A royal commission into racism?

Al Gillespie, professor of law at Waikato University, suggests we need a royal commission type inquiry into ‘racism’. I have no idea how that might work let alone what it could achieve.

Stuff:  We need a royal commission on racism

To my mind, to ask the bigger questions is necessary because hate laws would not have stopped the murderer doing his heinous acts  in Christchurch. By the time he started killing, he was already fully radicalised and putrid with racial hatred. This means that if the goal is to stop the emergence of such evil in future, it is necessary to see if there was a swamp that nurtured him from which he emerged, or whether he was just an aberration.

Even within New Zealand few would argue that a new law on hate crimes should not be created.

I think that a lot of us would like to see a robust debate on this before any hate law is created.

However, many will argue about how to define “hate”. While most would agree that physically threatening and obscenely abusive language based around racism should be prohibited, any consensus will fall apart when debating whether simply offensive and/or insulting speech linked to different ethnic groups should also be considered “hate” and therefore prohibited.

If the country is about to descend into the debate foreshadowed in the above paragraph, and that discussion will replace a wider examination about racism and discrimination in New Zealand, then a serious mistake is about to occur.

This is a time to place the needs for hate-crime legislation within a much larger basket of issues and responses that are needed to improve this country on the particular consideration of racism overall, of which new laws on hate-speech, despite being important, are only one part of the puzzle.

For that to occur, I believe a public inquiry, or royal commission, on racism in New Zealand is necessary.

The truth of the matter is that neither side really knows definitively if there is a problem, and if so, its scale.

The only way to find answers to this is to have a public inquiry on racism. This needs to take stock of where we have come from, where we are, and where we are going. It needs to cover racism and discrimination, wherever it is found – or not – in the past, and in the present  (from the street, to the workplace to the internet) –for any New Zealand citizen.

 Any such inquiry then needs to show how these problems are avoided or created.  Successes need to be showcased, as much as failures. If failures are found, then the direct and indirect consequences of them need to be shown.

Finally, and most importantly, if more work is required to defeat the scourge of racism, exactly how this should be done, such as via targets and indicators which could be incorporated directly into law and policy, needs to be clearly set out.

This sounds more academic than realism.

How do you change deep seated prejudices in people via “targets and indicators”?

Racism, sexism, politics and religion are all very complex and personal, based on beliefs acquired over lifetimes. I don’t know how it would be possible to legislate to change any of them.

Leading by example would be a better place to start. What about a royal commission looking at the motives and behaviours of our politicians?

Racism, ‘this is not us’, or maybe it is

There has been a lot of discussion following statements made by Jacinda Ardern and others along the lines of ‘this is not us’ in relation to the hate represented by the Christchurch mosque killings.

Ardern in more detail:

We, New Zealand, we were not a target because we are a safe harbour for those who hate.

We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we are an enclave for extremism.

We were chosen for the very fact that we are none of those things.

Because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion. A home for those who share our values. Refuge for those who needs it. And those values will not and cannot be shaken by this attack.

We are a proud nation of more than 200 ethnicities, 160 languages. And amongst that diversity we share common values. And the one that we place the currency on right now is our compassion and support for the community of those directly affected by this tragedy.

They were strong words suitable for the occasion, but reactions since then have proven that diversity, kindness, compassion are not universal here in New Zealand. Hate and division are still running strong from a vocal minority of New Zealanders, some of whom seem to hate the praise heaped on Ardern’s handling of the terrorist attack aftermath, and some of whom have used the attacks to try to promote division.

A cartoon by Mark Whittet:

“I, like many, thought that although well-intentioned, this statement is made in ignorance”.

“To say that this is not New Zealand is to trivialise the very real racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia that is prevalent in this country.

“Many minority groups suffer daily from hateful attitudes and this attack is just an extreme result of what happens when we allow casual hatred to breed and then grow into something bigger.”

“I know lots of people have seen my image and thought of it as jarring or attacking but that is not the intention”.

“I don’t want anyone to feel guilt but I want people to reflect on the reality of racism in this country and accept that it exists, because only then can we get better – rather than ignoring this issue we should address it directly and work to improve as a united people.

“The point of piece is not to be anti-white or divide anyone, I love all people from all walks of life, but people need to acknowledge racism instead of getting defensive and pretending we are all considered equal – this is not the case and I believe to say otherwise is to undermine the experience of minorities in Aotearoa.”

