Conversations on Tangata Whenua and Asian solidarity

I moved to Australia seven years ago from Aotearoa New Zealand. I’m pleased that old friends remember me despite the Tasman sea (Te Tai-o-Rēhua) between us (a so called “marginal sea” of the Pacific Ocean (Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa). I was chuffed to accept the invitation from Asians Supporting Tino Rangatiratanga to be on a panel: Conversations on Tangata Whenua and Asian solidarity with Tze Ming Mok, Aaryn Hulme-Niuapu, Sue Gee, Arama Rata, me and Sina Brown-Davis.

This session will be an exploration of the experiences of tangata whenua and Asian activists who are working toward decolonisation and how we can strengthen cross-cultural solidarity against colonialism and racism. We will reflect on learnings of the past and imagine ways that we can move forward together to a just future.

As part of a phenomenal four day program in the fifth Social Movements, Resistance, and Social Change Conference: Activating Collectivity: Aroha and Power hosted online and in Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington).

It engages with the ongoing question of how we honour Indigenous knowledges, learn from the spirit and tikanga animating struggles, and work in genuine togetherness for the deep structural change that our planet and people urgently need. This year’s theme also provides space for responding to social issues and movements as they continue to unfold around us. In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, for instance, ‘Activating Collectivity: Aroha and Power’ also engages with questions of how we situate ourselves as allies and accomplices, confront racism within and between our communities, and expand our networks and solidarities. Our theme asks how our imaginings of collectivity, aroha, and power have been activated and constrained, and how we can extend them as a basis for liberation.

Photo taken at march on Queen St, Auckland, 2012.

One of the questions we engaged in as a panel was about our entry point into this kaupapa of Tangata Whenua and Asian solidarity. This took me down memory lane. It began with helping fund raise for the Hoani Waititi Marae in the late seventies when my family moved to West Auckland from Nairobi, Kenya.

Photo of the Maori cookbook I sold to help fundraise for an urban marae.

Most of my experiences with tangata whenua were through Pākehā institutions. In the eighties when I was doing my nursing education at AUT, I joined a trip to the Ureweras and enjoyed regular noho marae at Hato Petera school for boys, across the road from the Akoranga campus. However, most of my experiences didn’t really help me make sense of my place in the colonial sandwich (Avtar Brah). It’s only when I started reading Xicana feminism like This Bridge called my back, Black feminists like Audre Lorde and bell hooks, that I started developing a vocabulary for my own experiences. Thank goodness for theory. In 2004 I set up the Aotearoa Ethnic Network email list and then a journal with the brilliant artistic and design talents of Andy Williamson as a way of problematising the unique to New Zealand term to describe people who are neither Maori, Pākehā or Tangata Pasifika. As Tze Ming quipped in the webinar “before we had a group for ethnics”. From this network, we also developed a journal and you can see some of the covers from the issues below. I’m going to revamp my website soon so will share the archive and contents in full.

Back in the day (2012) Philipa K Smith used a case study from AEN in her PhD and a subsequent publication: New Zealanders on the Net: Discourses of National Identities in Cyberspace. Smith used a discourse-historical approach of critical discourse analysis, emphasising the role of power and ideology in the construction of identities.

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I also helped develop the Tangata Tiriti interactive workbook in 2006 which has accurate information about the Treaty of Waitangi in plain English for migrants. I’ve also written an essay for Tangatawhenua.com for the Are we there yet? series, a prelude to the election in November 2011, with a focus on the ‘wish list’ of Generation Xers; their hopes, dreams, aspirations and vision for New Zealand society. I wrote:

I began this piece by talking about my family’s welcome to New Zealand through consumer capitalism at Foodtown. On reflection, the supermarket is an apt metaphor for migration, both for the visibility and promise of its products and for the invisibility of its processes. Neoliberal narratives of individualism and ‘choice’ render invisible both the dispossession of the local and Indigenous and the economic imbalance necessary for the movement of goods and people to the West in order for capitalism to flourish. Yet if these two aspects of migration were made visible, in the same way that more ethical consumptive practices are becoming a feature of contemporary life then other kinds of relationships might be made possible. In the case of ethnic communities, direct negotiation with Maori for a space where Indigenous Maori claims for tino rangatiratanga, sovereignty and authority are supported while the mana of newcomers to Aotearoa is upheld hold promise.

Thanks friends Menghzu Fu and Kirsty the chance to do some walking down memory lane and also to consider what kind of future I might be able to contribute to both in Aotearoa where my family still live and here on the unceded lands of the people of the Kulin Nation.

Women of Colour ‘in’ academia: Political creativity and (im)possibilities of solidarity

This week has been a biggie with lots of zoom presentations, all of which were marvellous. The fabulous and thoughtful Lutfiye Ali gathered Shakira Hussein, Denise Chapman, Torika Bolatagici, Jesica S. Fernández and I together to talk solidarities in academia.

Abstract:

Expressions of embodied political creativity and radical being of and for solidarities of resistance have been long described by African American, Global South, decolonial, Indigenous and other women of colour scholar activists (e.g., Hill Collins, 2002; hooks, 2000; Grande, 2000; Lorde, 1984; Lugones, 1987; Moraga, 1983; Smith, 1999; Wynter, 2003;). Gloria Anzaldua (1990) writes:

A woman-of-color who writes poetry or paints or dances or makes movies knows there is no escape from race or gender when she is writing or painting. She can’t take of her color and sex and leave them at the door of her study or studio. Nor can she leave behind her history. Art is about identity, among other things, and her creativity is political.

