“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.”– Martin Luther King
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America showed us (again) the result of generations of tolerated racism.
The US shows us historical protection and handing down of exploited privilege without addressing the harm done to others. The rugby ball of privilege gets passed down the line without anyone noticing the players on the wing have one arm tied behind their back and never seem to get the ball. The next generation play the advantage and that ignorance stays put.
Our own racism is a little younger, with a little less violence, but don’t let comparison to the US make that position of privilege one of ignorance as well.
If you watched George Floyd’s death earlier this year, or the riots and thought how lucky we are to live in Aotearoa where we don’t have systemic racism, you’re in the privileged position of not being subjected to it.
Ask any minority or marginalised person here if they’ve experienced bias, exclusion, or outright racism. Then ask yourself, have you ever heard a surprised “Gee she’s articulate”. Why was the speaker surprised? Have you ever noticed a young brown person being followed around a store by staff while the rest of the customers are ignored? Ever heard an impersonated accent, making fun of the way someone else speaks? If so, what did you do? Did you address it? Or did you tolerate it, silently giving acceptance?
The intent doesn’t change the impact.
Normal is whatever we see in society for long enough. When your tamariki, co-workers or friends see you tolerate casual racism, it becomes normal. Not being taught to be racist at home isn’t enough. Our children need to be taught anti-racism.
Being taught to embrace our cultural differences and understand that we all experience Aotearoa differently might keep us from going backwards. Being taught to pull others up when they’re being racist will move us forward. Sticking up for what’s right might feel uncomfortable at first, but letting our racism grow old and mature will feel much worse for some of us.
We have people in parliament saying they don’t look at things through the lens of race. When they’re surrounded by people who look and think like them, what they’re really saying is they don’t see race other than their own. Racism only exists if we tolerate it as society. It’s easy to tolerate something affecting a group you choose not to see.
Acknowledge the racism around you and fight back. Be intolerant of intolerance, whether casual or extreme.