“I’m glad that so many people are willing to spread this message in time of national grieving”.

“I think that in light of this horrible tragedy a lot of people are opening their eyes to the fact that racism is deeply ingrained here in Aotearoa, a place a lot of people like to believe is a utopian paradise.”

“There’s no bad racism and not-so-bad racism, it all comes from the same place and, from there, different people within the same racist environment take actions of greater extremity such as on disgusting act of terrorism on Friday.”

We can all be racist, tribalist, nationalist. Some more than others.

There are extremes. If it takes an extreme example like the Christchurch attacks to prompt us to think about our own attitudes, to rethink them, that is a positive. Some are unlikely to change much if at all, but for most of us individually and collectively we can move in a better direction.

 

 

White supremacists, racism and anti-immigration rhetoric

There’s a number of things that need to be talked about more in the wake of the Christchurch terror attacks, like white supremacists (including cultural and religious supremacists), racism and anti immigration rhetoric and immigrant bashing.

Richard MacManus (Newsroom):  We didn’t watch white supremacists closely enough

After the tragedy in Christchurch last Friday, serious questions are being asked of the world’s largest social media companies.

Why was the killer able to live stream this appalling act on Facebook for 17 minutes? Why couldn’t YouTube and Twitter prevent copies of the video from being propagated on their global networks? Why did Reddit have a forum named ‘watchpeopledie’ (another place where this horrendous video was posted) running on its platform for seven whole years?

To answer these questions, we need to look at the content moderation processes of Facebook, Google and others, plus examine the effectiveness of using algorithms to help police content.

The biggest issue though is that neither human nor AI moderation is much help in the case of live streams. The only viable solution, it seems to me, is to prevent people like Friday’s terrorist from live streaming in the first place.

One suspects the tech companies will need to work closely with government intelligence agencies to identify, monitor and proactively shut down people who use social media to distribute hate content.

Before Friday, the response to that would’ve been just two words: “free speech.” But we’re no longer talking about the trivial matter of two right-wing provocateurs being prevented from speaking in New Zealand. We’re now talking about preventing extreme terrorist violence in our country. I think our former Prime Minister Helen Clark said it best, in regards to free speech:

“We all support free speech, but when that spills over into hate speech and propagation of violence, it has gone far too far. Such content is not tolerated on traditional media; why should it be on #socialmedia?”

Why indeed. So let’s fix this, by advocating for meaningful change at companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter and Reddit in how they deal with hate speech.

And local websites – including the biggest political blogs, Kiwiblog and Whale Oil.

Thomas Coughlan (Newsroom):  Time to recall MPs’ anti-migrant rhetoric

Hansard, the record of parliamentary speeches, has 139 mentions of the word “Muslim”, 317 of the word “Islam”, and 238 mentions of the word “Islamic” in its searchable record, which dates back to 2003.

In that same time, only one politician — Aaron “do you know I am?” Gilmore, as fate would have it — has mentioned “white supremacy”, and none have spoken about “white nationalism”.

Other religions are mentioned too — the word “Christian” is mentioned 520 times. But look a little closer, and a distinct difference emerges. While mentions of the word “Christian” tend to be followed by words like “Social Services” more than half of the 238 times, the word “Islam” is mentioned it is followed by the word “State”.

New Zealand is not immune from the global trend of conflating Islam and its nearly two billion adherents with terrorism.

Dr Mohamed Alansari of the University of Auckland noted that when people speak about Islam “it comes with a hint of judgment or a hint of a stereotype and it comes from a place of fear rather than a place of trying to understand”.

The apparent threat of Islam is often conflated with other issues, including security and migration.

Amongst New Zealand politicians Winston Peters stands out on this.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has a longer history than most when it comes to linking concerns about terrorism to Muslims.

In a 2005 speech titled The End Of Toleranceand delivered in the wake of the London bombings, Peters singled out Muslim migrants for special attention.

He spoke about the “political correctness” in other parties:

“They say – ah yes – but New Zealand has always been a nation of immigrants. They miss a crucial point. New Zealand has never been a nation of Islamic immigrants…”

Peters also suggested that moderate Muslims were operating “hand in glove” with extremists.

His exact words are worth quoting in full:

“This two-faced approach is how radical Islam works – present the acceptable face to one audience and the militant face to another.

