A Day of Opposites

Friday 15th March 2019: a day that will be carved into my heart and mind forever.

A day split into two halves as extreme contrasts dominated the news cycles:

  • hope and terroropposites
  • love and hate
  • life and death

A day of opposites.

The morning seemed like a beacon of hope and positive action for a better future as in a huge surge of energy and enthusiasm, 1.5million young people worldwide gathered to march and protest and petition their governments to take significant action on climate change.

The afternoon became a sinkhole of numb shock giving way to sadness, anger, and fear as the news broke of the white supremacist terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch. Early reports were saying more than 40 people at prayer had been shot dead and schools, hospitals etc were in lockdown all across the city as police searched for the perpetrator.

Relief for those who survived was countered by deepening grief as the fatality count rose. 40, 41, 49, 50. 50 more people injured. These numbers as a percentage of our population in New Zealand equate to the number of people killed by 9/11 twin towers attacks.

Respect at the skill of the police operation in apprehending the terrorist was countered by the incompetence (at best) of a surveillance community that has paid no attention to white supremacist groups in New Zealand.

And even while many/most New Zealanders expressed grief, empathy,  love, and support for the Muslim community, others were busy sharing their hateful glee.

Moments of immense bravery, like Naeem Rashid, who rushed at the terrorist in an attempt to disarm him, Abdul Aziz, who threw a portable credit card machine at the terrorist, the two police officers who hauled the terrorist from his car despite the risk of bombs, and moments of craven denial and cover-up of anti-immigrant or racist sentiment from many media personalities.

Positive moments of inclusion and connection as They Are Us , a recognition of something shared, is spoken over and over. Negative moments of denial and pretence, dressed up as empathy, when this is not us or this is not who we are is spoken over and over – as if racism has not been alive and flourishing in New Zealand since the first white colonists set foot here. And racism underpins white supremacism.

All this is not us really says is that the person saying it has not thought about or is oblivious to the rampant racism embedded in New Zealand’s past and present. That they do not know, or do not care, that white supremacist groups are active in New Zealand, that anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-‘other’ is exactly what many of ‘us’ in New Zealand are.

It’s not me. It’s not most of my friends, nor many other people. But it is New Zealand, collectively, and it is many New Zealanders individually. Racism, the belief that white is best, is so embedded that many people don’t even recognise that objections to making learning Maori, an official language of New Zealand alongside English and NZ sign language, mandatory learning in schools is racist.

It’s politicians, spouting fear mongering and downright lies about immigrants, and about the UN Migrant compact. It’s the National party, removing their petition against the UN Migrant compact from their website on the evening of the terrorist attack, then lying about it saying it had been removed weeks ago.

It is people like Todd Scott, of NBR retweeting racist comments. It is Bob Jones with his ‘gratitude day’ column in the NBR that he alleges is satire – but satire that punches downwards and builds on racist tropes of Maori-should-be-grateful-to-white-people, looks and smells a lot like racism to me.

It is Mike Hosking, Duncan Garner et al with their privileged media platform spewing out constant anti-immigrant sentiment. It is a photo of a winking Mike Hosking holding up a t-shirt printed with the symbol of a  hand gesture appropriated by white supremacists. Allegedly, he and his team “weren’t aware that this hand gesture could hold alternative meanings at the time of using it.” But when an experienced journalist/media presenter is ignorant of a trend that is well-known in a public context, that looks and smells a lot like covering-up racism to me.

It is the intelligence services putting all their focus on Muslim communities, animal rights activists, and (illegally) earthquake victims, while paying no attention whatsoever to white supremacist groups. They have no data, for the last ten years, despite anyone with a twitter account knowing damn well white supremacy is a growing issue.

It is the police force not recording data on hate crimes and ignoring repeated calls to do so.

