What we Kiwi's can do

What we Kiwi's can do

We have long been a nation of 'can do', mostly because of our isolation and distance from anywhere else.

This has been a double-edged sword, in its restriction to access the world and isolating us from the rest of the world. All that changed last Friday, when the worst of the rest of the world came crashing in on Christchurch.

My first thought after being horrified was why Christchurch why not somewhere else?

That isn't about wishing it on another place, but more the recognition that Christchurch has gone through enough already, why add this to the mountain the people there have to deal with.

I recognise this as my own response to the horror that played out and the need to process it, while at the same time struggling to process what was going on. And I think many are still trying to understand that reaction and put words to it.

In reality, Christchurch possibly was the best-prepared city in the world to deal with it because of their past challenges with the quakes.

Between the Police and emergency crews, they did a fantastic job. Many of those first responders are going to live with horrific memories not too dissimilar to those that survived. They all need our support.

And this is the point of my rambling here. We as a country need the support of every member of our community.

The rest of the world and their racist rhetoric can jump in the lake. Frankly, I have stronger words for that, along the lines of there's a queue over there, yes the far one, go and stand in the far queue.

Cheap jokes aside, there is a serious point here.

First I'll take you back to the weekend before our gunman got started, I was in the Glenfield Mall with my son running errands and he's wanting to buy yet another Pokemon plushy, we were on the travellator in the middle going up and my son ran ahead to the top and was being his cheeky self.

I was still halfway down, and he was making me smile. An older woman got on coming the other way and saw me grinning away, and commented: "I like your smile". Given my son is part Indian, most people don't make the connection he's my son, let alone when we are separated by 4-5 meters as we were.

So I was just some grinning white guy on the travellator. I acknowledged the lady and said thanks.

Conversations

The other one was a conversation with a woman on Wednesday who has lost a loved one in the shootings and is off to a funeral today. Her comment to me was you are a caring person, and I don't see that often. Which made me sit up a bit.

Another client I saw yesterday who, while being white and Muslim is married to a person of colour, said to me walking through the mall in the weekend, "I just felt so white", and this isn't anything she can change it.

What this highlighted to me is many of our not so white members of our community are not connecting with real Kiwis, the ones that are not bigoted racists, the ones that don't give a crap about religion. The ones that are genuinely nice people.

I hate that we are even talking white as something separate, it is not how I operate. We are all humans, we're all unique individuals just like everyone else.

But thinking about it two things are going on right now, people of colour are afraid, they fear being attacked, insulted, and abused. And white Kiwi's are also struggling, struggling to find a way to express their care and sympathy to the people around them, because racial extremism is not the mainstream Kiwi.

Yes, we have a massive outpouring of grief and support, we've seen this with the flowers and the money donated, and the turn out for the funerals too.

But none of this develops any direct connection with the people between our people. And that is frustrating on one side and still incredibly isolating on the other.

Being a big bald white guy, walking into the mall on Sunday and seeing fear in all of the brown faces around me, made me both sad and angry. Sad that so quickly this feeling had spread. Angry that the actions of one person, who wasn't even a local, could cause this level of fear in people.

So what's my point?

People of colour are living in fear in New Zealand, real or otherwise it is not a healthy place to be. They have neither anything to answer for, nor do they have to do anything to change this.

It is up to us, the white Kiwis, I'm talking about you, the humble, head down getting on with it Kiwi. Our communities need you to step out of your usually separate lives and reach out.

Reach out in non-confrontational ways, ways that connect with the people around you. Overcome any fears you have and do two things.

  1. Lift your head up and smile at the people around you. Spread your happy mood, it helps everyone. It's been said a smile is contagious, it may not be to someone of colour, but it might reach them too.
  2. Step out, without being creepy and intimidating, enquire about someone not like you around you, ask them how their day is going, wish them a good day. Connect positively and break down the barriers the asshats of the world have created around our communities.

Will this solve casual racism, probably not, but a more connected inclusive community is a start.

  • A start to the healing process,
  • a start to the reduction of isolation,
  • a start to connecting our communities in ways they haven't for a very long time.

My final points

  • We are not London, we don't keep our heads down, and jump when someone speaks to us.
  • We are not fearful, we are not going to report on the news that a happy person was on the subway because it is so unusual.
  • And as much as the world want's to ignore us by not putting us on maps, we are not going away either!
 
 
Jon-Paul Hale

Written by : Jon-Paul Hale

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