“In New Zealand the Muslim community have been quick to show us their more moderate face, but as some media reports have shown, there is a militant underbelly here as well.

“Underneath it all the agenda is to promote fundamentalist Islam.

“Indeed these groups are like the mythical Hydra – a serpent underbelly with multiple heads capable of striking at any time and in any direction.”

He went on to note that “in many parts of the world the Christian faith is under direct threat from radical Islam,” and said that he had sent a letter to all leaders of Islamic groups in New Zealand, calling them to name any “radicals, troublemakers and potential dangers to our society”.

Dame Anne Salmond (NZ Herald): Racist underbelly seethes just beneath surface

After this terrible tragedy, let’s be honest, for once. White supremacy is a part of us, a dark power in the land. In its soft version, it looks bland and reasonable.

The doctrine of white superiority is based on arrogance, and ignorance. Since other cultures, languages and religions are worthless, there’s no need to learn about them. The “others” are dehumanised, making their misery and suffering unreal.

In the present, let’s face it, online, on talkback, in taxis and around dinner tables, the doctrine of white superiority is still alive and well in New Zealand. It’s absolutely right that our Prime Minister should take a stand for kindness and generosity, aroha and manaakitanga in the relations among different groups in our country.

But let’s not pretend there’s not a dark underbelly in New Zealand society.

And let’s not pretend that it doesn’t happen right here.

It’s very challenging encouraging open discussion and debate on important issues while trying to moderate white supremicism and racism and religious attacks.

But these are things we should be talking about – and asking ourselves serious questions about.

And others are also asking serious questions.

 

“You personally are a racist responsible for the death of small children”

The Spinoff: Even the super-woke can be secret and subconscious racists.

All of us have a host of different, sometimes conflicting social identities crowding around inside our minds. I’m white, a male, middle-aged, married, a New Zealander, a father, middle-class, a writer, and so on. We switch between which affiliation feels most salient given the circumstances, primarily identifying with whichever ingroup awards us the higher status. Politicians and other actors are increasingly adept at activating these different identities, manipulating us into defining ourselves in a way that strengthens our connection to them and makes us believe they personally champion our ingroup – which is always the victim of some sinister outgroup.

We think of outgroup discrimination – especially around race – as something very obvious and aggressive (“Go back to where you came from”), or as an ideological justification for that behaviour (“This is our country!” “The white race is the genetically superior master race!”) and there’s often controversy whenever people talk or behave like that, because, well, it’s racist. But what the research into implicit bias shows is that even without that kind of behaviour and rhetoric, even among populations that strongly disapprove of racism you still see ingroup favouritism and outgroup discrimination.

Essentialist thinking – attributing some essential quality or trait to all members of a group – “Māori are violent; Asians can’t drive; women are bad at maths” – increases negative bias. Seeing people as individuals rather than members of an outgroup reduces negative bias. Seeing them as members of the same ingroup (“We’re all New Zealanders!”) massively reduces negative bias.

I find it depressingly easy to get invested in these conflicts. I spent a lot more time last year thinking about whether Don Brash should have been deplatformed, or who should march in the Pride Parade and what clothes they should be allowed to wear, than I did thinking about perinatal infant mortality. I’ll probably do the same this year: these conflicts are ubiquitous in the media and they light up the ingroup-outgroup circuitry of my brain like an ECG machine.

And they’re also, I suspect, a convenient distraction: an entertaining way to forget that inequality and discrimination afflict the most powerless – those who have no voice in politics or the media, by definition – the most profoundly. That the choices we make as we go about our day can echo through lives we’re only peripherally aware of; that we can make things better for those who have the least in our society at very little cost to ourselves, just by being aware that we can; and to guard against our lack of awareness because it is the not knowing, the indifference, that makes things worse.

 

“Racism toward Māori is compounded by fat-shaming”

 

Māori are over-represented in a number of negative statistics like poor health, life expectancy, tobacco use, unemployment, imprisonment and obesity. Is this a result of some form of racism?

How can these negative outcomes be addressed without it being seen as racism?

Should efforts to address alarming levels of obesity be referred to as ‘fat-shaming’? If so, is it a form of racism?

The latest obesity statistics from the NZ Health Survey 2017-18:

  • About 101,000 children aged 2–14 years (12.4%) were obese.
  • 1.26 million adults (32%) were obese, up from 27% in 2006/07.
  • Children living in the most socio-economically deprived neighbourhoods were 2.1 times as likely to be obese as children living in the least deprived neighbourhoods, after adjusting for age, sex and ethnic differences.

