By ZOE MILLS
Over the past couple of days, I’ve seen floods of social media posts commenting on the Black Lives Matter movement in the USA from fellow kiwis. While most responses have been positive, there is one opinion in particular that I believe is an incredibly dangerous attitude to have during this time – “I’m so glad that we live in New Zealand – we have no racism!”.
During this period of building momentum for the BLM movement, it is a crucial opportunity to recognise the prejudice that our very own justice system has against our Maori and Pacifika people. It is an opportunity to reflect and critically view our government, police force and the institutionalised racism that our country was built on. Not only is it ignorant for us, as New Zealanders, to claim to live in a utopia of equality and racial tolerance, but it is downright disrespectful to our very own indigenous peoples. By brushing the major flaws in our country under the rug, we are silencing the voices that made our country the beautiful place it is – our Maori people.
I’m white. I know that I will never understand what it feels like to have my culture made out to make me feel like I am ‘disadvantaged’. I will never know what it feels like to be racially profiled by our police force, followed in a store, or be told to ‘go back to my own country’; nor will I understand how it feels to have a white person discuss my ethnicity in this way.
But I know that the prejudice in this country is still here. Maybe quieter, but still deeply rooted. Take last week: when National Leader Todd Muller was criticised, rightfully so, for selecting an unbelievably white caucus – with the highest ranking Maori MP being Paula Bennett at list number 13.
It is not a secret that New Zealand has its own deep history of racism – from the Treaty all the way to mass incarceration of our Maori people – but we should use this time to educate others and work on dismantling the prejudice in our country. The sooner we are comfortable with getting uncomfortable with confronting our own biases: that’s when change can start to happen.
Feisty, always up for a debate and smashing down the patriarchy, Zoe is a politics nerd with a huge passion for social justice.