• Wayne Perkins

Are we Racist?

Well someone has to say it so I guess I might as well.

I think Taika, a previous New Zealander of th

Year, was probably right when he recently said: “New Zealand is the best place on the planet but it’s a racist place”.

Let’s check the definition just so we know what racist actually means because, like most words that get thrown around willy-nilly, the meaning can become obscure.

Dictionary Definition. “a person who shows or feels discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or who believes that a particular race is superior to another”.

I am a forty-seven-year-old white male.

I am unashamed of being my age, race and gender.

I am proud of being the above, as all people should be proud of being who they are, but I am under no illusion that my experience growing up and living in New Zealand will have been very different to others of a different age, race and gender.

It seems obvious to me that Taika is just telling us his experience, how he views the world, how he thinks some of us Kiwi’s come across as inherently racist and, as I am not Taika, who am I to question what he has experienced.

Most importantly, good on him for saying what he thinks.

Everyone should have the right, no matter how unpopular or controversial, to say what they think because how else can we as a society have these conversations. 

As soon as we stop saying some things through fear of offending, then we are on a slippery slope to being unable to communicate at all because to have meaningful dialogue is often to risk offense.

Hone Harawira recently launched a tirade against Waikato hospital, accusing them of racism and in my opinion, it was one of the most poorly constructed, disgustingly offensive articles I have had the misfortune to read.

But good on Hone for voicing his opinion because he at least gives you the dignity of being able to disagree with him and he may be much closer to the truth of the matter than I will ever understand. I am not Hone or Taika, and so the lens I view the world through will obviously show me a very different picture and while I may not understand or even agree with their opinions, who am I to question how they see the world?

We all see what we see.

But I do want to make clear how I view the world.

There is no part of me that believes that one race is “superior” to another race, I think that fundamentally all of mankind are created equal and, in my opinion, all carry a spark of the divine.

I have no prejudice against others of different races and I would be very disappointed in myself if I have intentionally discriminated against anyone for such a stupid reason.

Because let’s be brutally frank here, your race is something you had no control over, is nothing more than a random fluke of birth and to idolize or vilify someone for something outside of their control is surely pathetically illogical.

Dylan Moran said “I’m sick of those people who start every single sentence with I’m not a racist but…”. and was he right or was he right?

Denying your racism doesn’t stop you from being so.  What actually stops you is when you treat all people with dignity and respect regardless of the colour of their skin and that goes for every single one of us.

However, one of Taika's reasons for calling New Zealand racist was because we don’t pronounce Maori place names correctly and I’m afraid I disagree with him there.

I have little interest at this stage in learning Te Reo and so I’m sure I often unintentionally mispronounce Maori place names which of course may reflect poorly on my intellect but I dispute that it makes me racist in any way at all.

We all hold many things dear and what is sacred to one is not always sacred to another.

A case in point is my Christian faith.

Virtually never a day goes by without someone using the name “Jesus” or “Christ” in what for me is a highly inappropriate and offensive manner.

But I consider my faith to be my mine and your language to be yours and I am not about to force you to respect my sensitivity to certain words and phrases.

How you talk is not my business nor is it your problem if I get upset.

You can only offend me if I let you.

It’s the same for all of us.

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