Obese: BMI of 30.0 or greater 15-17 years:

  • All – 32.2%
  • Māori – 47.5%
  • Pacific Island – 65%
  • Asian – 15.1%
  • European/Other – 30.7%

Obese: BMI of 30.0 or greater 2-14 years:

  • All – 12.4%
  • Māori – 16.9%
  • Pacific Island – 30%
  • Asian – 7.0%
  • European/Other – 9.8%

Māori are well above average in both age groups, but Pacific Islanders, who are not indigenous, are far more likely to be classified as obese. Is this another sign of racism? Asian are the least obese group so is racism only targeting some racial groups?

Or is the physiology of Pacific islanders and Māori more likely to end up inj obesity with modern diets?

RNZ:  Is ‘fat-shaming’ racist?

Research by Dr Isaac Warbrick from the Auckland University of Technology has found many weight loss-centred public healthcare initiatives frame Māori as unproductive.

Mr Warbrick is the lead author of the paper The shame of fat-shaming in public health: moving past racism to embrace indigenous solutions. It has been published in the international Public Health journal.

“In New Zealand, weight remains the primary focus for health interventions targeting Māori, with limited mention of psychological, spiritual or whānau wellbeing,” he said.

He said societal and institutional racism needed to be challenged in the areas of nutrition, physical activity and weight loss.

“Rather than improving health outcomes for Māori, weight and weight loss-centred approaches may actually cause harm,” Mr Warbrick said.

Fat was also a racism issue, he noted.

“Just as sexism-related stigma is compounded by weight anxiety, racism toward Māori is compounded by fat-shaming,” Mr Warbrick said.

“Long before we reached the current alarming level of obesity, Māori were stigmatised, like many other colonised peoples, because of the colour of their skin, their beliefs and culture.

“Stigma is nothing new to Māori, so when we are told that we are fat and less productive because of our fatness, we are not surprised because we have been told the same thing, albeit for different reasons, for generations.”

The paper examines perceptions of weight and racism towards Māori, New Zealand’s policy and practice regarding weight, and proposed indigenous solutions.

“We need indigenous-led solutions informed by indigenous knowledge.”

Perhaps ‘indigenous solutions‘ would also help Pacific Island obesity.

So called fat-shaming and claims of racism portray Māori as victims of non-indigenous lifestyles and of obesity. I don’t know whether convincing people they are victims is a good way to help them lead better lifestyles and reduce obesity. It may hinder encouraging self-responsibility.

Labels such as racism and fat-shaming could be adding to ‘poor me’ syndrome – or probably more accurately, ‘poor them’ syndrome.

I’d rather see more focus on positive solutions, and less of an obsession with claiming victimhood.

To check your BMI: Healthy Weight BMI Calculator


UPDATE: this from Stuff combines Maori and Pacific Islanders under the fat shame label:  The stigma of a system that ‘fat shames’ Māori and Pasifika people

Western medicine says many Māori and most Pasifika people are obese. Some people are angry about the system that ‘fat-shames’ them in this way. Others are focused on finding solutions that actually work. Carmen Parahi reports.

“The health sector and the measures they’re using for Māori and PI is not working. They don’t take into consideration our culture. Everything they’re doing to combat obesity is not going to work.”

“Anyone that’s overweight there’s a stigma. They’re lazy, they make their own bad choices, it’s their fault they’re fat, their fault they’re sick,” says Warbrick.

“We’re so focused on weight, it’s not working. The stats show obesity keeps going up even though we focus on this issue.

“Why are we measuring it? If it does harm, drives all this anxiety why measure it at all? It’s not solving the problem.”

Warbrick links the stigma attached to obesity to racism.

“When we’re talking about racism we’re talking about someone looking different. Therefore you make all these judgements.”

“The reason we’re overweight and have these health issues is not because we’re Māori or Pasifika it’s because we’re in an environment we have to live in.”

He agrees individuals need to take responsibility for their own health. But Māori patients told researchers they’re being treated differently by health professionals and not respected.

 

Climate change and racism: “All the oppressions are connected to earth destruction”

Recent publicity about the possibility of a Blue-Green party that focuses mostly on environmental issues brought up the old arguments about how the Green Party has always been an advocate for both environmental and social justice policies.

