I became less bigoted and so can you

Yup, more reckons from another white guy. I can see the irony. I want to be less bigoted and I’m made great strides but I’m still learning. However, more than a few people are taking their sweet old time and that might be you. No judgement. Okay, maybe a little judgement. But we can work through it, together. For this blog, I want to share what I’ve learned, and afterwards link to some writers who can actually talk about these topics.

Now I don’t want to come across as self-congratulatory with this blog post title. The truth is you don’t become “#woke” overnight. It’s taken a lot of listening, and a lot of reading to get to the place I am now. And I’m still learning. We’re all still learning. Changing mindsets takes time. It wasn’t too long ago we had black people as slaves and women couldn’t vote (only last year were Saudi women allowed to drive). It almost sounds ridiculous saying it aloud. The same thing will happen ten years from now (hopefully sooner) when we look back at how we treated transgender people.

It’s taken a lot longer than I’d like to admit. Growing up as one of three children, my parents always demonstrated equality. When one of us got a treat so would the other two. And it had to be proportioned. Equality was an equal share of the pudding (literally). My grandmother had another view and tried to make each ginger slice as equal as possible but still managed to find the smallest piece for herself!

My old bigoted views

I held some bigoted views back in the day. When I was in college I didn’t care about history or geography or the world. I pretty much only cared about writing, computing and video games. Now all these years later I’m eager to learn more about the history of our country and the culture and the language. I now know these opinions I held were utterly incorrect, and that’s what they were — opinions.

  • I used to think it was unfair that some people got university scholarships because of their race. Whereas I, a White kid, had no such advantage. Nope, no privilege whatsoever.
  • When I was in Intermediate School I was enrolled in a te reo Māori language class for one session a week. When I realised not everyone was doing it and in fact, my parents had elected me in in it, without asking me, I began to rebel (as rebellious as a shy kid could). I’d show up but muck around. After that, I didn’t continue with the sessions. Ironically, now I’m trying to learn te reo and it would’ve been easier had I done it all back then.
  • When I was at College at every end of year prizegiving I believed that the waiata after each Māori student went up for an award was wasting time and unfair. How come they got a song? Where was my song as a Pākehā?
  • My best friend held an Iwi membership card even though I thought he was as white as me and was “cheating” the system.

I didn’t see my white privilege. We’re not equal, and we have never been. Māori have been prejudiced against and disadvantaged, time and time again because of colonisation. Just look at the stats of Māori in education, healthcare, and justice — just look at the proportions.

50% of our prisoners are Māori and that’s over-representative and not okay.  And it’s not because Māori are violent or born criminals. Not only do cops hold a biasit’s generational (Neil Campbell); when people come from families broken down, in unemployment, lack of education and drug and alcohol abuse, all due to colonisation, children are going to replicate that behaviour. Putting them in prisons doesn’t help the issue. Organisations like PAPA have said prisons aren’t working. It’s a vicious cycle. They’re like universities for criminals and the main cause for reoffending. What rehabilitation? People are kicked back onto the street without support systems.

Not only did we (Pākehā) not honour the Treaty and took away Māori land but we took away their Sovereignty over their own people. We ripped their language and culture away from them and put them in prisons. If you stop to think about it, it’s heartbreaking. We shame Australia for what they did to their Aboriginal people but don’t take a long hard look at ourselves.

A step forward

It’s an oldie but a goodie. Equity, not equality:

Equality vs Equity. Interaction Institute for Social Change | Artist: Angus Maguire.

Interaction Institute for Social Change | Artist: Angus Maguire.

The fact is people aren’t born with the same rights or acceptance as everyone else. As a young activist (18) my only focus was on extreme poverty in countries like Africa and Papua New Guinea but now I know inequality is all around us even in somewhere as seemingly progressive as Aotearoa New Zealand. These are human rights, no matter your gender, race, or sexuality:

The right to get married and have children.

The right to equal pay.

The right to education and housing.

The right to fair and impartial justice.

The NZ community on Twitter has taught me so much, and I do my best to amplify their voices. As much as an RT has an effect. Some decry “Twitteratti”, “pile-on’s” and “crying into an echo chamber” (usually White journalists with large media platforms), but nowhere else have I seen a community that challenges and educates quite like this one.

Sadly not everyone in the world has the same outlook on equity. The Neo-Nazis in America chanting “You can’t replace us” clutching onto their Tiki torches because they’re used to their place on the pedestal and all the inherent perks that come with it. When they see others getting lifted up all they can see is how it can hurt them.

But I’m optimistic. As the years go on we’re finally listening, as demonstrated by the Black Lives Matter movement and sexual predators finally being removed from their positions of power, and even everyday sexual consent.

We’re all still learning. So take the time and listen. Before leaping in to shout “Not All Men!” or “She was asking for it”, or “What about White culture?” take a moment to think of your position of power and how others lives are being minimised.

No, it’s not okay to jokingly say the “n” word and laugh it off. No, it’s not okay to put on an accent of a culture that is already stigmatised. Punch up, not down.

Calling it out

With anxiety, I have a tendency to avoid conflict and so in the past I’ve let racism slip on by. I’m starting to stand up more even though I may not be an eloquent debater or have the appropriate soundbite. But it’s better to say that it’s not okay than letting it go, further entrenching the idea that us White people are the ones with the raw deal, “It’s PC gone mad I tell you!”

I’m still trying to be a better ally. I’m terrified of conflict and I’m not the most coherent of speakers, especially if someone’s looking for a debate. But if you see discrimination you need to call it out. And by that, I mean real discrimination, not “Women’s swim nights” and “Māori scholarships”. If you’re White (and a man), know that you didn’t get to this place of power peacefully. Others were tossed aside purposefully for your privilege. Now it’s time we step aside and actually get on an equal footing.

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done before, today is a new day and we can be better.

Still Learning

If I’ve said anything incorrect or hurtful please feel free to direct message me. And if you have suggestions for more writers or pieces please post them below!

Okay, that’s enough from me. Here are some of the writers you should read/watch/listen to and “school” yourself:

Māori – Waata News, Iwi Stations, Māori Television, E-Tangata, Leonie Hayden (Ātea), Mihingarangi Forbes (RNZ, now The Hui), Māori & NZ History Resource List, and your local marae

Pacifika and Asian – E-Tangata, Patrick ThomsenJames Roque, Roseanne Liang

Sexuality and GenderSam Brooke, LaQuisha St Redfern, The Male Gayz, Eli Matthewson, Speak Out, Emilie Rākete, Megan Bowra-DeanGeorgina Beyer

Feminism – Sarah Wilson (and Disability), Kirsten King, Anna North, Clementine Ford, On The Rag, Lizzie Marvelly