On the 25 May 2020, George Floyd became another victim to the inherent institutionalised racism in the United States. The horrific brutality that unfolded in Minneapolis that day, as well as the murder of Ahmaud Arbery out jogging in February, has re-ignited the global conversation towards the need to stand up against racism, discrimination and white privilege.
This change needs to be realised right now — and it must be realised that it is not just an issue for USA. Discrimination and hate crimes are prevalent issues in New Zealand too.
There are examples of racism and discrimination that are easily found in New Zealand. JustSpeak reported that police are almost twice as likely to send a first-time Māori offender to court, than a Pākehā, and seven times more likely to charge a Māori person with a crime, even when that person has no police or corrections record either. Julia Whaipooti revealed that right now, Māori wahine are largely forced to stay with abusive partners because of a fear of enduring police and institutionalised racism.
In March last year we witnessed the horrors of the Christchurch mosque shootings. The Armed Response Trial, which was started as an initiative to control gun violence in NZ after the mosque shooting, had a disproportionate impact on Māori. Nearly half of those apprehended were Māori, with Pasifika making up another 11%. This was exacerbated by the fact that from October 2019 to January 2020, firearms offences made up less than 3% of incidents attended by armed police. Of nearly 500 people apprehended, more than half didn’t have a weapon, and just 14% carried a gun. Racism and discrimination is a Kiwi problem. It isn’t new and it’s growing: 1 in 3 complaints to the Human Rights Commission are about racial discrimination.
Prejudice and intolerance on the grounds of race begins small, in quiet places, in our everyday lives. When it becomes normalised it can turn into overt racism and extremism.
With so much of our information today coming through social media platforms, we need a mature discussion about the internet and social media companies — especially when they disseminate hate through our platforms.
Our Prime Minister even expressed: “We cannot simply sit back and accept that these platforms just exist and that what is said on them is not the responsibility of the place where they are published. They are the publisher. Not just the postman.”
But it’s not just laws and politics that need to change. New Zealanders need to step up. We need to speak up on social media and in real life addressing white privilege. We need to be educated and we need to listen. One aspect of white privilege in Aotearoa is white defensiveness in response to discussions of racism. This mean an anxiety, closing-down, and insecurity among white people and white-dominated institutions when the issue of racism is raised.
The fact a lot of racism and discrimination can be almost invisible to white people means that we often shy from getting involved – but this is an example of where we need to educate ourselves on white privilege.
We need to be actively anti-racist: educate yourself by reading up on texts that focus on racial injustice, white supremacy, and the struggles of being a POC in New Zealand. Follow and support organisations working on racial equity and justice, such as That’s Us, a New Zealand anti-racism campaign bringing instances of racial intolerance in New Zealand to light. Listen to podcasts like The Diversity Gap to generate cultural change.
Most importantly, speak up. As Ijeoma Olua said, “the beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.”
Critical Thinking Questions:
- What is an example of racism/white privilege in America you can think of?
- What is an example of racism/white privilege you can think of in New Zealand?
- Is it up to the government to tackle these issues or does it start with people in the community? Is it a combination of both? Discuss.
Practical Thinking Questions:
- Read a book, listen to a podcast or watch a movie/show that aims to educate people on the privilege or discrimination your race faces.
- Compare the racism today with the racism faced in a moment in history such as the American Civil War, or the Apartheid in South Africa. How much has changed?
- How do you believe we should tackle racism in New Zealand?
New Zealand’s local government system comprises two sets of local authorities’ that work together and balance each other out – regional councils and territorial authorities (city and district councils). It sounds pretty unexciting at first, and maybe it is a little bit, but the decisions city councils make have a massive impact on our communities, effecting our local environments even more than some decisions that come from the top government.
The purpose of local government is to enable democratic local decision-making and action on behalf of communities. They are there to promote the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of communities in the present and for the future. The role of local authorities is to lead and represent their communities. They must engage with their communities and encourage community participation in decision-making, while considering the needs of people currently living in communities and those who will live there in the future.
The responsibilities of a city council in their territorial authorities include looking after things such as sustainable district well-being and the provision of local infrastructure, including water, sewerage, stormwater, roads. They are in charge of environmental safety and health, district emergency management and civil defence preparedness, building control, public health inspections and other environmental health matters. The council also control the effects of land use (including hazardous substances, natural hazards and indigenous biodiversity), noise, and the effects of activities on the surface of lakes and rivers.
The powers and responsibilities of city and district councils are all the same – both are territorial authorities. The only difference is that city councils serve a population of more than 50,000 in a mainly urban area. In the six months after every local authority election, a region’s councils meet to discuss how they will work together, and document this in a triennial agreement. They can set up formal arrangements – such as joint committees or council organisations, or informal arrangements, such as a Mayoral Forum or a Regional Forum, to help achieve common outcomes.
