We must unlearn division

By Ellipsister (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Rehia, Ngāti Tautahi)

untitled-presentation_block_1I recently watched “Requiem for the American Dream” a documentary with Noam Chomsky comprising a tantalising one and half hours of brain food. In this documentary, Chomsky unpacks what he calls the Ten Principles of Concentration of Wealth and Power. During my screening, I began thinking about those principles in terms of Māori politics. There are so many threads that we could weave together and perhaps if I get the time over the next few months, I will look at each of the principles in the Māori context.

Chomsky’s main premise is that: concentration of wealth yields concentration of power. I draw from his premise and the principles in the picture above that kōtahitanga resides in our willingness and ability as tangata Māori to recognise and resist the colonising practice of division that keeps oppressive structures in power in Aotearoa.

I’m not claiming to have developed some breakthrough proposition. I am restating what we know but with intentionality – to remind us that the vast majority of us actively participate in reinforcing division among ourselves and we need to unlearn this behaviour so that we can drive our struggle forward.

We must come to terms with the fact that kōtahitanga can simultaneously accommodate difference and challenge power. We might not get the results we want immediately or even in our life times, but power fears mass opposition and the time to resist is always now.

Recall the whakapapa of our struggle that culminated in the Māori renaissance of the 1970’s and 1980’s. It reminds us that even the smallest acts of persistent resistance can build into a mass action for change and force power to confront its ugly structure. Kaua e mate wheke mate ururoa!

 

An alternative to the ‘ban’ on foreign homeownership

house-icon-black

By Ellipsister

We are obsessed with home ownership. In an effort to make home ownership a reality for more people living in Aotearoa, our political parties have all proposed what they see as solutions to our housing crisis. From land taxes on foreign investors, to outright bans of foreign home ownership. But is there another option?

Banning foreign home ownership in Aotearoa is a policy option that has been circulated by opposition parties over the past few years as the Auckland housing market has become an unrealistic dream, especially for first-home buyers. It’s been peddled in varying degrees from banning foreign ownership of any land in Aotearoa, to banning foreign homebuyers, to banning foreign ownership of houses by non-resident investors.

I’m not a fan of taking punitive measures to alleviate social issues. And yes, I am arguing that preceding anything with the word ‘ban’ is punitive and that housing – renting or owning is social. Aside from the xenophobic image banning foreign [insert anything here] feeds into, it also ignores the importance that foreign investment has made and continues to make in Aotearoa.

I accept that some people visualise a utopia in which we all live on a self-sufficient plot of land, working as a community, isolated from the trappings of capitalism, and independent of foreign investment. Conversely, some people will visualise a utopia in which people are free to hoard as many resources and as much capital as they desire in partnership with uber wealthy foreign investors. As far as I can tell, neither of those utopias are a reality nor an aspiration for the majority of people in Aotearoa. So rather than a ban of foreign investment in land or homes, I propose a more compassionate option that doesn’t demonise foreign investors or investment – a ‘Letter of Justification’.

I’m imagining a society where people who want to own houses, rather than competing on price – compete on best interests.

My understanding is that when putting in an offer for a house, you can already write a letter to the vendor to support your tender. My question is then why not make this a more prominent part of a sale? Why not introduce a requirement to justify why your bid should be accepted over others?

When buyers are required to justify why they should be entitled to the privilege of taking exclusive possession of a property, we move away from the profit motive, and toward a more equitable and socially just system for property ownership. This would mean that non-resident foreign investors and domestic property speculators would have to make a strong case for why they should be able to own a property over a  homebuyer who intends to live in the home they purchase. The effect being that we reduce the typical financial advantage enjoyed by investors through the increased appeal to equity for the intend-to-live-in-it homebuyer.

How might we design a robust system that supports ‘competing on best interests’? Well, that I haven’t fully explored yet. But we all have a society toward which our actions are directed and I think this is a good place to start.

Preserving the mana of the tino rangatiratanga flag

By Ellipsister

tino-rangatiratanga-flag

Throughout the flag debate, I saw many Pākehā calling for the Tino Rangatiratanga flag to be an option as the national flag. Some said it was a beautiful design – which it is, but that is not a good reason to appropriate it as a national symbol without proper consideration of what this flag symbolises for Māori: resistance and resilience of tangata whenua in our struggle for, you guessed it “tino rangatiratanga. Others claimed that tino rangatiratanga represented them more than the Union Jack. And actually, that sat incredibly uncomfortably with me. I mean, Yes! please do raise our tino flag in solidarity. But your misplaced affection in appropriating our struggle and claiming it represents you is offensive and invalidating. Your lands and resources  were not forcibly taken, your culture and rights were not systematically oppressed, and you do not therefore experience the intergenerational trauma of colonisation.