It is Christchurch’s professional rugby team who think it is just fine to call themselves the Crusaders, despite repeated calls from people to change their name. It is the same rugby team, in response to increased calls for a name change since Friday’s terrorist attack on the Muslim community in Christchurch, who claim the said name is “a reflection of the crusading spirit of this community”, and “our crusade is one for peace, unity, inclusiveness and community spirit.” It’s a funny kind of peace, unity, inclusiveness and community spirit that sends men wielding swords and dressed up in the costumes of the knights of the Crusades against Muslims, galloping around the rugby pitch on horses before the match begins. Their response looks and smells a lot like bullshit to me.

It is an Auckland school banning its students from wearing the hijab.

It is a young woman in Auckland, the day after the terrorism attack in Christchurch, being assaulted by someone trying to tear her hijab of her head.

It is when I, wearing an infinity scarf wrapped round my head and face to prevent the cold wind triggering a trigeminal neuralgia attack, am yelled at by an old man in the supermarket carpark, “You’re not one of those bloody muzzies are you? They taking our own now?”

It’s the vicious, public outcry, including accusations of ‘traitor’ from Duncan Garner, when Taika Waititi when he says New Zealand is “racist as fuck.”

It’s white men delivering boxes of pigs heads to the doors of a mosque asking for donations to a Fiji disaster relief fund.

It’s white people objecting to place names in Maori because they can’t be bothered to learn how to pronounce them.

It’s swastikas painted on walls alongside public streets, and the building owners not bothering to remove them, despite complaints.

It’s a Christchurch insulation company with white supremacist/Nazi symbols as their company logo and embedded in their company description, all emblazoned on the side of their vans.

It’s the comments threads on Stuff articles. It’s the racial abuse aimed at some of our MPs on Twitter threads.

It’s a long, long list. These are just a tiny sample of the many examples, the first ones that came to mind.

So to say ‘this is not who we are’ seems to me just a way of sweeping uncomfortable truths under the carpet. Racism festers beneath the carpet, it weaves its patterns on top of the carpet, it waves a bloody big flag across the sky. Too many people pretend it doesn’t matter, or it’s just a joke, or it’s not happening at all.

But it matters, it happens, and it’s no joke. Ever.

Racism leads to many New Zealanders being undervalued, discriminated against, and living their life in fear when they should be safe. Racism lets white supremacy attitudes flourish unchecked. It helps create a climate in which a white supremacist terrorist massacres 50 people and injures 50 more, and there are people in online enclaves cheering him, and wanting to buy him a beer.

Saying this is not us might make you feel better, but it’s just not true.

We have to do better.

 

How Can We Do Better?

Don’t laugh at racist ‘jokes’ just to be polite
Don’t ignore racist comments

If someone says something racist

Criticise the comment, not the person
Avoid calling them racist, it makes them defensive
Instead, tell them you disagree with what they said, and explain why

If person starts an argument

Pause and take a breath to stay calm
Ask them an open question
Why do you think that?
Why do you say that?
Why do you think that is funny?

Explain Your Feelings

Knowing how you feel about what they said can help them understand better:

It makes me uncomfortable to hear you say things like that. What did you mean by it?
That comment/joke offended me. Why did you say it?
I always thought you were a tolerant, fair-minded person. Why did you say that?

Stay Safe

If the person starts getting dismissive or cross, it may be best to finish the conversation.
They may reflect on it later – don’t expect instant understanding.
Find someone you know you can talk with about it if you need to debrief

Helping Others Being Targetted by Racists

Go and stand/sit with the victim
Let them know you don’t agree with the perpetrator, so they don’t feel so alone
If it is safe, take video or photo evidence on your phone
Swap contact details with the victim in case they decide to make a complaint and need the evidence

On Social Media

Use the steps above
Report posts and comments

We can stand against racism. Will you join me?

 

At 1.32p.m on Friday, 22nd March, there will be a 2 minute silence in Hagley Park, Christchurch, to commemorate the victims.

