Racey-race relations

Yesterday, there was a thought/anger provoking cartoon printed in the newspaper here in Christchurch, and in Marlborough. These things quite often provoke me, because as it happens, some of the issues are a little personal.

Here’s a link to the cartoons and an opinion piece…

First off, I should say that I don’t often read or watch the news. My husband often talks about how wonderful it would be if the newspaper was simply one A4 sheet of paper with a list of headlines. I personally would love a series of pictures on a sheet titled “Caption this”. Sure we’d get assumptions all over the place, but that’s what we’re getting anyway right? We’re just getting someone else’s assumptions from someone qualified to share them on a piece of paper or on the newsdesk at 6pm every night.

I’m pretty sensitive when it comes to issues of race. When I was in primary school, we were asked to do an exercise where we had to act like we were a family. One of the boys in my group said it wasn’t right for me to be there because I was brown. I didn’t actually hear what he said to me but one of the other girls was so offended she turned it into a massive deal. When she calmed down enough to tell me what was going on, I was shocked enough to cry about it. And boy did I cry. The teacher intervened in the end.
A few times I would walk home from school and someone would shout from their house,
“Go back to where you come from f***ing n***er!”
I’d cry the rest of the way home.

When I was in high school, my mum went to a parent-teacher interview with my English teacher. He had previously come from a school which had a high percentage of Pacific Island students. During the interview, he said to my mum,
“well Leilani… she’s pretty smart for a brown girl.”
What on earth that is supposed to mean, I’ve no idea.

A few years ago, someone told me that I was the whitest Samoan they had ever met. If they knew my history, perhaps they’d realise why I had to be. I moved to Christchurch from Porirua, Wellington where there were Islanders everywhere. Christchurch is a pretty culturally bland place (less so now than how it was back then). Each day we spent here, it was like we were fighting to fit in. And every now and then someone would remind us that we didn’t. I recall having a conversation with my dad a wee while ago about his reasons for not wanting to be here in Christchurch (he moved back to Porirua when I was 19). As a bus driver, he experienced racist attitudes all the time.
My family fits all the stereotypes too. Previously, there have been experiences of excessive alcohol consumption, gambling addictions, domestic violence, etc. My parents are both smokers. However, I’ve only ever seen them on the benefit perhaps 1 year in all the years I’ve known them. They work pretty damn hard.

So back to the issue at hand…
I do get the sense that there is a depiction of different types of people in the pictures, however what really bugs me is that the most prominent figures in the cartoons are Maori/Pacific Island contingent. And I do find it offensive. It offends my sense of worth as an New Zealand-born Pacific Islander. It’s harsh. It’s a harsh reality sure but if I recall how many people I saw on the pokies when I was at the pub, maybe 2 out of 10 of them were brown. I have never touched a poker machine in my life. I don’t smoke (thought I did for a while). I barely drink, and I’m not on the benefit

I dunno… perhaps it touches a nerve. Perhaps I’m feeling a little like someone’s attacking me. Perhaps it’s personal and perhaps it isn’t.