There is something I want to say, and I am very afraid of saying it wrong but I think not saying it is worse than saying it wrong, so please read this with compassion and try to see the thing at the heart of it.
Dear white people. We need to do better.
We need to start making it so socially unacceptable and so uncomfortable to be casually racist that we wipe it out. People are no longer often racist around me because I am very vocal about my attitudes about it. When people tell racist jokes I look at them blankly and go, “Why is that funny?”. I simply don’t put up with it.
But I wasn’t always like this. I used to shrug, and smile uncomfortably because I didn’t want to “make a fuss” or “seem uncool”. Because yeah, the jokes are off colour, but they don’t do that much harm, do they?
The thing is they DO do harm. Because they grow into what happened yesterday. And the safest space for that harm, for those racist ideas to take root and grow taller is among other white people.
I see a lot of “This is not us”, and that makes me uncomfortable, because, well, it is. There is, and always has been, racism in NZ. It’s maybe not as virulent or obvious as in other places (Well, up till yesterday), but it absolutely exists. If you doubt this, ask any of your Maori or Indian or Black friends. And if you don’t have any friends of colour, well… you kind of just proved my point, then, didn’t you?
New Zealand is a beautiful wonderful place, and Kiwis are, for the most part, some of the nicest people I have ever known, and I have lived all over the world. But we are not immune. And I think that perhaps because of that bubble of safety we have constructed around ourselves, made of sheep and hobbits and fiords and jandals and TimTams, we let things slide that we shouldn’t, because we don’t see the harm.
Well, now we have seen the harm.
That harm grows in white spaces. If you let it slide, you contribute to it. And the violence is done to other people’s bodies and homes and lives. We need to start putting our white privileged bodies and minds between that harm and the people it gets aimed at, BEFORE it becomes fatal.
Teach your children better. Choose your friends better. Check your own language and jokes and attitudes. White people are raised in a cloud of casual racism, whether you see it or not, and we need to CONSCIOUSLY dismantle it, in ourselves and in each other.
This is not me saying that if you’re a white New Zealander, this was your fault. It is not that simple. But if you are a white New Zealander, I do think it is your responsibility to check yourself (I do, all the time), and then start making the space around you unsupportive of racist ideology.
Let’s suffocate this shit right out, with our love and our inclusivity.
As for all my friends of colour, my Muslim friends, my friends of Indian descent, my immigrant friends, I love you so much. This must be so hard for you. I can’t change the world all by myself, but I swear that the space around me will always be as safe for you as I can make it. If you need anything I can give, I am here.