This dual purpose has been unbalanced by the relative obscurity of Green co-leader James Shaw, being very busy as Minister of Climate Change, and the activities in social media of the other Green  co-leader Marama Davidson, who covers more social issues. But Davidson has linked one of those social issues, racism, with climate change.

A tweet in November:

Today:

How much racism is there in New Zealand? Thriving?

“In spite of the image we like to portray to the world, New Zealand is as racist as the South of the United States ever was.”

That’s a highly charged statement. There is likely to be some degree of racism in just about every country, and there is certainly some racism in New Zealand. Is it reasonable to describe racism as ‘thriving’?

Tom O’Connor (Waikato Times) thinks so: Racism thriving in New Zealand

In spite of the image we like to portray to the world, New Zealand is as racist as the South of the United States ever was. Perhaps not as violent as Alabama of the 1960s but, beneath a very thin veneer of civilisation, we denigrate those who are different to the Pākehā majority no matter how familiar and benign those differences might be.

“We denigrate” is a sweeping generalisation, and “the Pākehā majority” is not defined.

Most Pākehā New Zealanders, however, will stoutly declare their belief in and support for racial equality, but nonetheless will refuse to surrender their subtle privileges and all the policies that make them possible. This can be seen as New Age racism, in which the majority Pākehā community have failed to actively address real racial inequality simply to maintain the comfortable racial status quo.

Riddled with questionable statements – “Most Pākehā New Zealanders”, “will stoutly declare their belief”, “will refuse”, “to surrender their subtle privileges”, “the majority Pākehā community have failed”, “to maintain the comfortable racial status quo”.

This is the covert, subtle and damaging racism of underlying prejudice and unspoken patronising assumption that ethnicity on its own dictates the role we allow or tolerate others to play in society.

I think that most of use just chug along in our lives. I could be claimed that we ‘allow and tolerate” many things by not taking an active interest or playing an active part in them.

Every ethnic group in New Zealand, including Pākehā, feels the sting of racism from time to time, but it is minority groups, and anything about them, which are subjected to more than majority groups.

Some degree of racism is probably present anywhere. We have seen it in New Zealand at Government level, for example against Chinese (immigrant tax), Germans and Japanese during the World wars, the dawn raids against Pacific Islanders in the 1970s.

Opponents to the teaching of Māori have suggested in letters to various editors up and down the country that the language of today is nothing like original Māori and that there is no value in teaching a “bastardised” version.

I haven’t seen any of those letters, let alone up and down the country. I have seen people criticising compulsory teaching of the Māori in schools, and I have also seen concerns expressed about teaching a standardised Māori language that doesn’t cater for varying dialects and the evolution of language.

Every language has regional and societal differences, probably none more so than English. I’m not aware of any campaigns to insist that just one ‘pure’ for of English is taught and used. I presume Shakespeare still features in ‘English’ in education, and while his language has had a significant impact on the English language we have moved on from that style of use.

Opponents to the teaching of the Land Wars history have come up with equally vague and illogical reasons. Some have made ill-informed and ridiculous comparisons between the Land Wars of the 1860s and the intertribal Musket Wars 30 years earlier.

I think that New Zealand history was badly neglected in schools, especially prominent events like the various New Zealand wars  – which were complicated, as some Māori tribes sided with the English colonisers, fighting for their own advantage against rival tribes and in some cases used foreign soldiers and arms to settle old scores.

Our land wars not only resulted in the death of many innocent people, the British also destroyed long-established Māori agriculture, almost destroyed an entire culture, including a language, and confiscated millions of acres of land. This was done by the British in breach of British law.

There’s no doubt that Māori suffered the most as a result of the wars here, and they also suffered badly from introduced diseases – but they also eventually benefited to a degree from new tools and technologies.

Nor was cannibalism unique to Māori. The last recorded cannibals in the UK, the clan of Alexander Bean, were executed after a 25-year reign of terror at about the same time that Captain Cook landed in New Zealand.

I’m not sure why that paragraph was popped in.

Lurking behind racism in New Zealand is the clear fact that Pākehā will no longer be the majority here in a few short years and some are hanging on to the old comfortable privilege with desperation. They could save themselves a lot of discomfort by learning the facts of our history, learning to speak Māori and becoming part of the new, inclusive New Zealand which is just around the corner.

