ramblings, again

Publié le par chrislzh


This is probably the most interesting post I've ever read at Public Address. What's disturbing, though, is the last few paragraphs:

"The only trouble - and this is very hard for me to say - is that these days I'm not entirely sure if New Zealand wants me. I feel that I'm appreciated in my profession and within the science community, but on the streets I get a very different reception. People who don't know me will often treat me quite rudely. In fact, sometimes they are actually insulting.

This behaviour is a comparatively new phenomenon - just in the last five years or so. I never saw it when I was a teenager, and I certainly didn't live in a posh area or attend any sort of exclusive school. I had summer jobs picking fruit in the orchards down in Clyde, and worked with all sorts of New Zealanders; and I don't recall any incidents of racism at all. But recently it seems to be everywhere. I've had people shouting abuse at me from cars. Even children - that's the worst.

Only a few weeks ago I dropped my daughter off at school, and as I went back to my car there were some kids standing at the front gate. Just primary school children - only nine or ten years old. And one of them shouted at me: "You f**king Asian. Go home!"

That incident really depressed me - because you can judge a society by its children. Where would a child have learnt those attitudes? Just nine or ten years old, and already he thought that Asians shouldn't be in this country. The message is actually out there in society for him. It was a terribly worrying thing to happen at my daughter's school, and it's a real concern of mine that these new racist attitudes might affect her as well.

I suspect that part of the responsibility for such attitudes can be laid at the feet of certain politicians. The rhetoric of people like Winston Peters and Don Brash has actually promoted anti-immigrant sentiment. It was probably always there to a certain extent, but when senior politicians start spouting this sort of nonsense then it isn't merely airing the views of a racist minority - it actually starts to incite racism.

Easily-led people take such political rhetoric as legitimization of their own bigoted views. They think it gives them carte blanche to treat immigrants rudely in shops, or to shout insults from their cars. Of course, I'm not suggesting that this is the intention of Peters or Brash. They're just doing it to get votes. I'm sure that after the election they forget all about it. But they don't realize the long-term impact that it's having on people like me and my family - who can be easily identified as having ancestry from somewhere other than Europe.

The ridiculous thing about being told to "go home" is that I've lived in New Zealand twice as long as I lived in Vietnam - I've been here for nearly half my childhood and all my adult life.

I am home."

Well, it's true that anti-Asian racism has deep roots in New Zealand history, unfortunately. We did have laws designed to keep Chinese people out, or at least keep as many of them out as possible. But the laws weren't quite as effective as the bigots would have liked, and there are many Asian (not only Chinese) families that have been in New Zealand longer than most European families. I remember a whole lot of stupid racist jokes floating around when I was a kid, but they were nothing worse than Chinese people telling me, skinny foreigner, to my face that all foreigners are fat. Just that stupid, low-level, and not particularly harmful sort of stuff. But I don't think I'd ever seen direct, overt, in-your-face straight out offensive racism until..... well, quite late. When I was a kid, everybody had the decency to keep it to themselves and at least pretend to treat everybody equally.

At least, that's how I remember it. The Dawn Raids (against Pacific Islanders suspected of maybe perhaps having thought at some stage of perhaps maybe overstaying, the prime reason to suspect them being their skin colour) were a bit before my time. What I remember growing up is being told about the evils of the English class system and apartheid and nuclear bombs.... It seems that, even when my parents would mutter something impolite about Pacific Isanders or Maori or whoever, it was still pretty clear that racism was unacceptable. Confusing and contradictory, yes, but that's the message I got, and it stuck.

Sure, I heard a lot of racially abusive terms being thrown around at high school, but it always seemed to be between friends, like the Indian members of the 1st XI hockey team calling the only two white members "white nargs". Nobody took it as abuse, and everybody was friends.

It really disturbs me when I hear about open racist abuse in New Zealand. Maybe my childhood was unusually sheltered, but when I was growing up it seemed like that kind of thing belonged in the past or in some other country and generally didn't happen in New Zealand. Lan Le-Ngoc reinforces my impression. It would be interesting to hear from people of roughly my age of neither Maori nor Pakeha descent who grow up in New Zealand. They may well have different stories to tell.

And I totally agree with Lan Le-Ngoc. When political leaders start playing the immigration/race card (there's no real difference in New Zealand; the 'immigration debate' is usually the 'Holy shit! There's all these short, yellow people speaking funny languages running around!' debate) they only encourage the bigots and red necks. And what worries me is that the other parties and 'leaders' do such a piss poor job of countering the bigotry. But considering what's going on in New Zealand politics right now, it's not surprising, really. New Zealand politics seems to have changed from a desperate race for mediocrity to a desperate race to be the most childish.

Sometimes I despair for my country.

Publié dans chrislzh

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