When someone attacks a member of your family, all your protective instincts kick in and you want to do anything in your power to take the hurt away. So it was on Wednesday when I received an email from my moko, telling me of the racist comments heard on her voicemail. You can see the full story which aired on TVNZ’s Marae programme, where my moko, Blake, is a production manager, this morning - here
The truth is, racism causes a deep, deep, generational pain that just cannot be erased, no matter how much you want to try to take it away. It was racism when my children encountered this same behaviour in school and in their workplaces, it is still racism two generations later when my grandchildren are forced to deal with it, as Blake has done this week, and it will still be racism when my great moko are confronted with it unless Pākehā New Zealand take responsibility for our actions.
Several times in the story the behaviour was described as “casual” racism. It’s no such thing. Even when we have the hard evidence in the form of the racist’s recorded voice, why are we are still reluctant to name it for what it is? Is “casual” racism, somehow less abusive than overt racism? Is “casual” racism worse than “unconscious bias” the more recent code word used to describe racist attitudes? There are no degrees of racism, no levels to filter its effect. Racism is racism. Let’s call it what it is. Whether you are having a conversation in secret, because let’s face it that salesman would certainly choose his audiences carefully, or whether you are racist right to someone’s face, it makes no difference. In fact it’s sometimes easier to deal head on with the ‘in your face’ version, than the dangerous covert conversations, which allow racism to remain part of our culture because it goes unchallenged.
As Blake, and the panelists affirmed, this type of racist behaviour, put downs, slurs, and belittling, happen to Māori all the time, and there is no excuse. No excuse for the ignorance of the Driveline salesman, no excuse for his colleague who agreed and laughed along with him, no excuse for the manager who has kept them on his payroll, in spite of his apologies. Every fibre of my Pākehā being wants to drive over the harbour bridge to Driveline, and give them some lessons in their White privilege, and the damage their blatant racism causes.
I’m sorry Blake that you were subjected to the ignorance and stupidity of these men, but I am so, so, proud of the way you took a stand and held them accountable! You gave your daughters, and the younger members of our whānau an important lesson today.