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

Writer’s Blockade

A post? On this website? Am I dreaming? Well, dear reader, you are not. Or are you? Okay, you most definitely are not.

So what is this all about?

I’ve been struggling with writer’s block (since forever), but it’s most pronounced at present.  It’s not that I don’t know what to write about, but the pressure from thinking whatever I write will be shit. A friend of mine, let’s call him Nethan, suggested I come back to this blog and write about everything and nothing. So that’s what I’m going to do.

What have I been up to?

What are my plans for the future?

Well, dear reader, you’re about to find all that out and more.

It’s February 2018, and I’ll spare you the “this year’s going by so fast” because once you leave high school life practically flashes before your eyes.

A few weekends ago Michelle and I attended Ōtaki Summer Camp, organised by a group of people including New Zealand journalist Nicky Hager (co-author of Hit and Run). It was designed for young people (primarily activists under 30) to come and congregate and share ideas. The camp was inspired by kiwi camps of its ilk in the past especially in the 70’s and had guest speakers coming to speak on themes including activism, conservation, prisons, and Māori.

Deborah Manning spoke on her legal defence of Ahmed Zaoui, a refugee detained for suspected terrorism which had no grounds. The case took over five years. Again and again, Deobrah’s goto was not to give up. Now I’m a quitter. Always have been. When things got too hard I packed it in, had a tantrum. Nowadays I start projects and don’t finish them. I’m looking at you Fair Trade Upper Hutt. So I’m trying to do better, to be better. My mantra this year is “Don’t quit 2018”.

Ōtaki Summer Camp

I’ve been looking more into te reo Māori recently but this camp really cemented my need. There were a number of Māori speakers and guests in attendance who shared their stories. If I’m to care about New Zealand and fight for important issues I need to know the language and its colonisation. It wasn’t as peaceful as people make it out to be (or gloss over) and the effects of which are felt, even today.

So we applied for the free home course at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa (still on the waiting list) and got out some library books:

The Great War For New Zealand   Māori At Home   Māori Made Easy

I started my new permanent job in December. I can’t say much about it but belonging to PSA it’s probably pretty obvious I’m in the Public Service. It’s mostly administration, some customer service. I signed up to complete an NZQA qualification through work this year because, why not? There’ll also be a large component on the Treaty of Waitangi.

I did have hopes for learning Spanish once upon a time, but it does make more sense to learn te reo Māori, living in New Zealand and all that. Plus, this is a language we need to keep alive. Spanish is doing alright. Heck, there’s nothing stopping me learning multiple languages.

Money’s been a bit tight lately. We really shouldn’t have blown through our savings (on an expensive TV no less). Yes, throw smashed avocados at us. Us no good millennials only have ourselves to blame. Nevermind how the boomers have screwed us. Wow getting all political already (I must’ve drunk more whisky than I thought!).

But as for entertainment I’m looking forward to The Killers hitting Wellington in April and Pink hitting Dunedin in September (it will be our first time down there!). Of course, there’s the New Zealand Film Festival and I’m going to make a bigger effort to do more artsy fartsy things like the Fringe Festival and going to Bats for homegrown theatre. I’ll have to leave homegrown music (sorry folks), there’s just too many art forms to follow!

Beautiful Trauma

As for projects, I’ve still got a bunch unfinished including a sci-fi novel I’m co-writing with Nethan, and designing a board game with friends. Hopefully, I can find the determination to continue with these projects. It’s better to try your best and finish something than to give up halfway and never realise what could have been. Wow, went a bit dark there, sorry.

I learned a bunch more WordPress stuff last year and launched a web store for non-profit NZ bookshop Writers Plot Readers Read. There’s certainly a lot that comes with e-commerce and we’re learning as we go.

Writers Plot Readers Read

I started a televison blog in February last year called Binge With Me, and write with a fellow contributor (who I haven’t met!). I’ve got a huge list of things to write but perhaps I’ve made it overwhelming for myself, hence the procrastination. Normal service should resume shortly (I hope). It would be a mighty shame to cancel the project after a year, though that was my initial goal. To let things flourish, it takes time and repetition. Success doesn’t happen overnight!

Less than ten years ago I called myself a Christian and youth group was a big part of my life, and so was a man named Geoff who recently passed away. I feel terrible distancing myself from them in the last ten years after I fell away from Christianity. The last time I saw Geoff was at a quasi-reunion a year or so ago. He had the memory of an elephant and remembered our time together recounting an experience that I’d forgotten.

Geoff’s memorial service was touching and it was heartwarming to see that everyone had the same opinion of him as I had. A man who gave his home to take in teenagers, and was a father to more than just his own children. And he actually listened to you, intently, sharing deep important shit, not just surface level (the complete opposite of what a New Zealand man “should be”).

He was no fuddy-duddy Christian, he was funny and rebellious in nature, preferring his own ways of worship than the Church and was never found too far from a motorbike. I remember being re-baptised by Geoff and his eldest son in a subzero Kaitoke river. Rest in peace Geoff. I hope the afterlife answers all your prayers.

Chlöe Swarbrick brought Julie Anne Genter’s member’s bill Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis and Other Matters) Amendment Bill to the table last week. To show my support I turned up in person to the public gallery above the House of Representatives (for the first half at least, of course, the minister’s dinner break came up in the middle of it). And there was a decent turn-out, mostly young people, which one could say shows our progressive stance on the world. A cynic might say it’s because young people just want to get stoned. There may have been a couple of those, judging solely from appearance (I saw a duo in jandals and floral shirts!).

But this bill is about helping those suffering. Unlike the bill presented by the government, Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill (which went through to the next stage), this one only stops medicinal cannabis users being labelled as criminals. And only for those with less than a year to live. Nevermind people suffering from lifelong illnesses such as chronic pain.

Voting for Chlöe’s bill through to the Health Select Committee would actually give the people affected a chance to speak, as well as medical professionals. Unfortunately, they won’t get a chance as the bill did not pass thanks to a National block (despite it being a conscience vote) and NZ First all voting against. Where is our compassion? Are we really going to let the political game get in the way of human suffering? I can’t put into words quite like Chlöe. Go watch the speech.


Over a thousand words, I’ll take that. Writer’s blockade be gone!