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.