So how can you get involved? There are many different ways people can participate in local government and be involved in council decision-making processes. These can include voting for council, standing as a candidate for council, making a submission on the boundaries for wards and constituencies. You can also contribute to a consultation or make a submission on a council plan or other proposal. Another great way to get involved is to attend council meetings. The greater the participation levels in communities, the more likely council decisions and actions will match short and long-term community objectives.
Critical Thinking Questions:
1. What is the most important aspect of City Council’s?
2. Why should we get involved in City Council’s now and not wait until later on in life?
3. What are some more benefits of having a City Council making local decisions and not having all decisions being made by the top government?
Practical Thinking Questions:
1. Ask your teachers at school how they would feel about getting the class involved in City Council decisions.
2. Write a letter to your local representative on an issue you are passionate about. See what they have to say about how this can be improved in your local area?
I am at home giving my children a bath when I get the message, another colleague has called in sick, and I am needed tomorrow morning to help care for patients being treated for the coronavirus. I have already worked double-shifts for weeks on end. My job requires me to be around people infected with the virus, putting the health of myself and my family at risk. But I don’t think twice – I reply saying I will be there first thing tomorrow morning.
WHO AM I? I am the doctors and nurses working tirelessly in our hospitals right now. My normal workload has not changed. I still have patients ready to give birth, patients needing urgent surgery, patients undergoing chemotherapy. I cannot ignore their needs or the needs of my new patients with the virus; I have to do what it takes to somehow address everyone’s health requirements.
All around me everyone’s life has changed dramatically. Everyone is going home. Kids don’t have to go to school, students don’t have to go to university, most adults don’t have to go to work because it is considered too unsafe. However, for me – work continues. I am expected to show up to work tomorrow where people are rude to me and expect endless amounts of me and my colleagues, when we are already working as hard as we possibly can.
WHO AM I? I am the supermarket workers keeping shelves stacked for the Kiwis who are isolating at home. I am the supermarket delivery drivers, manoeuvring the New Zealand roads non-stop, ensuring these supermarkets have enough food. I am working as hard as I possibly can. I ask you to remain calm so I can do my job for the good of everyone.
Ever since the coronavirus began infiltrating New Zealand cities, my job has gotten a lot harder. I have had to significantly increase my workload to make sure that every nook and cranny is clean. Nobody wants to touch unclean surfaces themselves, but they expect me to have no problem with this – they say that it’s my job after all.
WHO AM I? I am the cleaners working tirelessly in order to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading. My job is more important than ever right now, and I treat it as so. However, I can’t help that hoping when this is all over, people will respect my role in society a bit more than they used to. I hope they recognise how vital my job is when it comes to protecting the health of the country.
I am passionate about my job, and I am good at it – really good. However, I know that the success I have had comes down to my ability to engage with my students. All of a sudden, I feel the need to prove to myself that I am just as good, if not more, when working from home. I am using technology I have no experience with, trying to engage with my students and help them learn, all through a screen.
WHO AM I? I am the teachers of Kiwi kids. I am anxious. How can I keep students motivated? How can I celebrate their success? Make them feel connected to each other? Education is supposed to continue – but I can’t put my usual methods to use. The one thing I know is that the only way this is going to work is if we worth with each other. Give each other time to figure it out and go easy on each other. We will learn how to do this just like we learn everything else – slowly but surely.
This term we have focused on a “Who Am I” theme, learning about awesome people who have accomplished notable things, and discussing what we can learn from them. We have focused on individuals in our society who we aspire to be like. However, with everything going on at the moment in NZ and all across the world, we can see from a new perspective what is truly remarkable right now. How roles in our society we might once have taken for granted are truly heroic. So today, we have focussed on some examples of the New Zealanders that we appreciate more than ever and can learn true life lessons from. However, there is another hero we need to look at: Everyone else.
Everyone has the opportunity to be a hero right now. Now is not the time to think that we are exempt from the rules, or to make little excuses about why we are the one exception. Now is the time to be strict with ourselves and with each other. STAY HOME and BE SAFE.
Stay home and be safe. Do it for yourself. Do it for your friends and family. Do it for the people making sacrifices for us right now. Do it for your nana and pops. Let’s do this Kiwi Kids.
This week, I ask you to think of two more essential workers and discuss how their lives are being affected by coronavirus right now.
– I ask you to think of how their health is at risk, and what this means for their family.
– I ask you to think of what they are sacrificing right now.
– Finally, I ask you to think of how you can show your support for these people – whether that means right now or when this period has passed.
Stay safe, Hannah. X