For me, until tino rangatiratanga is actually achieved by Māori and formally recognised by the State, then I would never put my support behind the tino flag becoming New Zealand’s national flag. The reason should be obvious. However, to avoid any confusion – we cannot have tino rangatiratanga as a symbol of our nationhood if it is not a Māori reality. It is simply a way of feeding into the myth of partnership – the idea that Māori and the Crown have an equal share of power to make decisions that affect the peoples who are of this land – tangata whenua, and those who have settled on it – tau iwi.

I feel that if the tino flag is offered up as a national flag prematurely then it will diminish the mana of the flag and all its symbolism and deprive it of its meaning. On the other hand, if there were a policy for dual recognition of the tino flag as having equal status with the national flag, then this would perhaps enhance the mana of this flag and its symbolism as the forward-looking next step in addressing the issue of Māori sovereignty.

For the record, I didn’t vote in the flag referendum. I was ambivalent – I wasn’t prepared to vote for the dag we were offered, or the symbol of colonisation. That’s just my view. I appreciate others look at the Union Jack differently. But I felt that we should have been having a discussion about dual flags instead. I wrote about my views early on in the debate, asserting my preference for dual flags and my reasons for it. You can read that post here.

I am not offering up any new perspective either. Māori groups have been calling for dual flags and ascribing equal status to the tino rangatiratanga flag since achieving recognition as the national Māori flag in 2009 following a nationwide consultation process. I am simply attempting to advance this kaupapa alongside those who have long been championing this change and in support of those who have also been calling for this since the flag referendum began.

It’s important to note here that some Māori do not recognise the tino flag as the national Māori flag. Instead preferring the United Tribes flag (the first official flag of New Zealand) or their own independent hapū/iwi flag. So we need to discuss as independent hapū/iwi and urban roopu whether we can unite ‘under the korowai of kōtahitanga’ (as Hon. Te Ururoa Flavell calls it) to take our struggle to the next level and place Māori sovereignty at the forefront of this country’s political discourse. Additionally, whether we can agree to do this under this symbol of tino rangatiratanga.

As a sidenote, I am mindful of how our values as Māori are shared and also distinct, adaptable and variable. How we prioritise which values will direct our dialogues are deeply personal. We form them, and they are shaped through what we bring to the discussion as individuals and through our place in our different collectives. In my observation, many of our disagreements fuse around our competing tikanga priorities and the resulting tensions expose what appear to be disagreements about what these values mean, or how we interpret them in a contemporary context.

I imagine it was no easy feat for those who negotiated and lobbied to get the tino flag recognised by the government as an important step in acknowledging the partnership that was intended as forming out of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and credit must be given to those who led that effort. However, the time is ripe for a more ambitious attempt to achieve equal status of our flag, moving from symbolic to constitutional recognition and preserving the mana of this flag as we ramp up our drive for mana motuhake and forge our path to reassert tino rangatiratanga.

 

 

 

 

About Asians. Again.

On occasion, my American friends wonder out loud to me: “Is there racism in New Zealand?” It’s a great story. Sure, I tell them. In recent years, our centre-left party’s been running on anti-Asian rhetoric, allowing our governing centre-right party to take the moral high ground. The shock on their faces is priceless. The right, the moral high ground against racism? Isn’t that the wrong way round?

That’s only half the story, of course. Labour vehemently denies that it’s racist. But then, so do Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. No-one thinks they’re racist, because everyone thinks racism is bad, and no-one thinks they’re bad. And anyway, personally, I try to avoid using the word “racist” as a shortcut for criticism. I just think it’s lazy, like the phrase “politically correct”. I mean, sure, Andrew Little’s words seem to target certain groups of people. Sure, that probably makes people of those races feel a little bit upset. But the real question is whether those opinions are justified, or policies sound. That was the stance I took towards their housing “analysis” last July: that I would look past the race relations, and towards the statistics. (I concluded their conclusions were bogus.)

What, then, do I take of this most recent episode about chefs?

Here’s the problem. Labour can say as much as it likes that its anti-foreigner policies “aren’t about race”. It can be proudly nationalist without being racist. It can publish policies that don’t mention the words “Chinese” or “Asian” once, and just refer to “foreign” or “non-residents”. It would apply just as much to Canadians as to Croatians as to Chinese. I get the concept, really, I do.