 

45 thoughts on “A Day of Opposites

  1. such a powerful post on such a terrible day! unfortunately, it seems discrimination is part of the human DNA. Whether it be based on religion, sex, colour, nationality, looks or personality it is an every day thing! I believe the only way to rid society of this is to educate our children about it and why it is bad. their are a future and we need to set an example that discrimination is as bad as murder, rape or theft!

    education and compassion is the only way forward

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I made the mistake of watching the video…in horror and disbelief, I sat there and could not believe the level of hatred I was witnessing. I hate that people are not safe anywhere…no one knows the answer or how to stop this insanity from repetition. Any time I think that racism is improving, the raw reality comes back to haunt us again. Thank you for having the courage to write about this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This incident truly saddened me because I have always thought of New Zealand as the safest place to be. I can’t believe that there are still people who have this kind of twisted ideology that motivates them to kill innocent people. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree that it is good to speak up for those who are targeted and being bullied, many will not speak up for themselves. It would be nice to see the levels of hate go down.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. To stop this radical behavior and terrorism, its not enough for other races to voice their opinion against it. The liberal Muslims too have to make their voices heard against terrorism. Many fear speaking up as they can be excommunicated from their mosque or community. Any terrorist attack makes us feel sad and wish for a better world.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The fact that these shootings are becoming more common is sad and terrifying. I also really appreciate the comparison you made between the number killed in New Zealand and how it’s similar in scope to the 9/11 attacks when you consider population. The number shot didn’t seem that high from my perspective until you made that comparison. Thank you for sharing this story.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It is so important to be an advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves or who cannot be “heard” do to their differences. It takes courage and determination to stand up to inappropriate comments and behavior. I think the world is changing only far too slowly. It’s incredibly sad how many lives it’s taken to get to this point. How many more until we are free from racism entity?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sadly, I don’t think we will ever be entirely rid of it – but the more of us that stand up and speak together, the easier it makes it for more to join us, and our voices become louder, which helps teach people racism is not acceptable.

      Like

    1. I haven’t heard anything about Scott Morrison doing anything useful, I’ll have to check the news. Or do you mean our New Zealand PM, Jacinda Ardern? She’s been made some necessary changes to the gun laws here – and been inspirational in how she handled this situation.

      Like

  8. As someone who lived through 9-11 here in NY I can understand to a degree the pain that Christchurch is going through. These are strange times we’re living in and they only seem to be getting stranger. The media and social media just continue to feed racism. I can only hope that my children’s generation figures this all out. Prayers for your beautiful country.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s the same kind of pain – that numb shock, disbelief, grief, horror etc all wrapped up together.
      But if we teach the children well, they will help heal this stuff. My 7 year old grandson has already learned how to explain to 12 year old bullies that picking on people because they are a different colour is a crappy way to behave.

      Like

  9. I want to thank you for this eye-opening look at New Zealand. Unfortunately, this is the story of every country in today’s culture. I am heartbroken that we all can’t just love each other and not see the differences. I prefer to instead focus on what we have in common!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally agree, Tammy – our commonalities are far more numerous than our differences. And mostly, differences deserve to be celebrated and respected – unless they are damaging/dangerous/downright hateful.

      Like

  10. Your posts are usually so creative and enjoyable. Today, you were serious and enlightening. This is such an important message and I know it makes people uncomfortable, but uncomfortable is where a lot of people live these days. I am so sorry for what your country is going through, but I am also so proud that your people are trying to make actual change.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Colleen. It is a difficult time, but there is also a tremendous strength of love and support in the country too, and that will help hasten change, I think.

      Like

  11. Such an extremely sad day. Unfortunately, I think the racism issues are growing across the world and I will never be able to understand it. We have certain politicians who seem to add fuel to the fire, making racism seem acceptable. It’s not.

    I’m glad that you and others are being brutally honest about the racism in New Zealand. Unless it is spoken about, it will never change. We have it here too. It needs to change.

    Yes, I will join you to stand against racism. These are perfect examples of what people can do to try to help.

    Liked by 1 person

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