That doesdn’t sound inclusive, that sounds like trying to tell everyone how they should change.

To me an “inclusive New Zealand” should accept that those who want to learn and live Māori culture should have that opportunity, and encouraging it to an extent is fine.

But being ‘inclusive’ should not mean the imposition of one culture and the rejection of others. One of the strengths of new Zealand is of the general tolerance of very diverse cultures. We have become a melting pot of many cultures, and ingredients to that pot continue to be added.

Better acceptance of Māori culture is fair enough and is an overdue righting of pas suppression, but that should not be at the exclusion of the other cultural influences we have all had, including those with Māori whakapapa.

Whether racism in New Zealand should be described as thriving or not, it won’t be addressed by introducing different types of racism. An emerging form of racism is the putting down of people who don’t wish to embrace te reo and Māori culture as much as some seem to want and insist.

This includes attempts to shut down speakers and speech deemed by some to be offensive (often no more than having a different opinion) or racist when trying to debate important issues we need to find ways of dealing with.

Racism will thrive if, in attempting to reduce racism, people with different opinions or  cultural preferences are labelled as racist.

Racist as

NZH: Shopper claims she wasn’t allowed to try ring on because of her race

Moe Lewin, a 39-year-old senior product manager at iHeartRadio, was shocked when a shop assistant at Walker & Hall at the NorthWest Shopping Mall last month told her it was against shop policy to let people try on high-end rings.

The mother-of-three has spoken out about her treatment at a jewellery store following Taika Waititi’s comment that New Zealand was “racist as f***”.

Lewin popped down to the shops last month, leaving her three children at home with her husband, to buy a $450 Meadowlark ring.

As an afterthought she asked about trying on a replacement engagement ring, having lost hers a few months earlier.

Lewin says the assistant told her she had to pay for her Meadowlark ring first and asked Lewin to provide ID before showing her a large diamond ring valued at about $10,000.

But when Lewin asked for a closer look, she says the assistant pulled the ring out and put it on her own finger. She then held it up to her chest to show her.

“I was like I would like to try the ring on and she said, ‘Well you can’t, it’s store policy. Any high-end rings can’t be tried on’.”

Lewin then turned to another assistant to ask if it was correct, who responded “sometimes”.

She asked to speak to a store manager but was told there was not one on site that Saturday. As she went to leave she turned to the assistant and said, “It’s not because I’m a Maori is it?”.

She said the shop assistant stumbled and tripped over her words, before saying, “Oh, don’t say that”.

Lewin said she left the store feeling upset and returned on the Sunday to complain.

The store manager called Lewin on Monday morning to apologise and gave her the distinct impression it was not store policy.

This is once side of a story, and one shop assistant, and it is a perception of racism, not proof of racism.

But it is an obviously disgruntled customer – that’s not good for business.

Of course there is racism in New Zealand

Taika Waititi has stirred things up by saying that while New Zealand is “the best place on the planet” it is also “racist as fuck”. I agree with him on both counts. I haven’t had to experience the sort of racism he describes, but have had to deal with prejudices.

This came from an interview with English magazine ‘Dazed and Confused: Unknown Mortal Orchestra & Taika Waititi on New Zealand culture – some extracts:


Taika Waititi: It was scary, man, it was scary. We also used to think Bob Marley and Michael Jackson were Maori. I thought that Bob Marley was from Ruatoria and I heard that Michael Jackson was a local!

Taika Waititi: Yeah, and New Zealanders are, like, experts in cynicism. We’re good observers, because we come from a place where basically nothing happens. There’s definitely a mentality of ‘I’m stuck here and I’m not going to get out’ that informs the stuff we make, there’s kind of a cool darkness to it.

Taika Waititi: We have a very strong metre around being too earnest or cheesy because we all grew up the same in New Zealand and you want to make sure your friends aren’t gonna mock you for doing stuff! (laughs) It’s like, ‘There’s got to be a cool way of saying something – I’m not going to scream out, “I love you!”’ You’ve got to do it in a cool, funny, sarcastic way. It’s the same with our art and cinema – we can afford to be bold and do outlandish shit because we all know what the alternative is, which is basically being in New Zealand.

Ruban, I read an interview where you said that growing up half-Polynesian in New Zealand was to be the kid a shop owner will follow around’. Does this chime with your own experiences, Taika?