But when their rhetoric consistently centres around the Chinese, it’s very hard to take their pleas of race-neutrality seriously. In the 2014 election campaign, they constantly made reference to investors from China. When they talked about housing last July, they focussed, again, on Chinese buyers. This isn’t some sort of one-off out-of-context quoting. This is a theme in Labour’s rhetoric, and it’s been going on for years, long preceding Mr Little’s leadership. Their policy might be race-neutral, sure. But their rhetoric most certainly isn’t.

And they might have noticed that they get the same reactionevery time. Mr Little can plead about how “baffling” it is that his comments “may have offended anyone”. But I mean, really? After what happened last time, and the time before? I realise that people are often misconstrued, and I empathise. But there’s a limit to how many times you can plead this before you should probably start wondering if it’s actually you.

Personally, I’d rather that we threw this whole anti-foreigner sentiment out altogether. But if non-racist anti-foreign sentiment is going to be a cornerstone of Labour Party policy, I have a challenge for Labour. Next time a Canadian investor strikes a $1 billion deal, or an American company increases its stake in our third-largest forestry estate, or just any time Canada, America, Australia or Europe do any of their 59% of all foreign direct investment, or America does any of its 46% of all land acquisitions by foreigners (both statistics from 2013–2014)—would they mind making some noise about how Canadians or Americans are taking opportunities away from hard-working Kiwis?

It’d still take some work to convince me that a New Zealand economy less open to the world would be better off. But I’d at least be able to take them seriously when they try to tell me their desire to reduce immigration and foreign investment holds for all foreigners equally.

TRIGGER WARNINGS AREN’T INTENDED FOR EDUCATED SNOWFLAKES & CONSERVATIVE BIGOTS

TW: This post includes a link to Sonny Bill Williams’ tweet that includes graphic images of two dead children.

By Ellipsister, Co-Editor

Should graphic images posted on social media be accompanied by a trigger warning? Are trigger warnings being overused by educated snowflakes and conservative bigots to avoid their views being challenged? This post briefly explores the importance of trigger warnings to ensure trauma survivors are not involuntarily exposed to triggering material.

Sonny Bill Williams (SBW) tweeted two pictures of dead children to over 554k followers on Twitter. His tweet was retweeted 1,333 times and liked by 1,550 accounts.[1] His post elicited mixed responses. As far as I can see most of it was positive. The odd few criticised his lack of a TW (trigger warning), while others claimed his tweet disrespected the dead, and others just couldn’t stomach the graphic nature of the content.

While the conversation has been taking place in Universities and various circles around the world, the concept of TW’s is still relatively unknown in Aotearoa, unless you’re an avid reader of feminist forums, blogs, articles etc.

Trigger warnings  were originally designed for the benefit of people with post-traumatic stress disorder. They involve a written or verbal statement warning that an article or discussion might contain triggering material for trauma survivors. Kate Manne, NY Times writes:

The idea was to flag content that depicted or discussed common causes of trauma, like military combat, child abuse, incest and sexual violence. People could then choose whether or not to engage with this material.

TW’s are about enabling people to voluntarily expose themselves to content that might evoke a strong psychological response, rather than having it imposed on them without being able to prepare themselves and thereby leading to a triggering event.

A useful analogy for TW’s was offered by Evalith on Fuck Yeah, Trigger Warnings in which she explains that being triggered is like having an allergic reaction.

The analogy in brief is that both triggering and allergies are involuntary reactions to particular stimuli both varying in degrees from minor to severe. While an allergy is physical, triggering is psychological. And just as food labels provide allergy warnings, so too should content that we know could potentially trigger an involuntary psychological response grounded in past trauma.

The SBW tweet has highlighted that some people view TW’s as censorship. This is kind of true, but it’s not of suppression lineage. It is soft-censoring that enables trauma survivors the choice to decide if they will voluntarily expose themselves to potentially triggering content. TW discourse is not without its critics but I cannot see how having a well functioning empathy barometer is squawked at as coddling of the mind.

The question then is should SBW have used a TW with his tweet? The short answer in my view is yes. But including a TW is dependent on a couple of things:

  • the person knowing that TW’s are a thing; and
  • understanding what they are and why they’re important.

The learning for us all is in future then is to perhaps think about our content and note that it doesn’t take too many characters to say TW: dead children (adjusted accordingly). If you’re unsure, here’s a list of common examples on when to use TW’s. It’s also useful for Twitter users who don’t want to automatically see image previews, to disable this feature.

