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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.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – JUNE 01: Protestors march down Queen Street on June 01, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand. The rally was organised in solidarity with protests across the United States following the killing of an unarmed black man George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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:

  1. What is an example of racism/white privilege in America you can think of?
  2. What is an example of racism/white privilege you can think of in New Zealand?
  3. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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?

When you hear the term essential workers, chances are you think of the amazing healthcare staff on the front line, or the supermarket workers you see when you pick up your essentials.

But since the COVID-19 began, one essential job that we might overlook is journalists. In a way, journalists are first responders too – often not with any medical abilities but they are our eyes and ears on the front line. 

The NZ Herald called the daily 1 pm press conference “NZ’s favourite reality TV show.” With thousands of people tuning in each day to hear the updates, we thought it might be interesting to find out what exactly goes into these conferences:

The 1 pm press conferences are filled with journalists from different organisations from television, print, and radio.  The journalists ask the government questions for the public, which is particularly important while we are in lockdown and cannot do it ourselves.

Some Facts About Asking Questions in Press Meetings:

  • You have to have a membership to be in the room, and abide by the rules to keep your membership.
  • Due to the time crunch, the journalists often only get one shot to ask these questions so they have to make sure that the questions are perfect and provide context.
  • You might have heard the journalists yelling to get the politician’s attention. It is their only opportunity to ask questions because there is a rule that you cannot follow the politicians around in parliament to keep asking them.

Jessica Mutch McKay is the politics editor for TV 1 and she describes her role saying:“I need to get information from the politician, and the politician needs me to communicate that to the public.”

Ultimately, these press conferences provide journalists a chance to challenge the information to make sure it is correct and then they can present it in a way for us to easily understand.

Journalism is clearly an important field but sadly, since the beginning of the lockdown, 437 of New Zealand’s 1,600 journalists have lost their jobs. This is because newspapers make their money through advertising which has dropped with the uncertainty of the virus.

Now more than ever is a good time to be supporting news outlets if you can. And the next time you are watching the 1 pm conference stay till the questions or remember the other kind of front line workers out there. They may not be able to help cure coronavirus but having reliable news about the virus is just as important.

It’s easy for this extended time indoors- especially with your family- to cause a bit of cabin fever. Waking up every day to the same agenda; staying home, will no doubt be getting old after almost 3 weeks.

There are, however, several things you can do to help you stay relatively sane during this confusing time.

Create a routine:
It’s a good idea to change out of your pajamas, have a shower and make your bed every day. Just because you’re friends won’t see you, doesn’t mean your family should be able to smell you! Doing small things you usually do every day will help things feel more normal and you feel better.

Break things up:
Find tasks to break up your day so it doesn’t feel so long and boring. In the middle of the day try to fit in a
walk or some exercise so it feels like you have a separate morning and afternoon rather than just one long day.
Another good idea is when possible, change your environment for different activities. That way you still feel as if your brain will feel like it has places to do the things it normally does without going to school or to sports practice. You could change around your room and dedicate each corner to a different activity.

Take care of your body:
This is a perfect time to catch up on some sleep. Luckily you have nowhere to go so you can finally sleep in without fear of missing the bus! It’s also important to keep moving. There are some great exercise videos online and these can be a great way to get motivated and can be really fun especially if you get
your siblings or even your parents involved! Check out KIDZ Bop to learn some awesome dances which definitely count as a good way to exercise.

Use your imagination:
If things are starting to feel a bit scary, it’s a good idea to put your imagination towards something positive. You could do this by drawing or painting or creating a short film about your time in lockdown. That way you have something to look back on and remember what you did with these 4 weeks.

Or just relax:
We are going through a pandemic so it’s okay if you aren’t learning a new language or skill. It’s totally
okay if somedays you just feel like chilling out. Get stuck into a new book or series to take your mind off
things.

The main thing is to stay happy and healthy. I mean, if you’re really bored remember you can always help your parents with some jobs or go tidy your room…😆 What have you been doing to stay sane during the lockdown?
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