Taika Waititi: Exactly the same. Growing up it was very normal to go into a store and they would say, ‘What do you want?’ And you’d be like, (muttering) ‘I’m just looking at chips, man.’ I remember getting a job at a dairy and they would never give me a job at the till, I was always at the back washing vegetables. And then one day one of the owners asked me if I sniffed glue – like, ‘Are you a glue-sniffer?’ (Ruban laughs) In my head I was like, ‘Motherfucker, you grew up with my mum!’ And I knew for sure that he didn’t ask other kids in the store if they were glue-sniffers.

I think I’ve got quite an idealised vision of New Zealand as like Australia without the racism and the blokeish sense of humour…

Taika Waititi: Nah, it’s racist as fuck. I mean, I think New Zealand is the best place on the planet, but it’s a racist place. People just flat-out refuse to pronounce Maori names properly. There’s still profiling when it comes to Polynesians. It’s not even a colour thing – like, ‘Oh, there’s a black person.’ It’s, ‘If you’re Poly then you’re getting profiled.’

Ruban Nielson: I didn’t even realise how light my skin was until I came (to the US). It was one of the things I liked when I moved here; it’s like nobody knows what you are so they give you the benefit of the doubt. And then I go back to New Zealand as a person who’s older and somewhat accomplished in their field and I still get treated worse! It’s like people want to remind you – ‘Yeah, but you’re still Polynesian, so…’

Taika Waititi: Totally. People in Auckland are very patronising. They’re like, ‘Oh, you’ve done so well, haven’t you? For how you grew up. For one of your people.’ (Ruban laughs)

Ruban Nielson: I appreciate being Polynesian more than I did when I was there. When I go back now, I find myself being more aggressive when I’m pronouncing Maori names around people who refuse to do it. (laughs)

Taika Waititi: Yeah. Because because they don’t mispronounce French words, do they? They can say fucking ‘Camembert’ properly.


I think he’s wrong about pronounciation – people tend to pronounce names as they have learned them, and rarely deliberately mispronounce.

And he’s wrong about mispronouncing French words, that’s very common – a guarantee many of us won’t be very good on ‘Camembert’  and many other foreign words.

And English is ‘mispronounced’ more than any other language.

But racism is rife in New Zealand – racism against Maori, against Polynesians, against Chinese, against Indians, against Irish, against Arabs, against English, against anyone who is racially different. It’s just what some people do.

It is a particular problem when the Government and the Police have racist policies and practices.

Stuff: Taika Waititi’s right, New Zealand really is a racist place

“The only people I meet who are racist are Māoris,” one woman said after learning Taika Waititi had again said New Zealand is a racist place.

Did she see the irony in her own sentence?

There will never be no racism, but there is a lot of room for improvement in New Zealand.

 

Zero authority to comment on Ayjhin menu

One person’s taking the piss can be another person’s racism. I get that.

But I also think that while anyone has the right to complain about something they think is racist no one has any authority to tell me I have no authority to comment on a topic in the news and in public discussion. ‘You can’t comment on that because you’re not…’ is an increasingly common way of trying to shut down or sanitise discussion.

I may or may not be a target of a claim I have zero authority to comment on this story: Asian fusion, with a side of racism

By Anny Ma *

Opinion – It pains me greatly that in 2018 this even needs to be said, but mocking another culture (or group) for your own amusement is not funny – it’s degrading.

I am constantly reminded that my heritage is actually just a punchline, despite descending from one of the oldest civilisations of the world with an incredibly rich history and culture.

Bamboozle restaurant in my ‘not that racist’ hometown of Christchurch has further proved this, by creating a menu where Asian Fusion dishes are named by childishly butchering words through phonetically writing them out “how an Asian would speak”.

This far too common trope is based on degrading stereotypes, and while some Asians may have thicker accents as they (very admirably) learn another language to help them assimilate into Western culture, making fun of them for this is completely unnecessary.

The small-minded may be amused by this for three seconds, but the people on the receiving end of this ‘joke’ will remember the incredible discomfort, embarrassment, and self-loathing you made them feel for much, much longer.

Since the menu was posted online, there’s been a lot of commentary provided by those with zero authority on the topic. If you are not Asian, this is not the time to tell us we can’t be offended, or to “lighten up” as 59 percent of voters in a Stuff poll thought.