Responsibility for content is not one-sided given the nature of the platforms we choose to use. But a simple TW can potentially save a person from reliving their trauma – whatever it may be.

Mike McRoberts offered a relevant perspective regarding SBW’s tweet too in that it was intended to make us all uncomfortable. While there is certainly truth in that for the majority of us who have not experienced living in a war zone, or under violent oppressive rule, and who don’t put to much thought into overseas conflicts, it does overlooks the very real experiences of trauma survivors. Discomfort and triggers are not synonymous.

For the record, I don’t think we should be hammering SBW hard for not including a TW. However, I do agree that as an internationally renowned sports star, and a UNICEF Ambassador that SBW has a responsibility to recognise that some of his followers may be Syrian refugees, or trauma survivors who have had similar experiences and that those pictures might trigger a severe emotional response in them, whether he intended that or not.

We need to be clear though: TW’s should never become the default for over-educated progressive snowflakes or impossibly conservative bigots who just want to avoid exposure to material that challenges their prevailing views. TW’s serve a specific purpose the co-option and degradation of which would be incredibly harmful for freedom of thought and expression. Like I said above – responsibility for content is not one sided but a TW is not too big of an ask especially when it is of no consequence to those of us unaffected, but of huge benefit to trauma survivors.

 

[1] Last checked 30 December 2015, at 14:37.

Recounting why I left school

By Ellipsister, Co-Editor

Aaron Smale at Mana Magazine wrote a conversation starting article on the PPTA and what he argues is its failure to date to lift achievement of Māori students. As a Māori school leaver, I sympathise with his argument.

I left school exactly the day I turned 16 and was therefore legally allowed to drop out. My Dad was livid and I could tell he was also deeply disappointed. I enrolled in a couple of tech courses in art and design. Turns out, I wasn’t particularly talented – nor committed. My attendance rate was appalling. Eventually I completed a hairdressing course (and worked as a hairdresser for a few years). It seemed the thing to do – and I was obsessed with creating my own identity.

On reflection that speaks to the struggle I endured throughout my life – was I Māori or Pākehā (Mum is Māori, Dad is Pākehā)? For years I refused to identify as Māori because of all the negative stereotypes that were thrust on me. And also my schooling experience taught me it was better to identify with my Pākehā heritage, than with my Māori heritage. Although, that was a tight rope to walk given I was so obviously brown. It has taken me my entire adult life to disentangle those colonising notions.

Why did I leave school?

When I was 11, I had wanted to be a Lawyer or a Cardiac Surgeon. I was a pretty good student and believed that I could do it. Before you think I had a sweet as home environment – I didn’t. I’m not going to divulge details. Those dreams of becoming a Lawyer or Surgeon were my escape from the poverty trap. I also had supportive teachers that invested time in my learning.

Life changed just as I started High School. I had stability at home for the first time in a long time – but sadly that came with some drawbacks, that one day I may open up about here, but not yet.

I struggled in my first year – I did ok, but not great. I remember feeling like a massive failure. The next year my grades got progressively worse and I started acting out and got into trouble a few times. By the time I got to School C, I was completely lost. I couldn’t actually comprehend what was being asked of me. I didn’t understand how to think. I didn’t dare ask for help, for fear of being told I was dumb – and actually, I’d never been taught how to ask for help. During my time at High School not once did any of my teachers take me aside to see how I was doing and if I needed help with any of my work. I was simply ignored. I wasn’t one of those boisterous students. I was a nobody with nothing constructive or insightful to offer. I was mediocre and lost sight of all my aspirations. A piece of paper with a few letter grades, and a brief comment about me being ‘a quiet student’ was the extent of their feedback. As if somehow I wasn’t self-aware of my quietness. It is in fact, crippling shyness – a trait that I struggle with daily.

So I left school because in my mind, I was too hopeless to achieve the grades I needed to get into University. When some of my friends left (to pursue hairdressing apprenticeships) or dropped out to do a tech course, I followed suit.  I had lost complete faith and confidence in my ability to achieve in that environment.  Sure, I had gotten through School C but barely. I did half of sixth form and on my 16th birthday cleared out my locker and left. Also, I had become increasingly truant – hiding out at a friend’s house, so I imagine I was getting pretty close to suspension or expulsion.

Now, I get that the system failed me. And while I can appreciate that in many cases teachers are under-resourced and overworked – my experience was not just about that. There was no effort by teachers at my High School to try to understand the lived experiences of urban Māori in the small white provincial town I grew up in. Not once, did a High School teacher give me some hope that I was capable of achieving my aspirations. Instead, I sat in class feeling like the walking talking stereotype that I was labelled as in the primary school playground and harassed with on the street by the local skinheads.

