Saturday, 18 February 2012

everyday racism, everyday sovereignty

Tonite I am blogging about yesterday - tomorrow I'll blog about today.

Everyday racism

A white guy on the bus to the Wellington airport decided to have a loud conversation with the woman who sat next to him, who was Asian, about immigration. He had the deep confidence in his own assumptions that can only be the result of carefully avoiding any kind of alternative viewpoint. He talked loudly, proving to the people seated nearby that he Knew His Stuff. He went on and on, loudly explaining to the woman that it was okay for Asians to immigrate to NZ because they were honest and hardworking, with less problems of violence and crime than other immigrant communities. I, as a Maori person, and members of some of these other 'immigrant communities' cringed while he spoke. Finally, he said "you people are good immigrants because you really want to prove that you should stay here; you really want to fit in here," and I started to wonder what hoops this man jumped through in order to 'fit in here.'

Later, the English man who sat next to me on the plane to Auckland shared a chuckle with me about the announcement that we were to exit via stairs rather than an air bridge, and people who needed assistance should wait for help. We giggled, and I said "will the crew carry people?," to which he replied "maybe they're going to use an Indian rope trick." An Indian rope trick? Seriously?


The sterward who welcomed us on board the Air NZ flight, and directed us pay attention to the safety video, spoke for a while in Maori, during his welcome and also once we arrived in Auckland. "Nau mai, haere mai ki te whenua o Tamaki Makaurau." Lovely, to hear the language used in such a natural and public way.

Once I got off the plane, I went to use an ATM and withdraw some money... and when I got to the bank machine in the airport (it was a BNZ machine) I could choose a language for the transactino. One of the options was Maori!!! Using my language in an everyday transaction makes all the difference in the world!

Summing things up:

Racism; Sovereignty. Racism. Sovereignty. A constant pendulum.

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