Even the Human Rights Commission has had a say – perhaps because they are critical they don’t have zero authority?

Ma:

There have also been comments by people like Professor James Liu of Massey University, who found the menu insensitive but said he believed there was no malicious intent so didn’t go as far as labelling it racist.

Unfortunately, ‘Racism’ is a word that causes more shock than the behaviour itself. Being a minority, I completely understand being in a situation where you don’t want to upset the status quo for fear of negative consequences.

‘Racist’ has quite varied meanings and perceptions – it’s different things to different people.

When “people on the receiving end of this ‘joke’ will remember the incredible discomfort, embarrassment, and self-loathing you made them feel for much, much longer” there could be a genuine problem, but it is impossible to never be offensive to anyone.

It’s not just racism that can hurt, as anyone who is very overweight can probably attest to, as can those who are naturally blond or naturally red headed, those who are unusually short or tall – anyone who bears the brunt of jokes or taunts because they are ‘different’.

How many Irish people are offended by Irish jokes?

There’s a range of views on the Asian restaurant thing at at Reddit: Asian Fusion with a side of racism.

Included is this comment and image:

Am Chinese, would go with the Professor saying it’s culturally insensitive, but I don’t think it’s racist, just mildly offended.

Its just like how I refuse to give business to White and Wong’s in Auckland purely because of the name, but I’m not going to go on a public outcry to get them to stop. Some people will enjoy the play on words. Some people will enjoy the humour in that menu. It’s just like how I still laugh at this sometimes…

…how is this any different to that menu?

And how is that different to this KIWI-ESE “Introductory Guide To The Language”

What You Hear, What It Means
A MEDGEN: Visualise, Conjure up mentally, also John Lenon’s first solo Album “Imagine”
BETTING: “Betting Gloves” are worn by “Betsmen” in “Crucket”
BRIST: Part of the human anatomy between the “Nick” and the “Billy”
RUST: Part of the human anatomy between the “Fingers” and the “Elbow”
BUGGER: As in “My dad’s bugger then yours”
FUSHEN CHUPS: What good Catholics eat each Friday.
CHULLY BUN: “Chilly Bin” also known as an Esky or Cold Box
COME YOUSE: Controversial captain of the Australian Cricket team resigned tearfully in favour of Allan Border. “Come” insisted thut all deliveries be over arm. Full Name: Kimberley John Hughes.
DIMMER KRETZ: Those who believe in Democracy.
ERROR BUCK: Language spoken in countries like “Surria”, “E-Jupp” &”Libernon”
EKKA DYMOCKS: University Staff
GUESS: Flammable vapour used in stoves
CHICK OUT CHUCKS: Supermarket point of sale operators.
SENDLES: Sandles, thongs & open shoes.
COLOUR” Terminator, violent forecloser of human life, murderer
CUSS: Kiss
DUCK HID: Term of abuse directed mainly at males.
PHAR LAP: NZ’s famous horse christened “Phillip” but wasincorrectly written down as “Phar Lap” by an Australian Racing official who was not well versed in KIWIESE
DUNNESTY: US Television soap opera starred Joan Collins as Elixirs Kerrungton
ERROR ROUTE: Arnott’s famous oval shaped “mulk error route buskets”
FITTER CHENEY: A type of long flat pasta, not to be confused with “Rugger Tony” or “Tellya, Tilly”.

I think that’s quite clever and funny, but if I worked in Australia and had that sort of thing thrown at me over and over perhaps I’d get a bit annoyed.

PoppyOP:

As a Chinese person, I’m pretty annoyed by it. I get enough shit from drunks yelling at me to “go back to my country” and saying shit like “HERROOOO”.

Intentional personal abuse is crap. But is a joke menu really in the same vein?

Perhaps someone would be offended by the name ‘Frog and Kiwi Restaurant’ – and if so would that be a French person or a New Zealander?Someone may be offended if I say it is located in Mungify.

It is “a small family run French restaurant in the village of Mangawhai, New Zealand”, with no frog legs nor kiwi wings on the menu.

Language in a multicultural society with veins of intolerance interlaced with strands of piss taking can be a tricky thing.

If anyone takes offence at this post you are free to state your views, if they are not too unreasonable or offensive.

This site has been called a number of things – I think Yawnz is one of the funnier plays on words. But should i be offended? I’m in a tiny minority of people who participate here, so perhaps I have some authority on that.