It absolutely was my choice to leave. But that choice was complex. I had been ground down to a point where I had zero confidence. I felt my choices were leave and save my dignity or subject myself to the utter humiliation of total failure proving right all those who had ridiculed or ignored my existence. I know now how wrong that all sounds. But those were my thoughts. Turns out, my giving up and leaving had pretty much the same effect.

So the point I see Smale make is that despite the long history of involvement of the PPTA in the education system, a disproportionate number of Māori schooling and education experiences are not positive and this has an effect on our mana. I don’t blame the PPTA for the outcomes of Māori, but I certainly question the monopolising of teaching (gatekeeping) and the ‘qualification requirement’ for a function or role that our tīpuna and many others throughout history have performed ‘unqualified’.

My view on this will likely infuriate those with a vested interest in the ‘qualification’ aspect of teaching. Do I think just anyone can teach? Absolutely not. I would certainly encourage safety checking to ensure students aren’t put at risk. I would also think employers of ‘unqualified’ teachers would ensure that those applying to teach were recognised as competent to do so by their peers. Noting, there are some subjects in which I consider it is inappropriate to require a formal qualification, especially with regard to Te Reo me ōna Tikanga Māori. Many of our kuia, koroua and rangatira have years of experience transferring that knowledge – and in a culturally appropriate way. I also think someone who has worked in a particular field, who has a strong practical understanding of a subject and has demonstrated strong leadership and mentoring in their roles could also make good teachers.

Yes, I get that a teaching qualification sets a professional standard that teachers are expected to comply with and there are absolutely benefits in that, in particular accountability. I disagree however that only teachers with a qualification will adhere to those professional standards. Sure there is a risk of rogue unqualified teachers, but the same is true of qualified teachers.

I said this on Twitter and will repeat here: I have no interest in pursuing a socialist versus capitalist narrative. My interest is in finding ways that will enable Māori to be designers of our own solutions – no matter what system we have because in my mind, this is one of the key ways we can exercise our tino rangatiratanga to improve outcomes for all our whānau.

When we can build alternative social institutions that are not reliant on the State (our oppressor) and not susceptible to the corruptive practices of corporatisation (our exploiter), then we can begin to dismantle the disparity. Dismantling began with the Kura Kaupapa and Kohanga Reo movement. It’s about time the State and gatekeepers recognise the legitimacy of our epistemologies and pedagogies and stop perpetuating the myth that mainstream approaches are superior to our indigenous practices. Its time for Māori to advance that movement further.

 

Note: 

I went to University at 23 when my first baby was 18 months old. The first year was really hard. I didn’t even know how to write an introduction for an essay. Since then, I have completed a conjoint BA/LLB, my law Profs and an LLM with First Class Honours. LOL at those teachers and all those people who didn’t believe in me.

 

“Go back to where you came from.”

When I was 9 years old, I went to a friend’s house to play Age of Empires. Some of his extended family happened to be there at the time, and his step-father asked me “where are you from?” Truthfully, I answered “Birkenhead”, the suburb where I lived. His response was “Don’t you be cheeky, where are you actually from?” Confused, I answered “Here?” Suddenly, he held me in a headlock and shouted “you bloody well know what I mean, where are you from?” The sounds of laughter from the rest of the room rang in my ears. I managed to mumble something like “my parents are from Taiwan.” He let go and said “that wasn’t that hard, was it?”

When I was 13 years old, I was a patrol leader at my local scout troop. One of the other scouts was sitting on an empty wooden box and swinging his legs against the sides, creating a lot of noise. I asked him to stop because the constant banging was making me uncomfortable and a little bit anxious. He said “you can’t tell me what to do, this is my country.” I had to go sit somewhere else.

When I was 15 years old, I was sitting in math class at the desk closest to the door. It was open, and a breeze was blowing in. While the class was working on some exercises, I asked the teacher if I could close the door because I was getting a bit cold. He said “If you think it’s too cold maybe you should go back to Asia.” I replied with “I was born here” and shut the door. When I later told a friend that racism was well and alive within our school she told me to “stop being ridiculous”.

