting. It left me in tears and I had to tell my parents about it.
My dad was direct as ever. “You have my permission to respond,” he said. “I’ll back you all the way. You can’t let someone call you that.”
The boy lived in the neighbourhood. He was about three years older than me; bigger and stronger. He called me a Nazi.
It really hurt. As I tried to run away, he threw his brown school case at me and tripped me over.
I got up swinging, we got into a scuffle and a neighbour pulled us apart.
From that day on the boy never called me that again.
It might sound like childish silliness. But it was a good lesson for me in what it feels like to be excluded or shamed about who you are – or, in this case, who you’re not.
It helped shape my views and values.
Understanding what it feels like to be excluded is valuable knowledge to have in the times in which we live.
Racism has been given a platform like never before.
It’s one thing to protect freedom of speech, but there are people out there now spreading fear and racial hatred, including in Australia.
It’s a dangerous situation, but I prefer to see it as a chance to change the ways we treat and relate to each other, to commit to being more considerate, sensitive and informed.
My education in empathy and understanding pretty much started with a kid calling me a Nazi.
It developed through the lessons and examples my parents provided my brother, sister and me.
And, it grew through some of the opportunities I was fortunate to have working with people from different backgrounds, cultures and religions as a footballer.