Attended the MYNZ Conference 2012: RESPECT N’ REPRESENT! today, organised by Shakti Youth Amabassdors Network. I was delighted to see a conference for young people created by young people. It is also fantastic to see young people learn about respecting and representing for themselves, for who they are and who they believe in. The performances by the different schools were amazing. When everyone is buzzing over the Ching Chong Song at New Zealand Got Talent – eat your heart out – these boys and girls are way better.
As impressed as I am about the conference, I was sitting there feeling very uncomfortable when the issues about racism came up. Look, I deal with ethnic communities all the time and racism is a matter that comes up almost all the time as well. Not news to me. I was not surprise that young people have received racist comments, heard racist comments, and some were brave enough to say that they have been racist themselves.
I was uncomfortable with the remarks by the presenters. Surely, I know, the Chinese were subjected to awful racism because they were the only group that have to pay a poll tax. Yes the Pacific community had the dawn raid. Yes, we have migrants who have to be angelised their names to get a job. Yes, Maori land were confiscated by the crown. Yes, there is still the foreshore and seabed debate. You get my point – I am definitely aware of the racism “colour people” face. Am I angry, hell yeah! But in NO circumstances, that makes it right for us to fight racism by using racism.
What am I saying? It is NOT OK to call the Pakeha/Caucasian/New Zealand European “white people”. “White People” are equally diverse. The “white people” who took the land, ask for poll tax, initiated the dawn raid, etc etc are not the same “white people” that recently migrated from the UK, South Africa, Eastern Europe… Not all “white people” come from the same region. Not all “white people” are racist.
It is not ok to think that all white people, therefore are privileged. Yes, we know that in general, they make more money, they have a better standard of living, and blondes may have more fun (I’ve been complimented on my blonde hair even though I am not “white!”) . No, it does not mean that therefore they will look down on you just because you are coloured people.
We do need to acknowledged the history and even the current times presents discrimination and racism against people of colour skin. We all do. We all make assumptions of who people are based on their looks, not just their skin colour. However, by just saying “the white people did this” and “the white people did that”, is not going to help promote positive race relationships. Instead, it promotes victimization by making all “coloured people” victims.
I have to confess that perhaps my own perceptions on the presentation had excluded me from listening clearly and enjoy the presentation in a different way, but there is no way, I believe, that we should fight racism with racism. We should instead promote positive race relations instead.