I am relatively lucky because I live in comparatively multicultural Auckland, study and work in an environment where immigrants outnumber non-immigrants, and nowadays am largely safe and isolated from these sorts of interactions. Ron Mark’s comments during the first reading of the Shop Trading Hours Amendment Bill brought all the memories rushing back. He told Melissa Lee “if you do not like New Zealand, go back to Korea.” I sat in a laboratory quietly seething, unable to do any work. I don’t like these memories. I don’t like sharing these memories either, but maybe this can demonstrate to some people why the statement to go back to where you came from is offensive. I cannot bear to imagine what life must be like for migrants living in less ethnically tolerant areas of the country.

We cannot simply write this off as more of the same from New Zealand First. This is a party that has been polling between 5 and 9 percent. That’s a sizeable chunk of the electorate that believes in this party. 67% of respondents on a RadioLIVE poll said that Ron Mark’s comments were not racist. Every time any of our elected representatives engage in this kind of rhetoric, it signals to the population that this behaviour is okay. To be clear, that time Maggie Barry told Russel Norman to go back to Australia was just as wrong. But let me also say that just because one side was racist, that doesn’t give the other side free license to say whatever they want. An eye for an eye only makes the world go blind.

For Ron Mark’s NZ First colleagues to back him up only further reiterates that this behaviour is apparently okay. Winston Peters said that any claims of racism were “poppycock”. Barbara Stewart said that the comment was not racist and was “taken out of context” (when his comments were very much in the context of a racist speech targeting public holidays in Korea and India and implying that these other countries have too many public holidays; in fact his entire speech was laced with derision and offence). Pita Paraone said “it was said in the heat of the moment as part of the theatre of Parliament.” None of these statements are anywhere near satisfactory for a parliament that seeks to represent an increasingly multicultural nation. The closest we got was Tracey Martin saying “it’s not a statement I would have made.”

I can appreciate that Ron Mark didn’t like being told that New Zealand should “grow up”. That’s possibly a fair point to make (just because other people do it overseas doesn’t necessarily mean we should do it here), but the way he addressed that point was completely wrong. Never mind that the claims made by Ron Mark about public holidays in Korea and India and shops being closed were factually wrong anyway. As Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi said, “Your knowledge is totally zero … on any religious day in India, on a holiday, shops open.” It’s the fact that his approach makes migrants feel unwelcome, that their opinions are not valid, that they should just “shut up and conform” that is deeply problematic.

Ron Mark makes it clear that Lee and Bakshi are not real New Zealanders when he says in his speech “while we know certain people are toeing the National Party line like a little bunch of whipped puppies, back in their world they would never, ever dare stand up and say this.” His use of “back in their world” effectively says that the fact that Lee and Bakshi have been in New Zealand for 27 and 14 years respectively is worth nothing. “Go back to where you came from” is a phrase that has always been loaded with xenophobia, and I really don’t see a context where it could be used to mean anything other than “you’re not welcome because you’re not from here.”

It doesn’t matter to me that Ron Mark was directing his statement at migrants and I was born here. The common racist usually doesn’t take the time to establish my place of birth. His comments to “go back where you came from” were of the same vein as statements directed at me throughout my childhood that made me feel as if I did not belong. The intolerance and xenophobia is an ugly side of New Zealand that degrades the experience of living in this country for many. I’m sick and tired of hearing it from our MPs. They should simply be better.

In my opinion Dame Susan Devoy has been doing a great job in her role as the Race Relations Commissioner in giving some marginalised groups a high-profile voice. Earlier today she said “Kiwis born overseas have a right to a say over the country they call home, where they work, vote, pay taxes and contribute: overseas born Kiwis are not second class citizens who have fewer rights than other New Zealanders… We’re at a crossroads when it comes to race relations, we either get on with each other, and lead the world in race relations: or we take pleasure in prejudice and leave our children with a race relations crisis to deal with, it’s up to us.”

When the current generation of parliamentarians put their prejudice on display as Ron Mark did on Tuesday, it makes me feel like I shouldn’t participate because my voice is not valid. Personally, I would actually quite like the shops to be open over Easter. It would be a lot more convenient, and if someone wants to stay closed for religious reasons they can stay closed. I guess if I don’t like it the way it is now, then I should go back home… to Auckland. I’m grateful to the various people, both in and outside of the House, who have criticised the comments and refused to let it slide. It helps me to feel a bit of hope that one day this type of racism and xenophobia can be eliminated. It strengthens my resolve to stay here and try to make New Zealand a better place.

There was a small ray of humour arising from all of this for me. When the clip of Ron Mark came on the news, my Irish flatmate who moved to New Zealand recently was shocked. “Oh my god. Is that the Prime Minister?” Thankfully, thankfully not.