As Women of Colour, this way of thinking about identity and knowledge inspires us to ask how we see our own positions in the academy. How do (neo)liberal institutions receive the voices and knowledges of racialized women? How do we co-create safe and enabling spaces for embodied knowledge production that is inherently political? What are ways in which we resist, disrupt, and transform intersecting vectors of inequality? Through these conversations, we will not only name heteropatriarchial and institutionalized racism through which the women of Colour and their labour are tokenised, appropriated, co-opted and silenced in academia, we will also identify the moments for forging and fostering solidarities of resistance, belonging and social change. We seek new spaces of knowledge production that are agentic, productive, disruptive while driving change for and with the communities through which we each engage our work. This discussion panel offers a way to think about ‘political creativity’ and generative possibilities for forging solidarities of resistance and belonging.

Screenshot of the panellists on a computer screen.
The panellists: Screenshot by Torika Bolatagici.


2020 International Conference of Community Psychology at Victoria University had as its theme celebrating and interrogating “how solidarities are fostered and sustained within community contexts, across borders and boundaries, digital and non-digital spaces, and through process of knowledge production. Importantly the conference aimed to provide a critical platform for ideas and work emerging from coalitions with practitioners, artists, educators, activists, and diverse communities.

We need more than diversity in nursing.

I wrote a piece for the Spring 2018 edition (Issue 23) of the Hive (the Australian College of Nursing’s quarterly publication). Cite as:DeSouza, R. (2018). Is it enough? :Why we need more than diversity in nursing. The Hive (23, 14-15). You can also download a pdf of the article for your own personal use.

Diversity is a hopeful, positive and celebratory idea, it generates more happiness than words like inequity, racism and privilege. It feels good for a large number of people precisely because it is depoliticized (Hall & Fields, 2013). It does not demand accountability. It does not demand transformational change of our minds or our environment, but requests that we continue to put up with difference or to tolerate it (Bell & Hartmann, 2007). What does it mean for our profession to be diverse? And is it enough?

Is it enough, when we have a yawning chasm of health inequity and disparity, of deaths in custody, of punitive policy aimed at Aboriginal Australians? Is it enough, in an era of devastating Islamophobia and racism enabled by nationalist right wing xenophobia? Is it enough, when politicians challenge group-based rights and argue that they undermine social cohesion and “our way of life”, maligning and scapegoating already vulnerable groups like African youth. Is it enough, when media only catapult the spectacular and exceptional into our view. Is it enough, when the entire world is condemning Australia’s abhorrent offshore policy of deterrence and detention. Yes, we need to recognise difference, but we must also understand how differences are connected to inequalities. As Mohanty observes: “diversity by passes power as well as history to suggest a harmonious and empty pluralism” (Mohanty, 2003, p. 193).

We might be ticking the diversity boxes and celebrating diversity — whether in University brochures and websites or on Harmony Day — but do our combined activities address health disparities? The problems of inequity and disparity are bigger than us but we can be accountable for the parts we play in larger political struggles. For a politics of equity, we also need to consider race, disability, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, and religion and integrate these into our analyses of our social world. We need to expand the frames we use to look beyond individual behaviour and to consider social and systemic issues, and call for systematic interventions to address inequity. ‘Celebrating’ cultural difference isn’t the same as action, as fighting for justice. As (Perron, 2013) notes, nurses can be both caring for individuals and advocating for the collective rights to equitable care, they aren’t mutually exclusive.

Diversity assumes that care is still a neutral technical activity
As nursing emerged from being a class of handmaidens to the medical system to the dynamic profession it is today, we have understood it to become an intellectual, cultural and contextual activity. This means it is also a political activity (De Souza, 2014). Nursing is connected to systems of power and privilege. Nurses and clients bring multiple ways of being in the world into the world of care and yet we only privilege some of these ways of being. Iris Marion Young describes oppression as being “the disadvantage and injustice some people suffer not because of a tyrannical power coerces them but because of the everyday practices of a well-intentioned liberal society…” (Young, 1990, p. 41). There continue to be clear links between institutional bias in health care systems and health disparities (Hall & Fields, 2013). Let’s ask ourselves what practices we enact every day that contribute to inequity?

Diversity maintains whiteness at its core
In diversity talk in nursing there’s an assumed white centre with difference added. White people are conceived as the hosts and people of color viewed as guests and the perspectives of Indigenous people are erased. Allen (2006, pp. 1–2) calls this the ‘white supremacy’ of nursing education: an assimilationist agenda that converts diverse groups people into a singular kind of nurse, which can then add ‘others’ into the mainstream to create a multicultural environment. But, this addition reinforces rather than displaces whiteness from the centre of structures and processes of educational or clinical institutions (p.66). It’s important that we focus on whether nurses reflect the communities that they serve. But representation in the workforce doesn’t mean that the people who are culturally different have a voice in the corridors of power. There are questions also about “who’s at the decision-making table and who’s not. And what’s on the agenda and what’s not” (Brian Raymond, 2016).

Diversity focuses on sensitivity and respect rather than on the social and historical
Race and racism are determinants of health inequities (Krieger, 2014) therefore it follows that a key area where nurses could intervene is to address discrimination. It is inadequate for us to provide individualised sensitive and respectful care while ignoring the historical and structural conditions that shape health and healthcare. As nurses, we understand more than most that life is an uneven playing field – we need to bring this knowledge to the way we work as a profession. Cultural sensitivity and awareness tend to assume that racism is “out there”, rather than something that is also enacted within healthcare systems. Our claims to colorblindness reinforce the problem, as” treating people the same” doesn’t take into account their differing needs, which is one definition of what care is.

Spotted at my local market

Creating a meaningful diverse and multicultural nursing profession
in an era where both patient populations and the nursing workforce are becoming more diverse, where are the spaces for nurses to talk about both institutional and societal racism and how they impact on care? How can nurses broaden their focus from the micro-level to see the big picture, especially when they labor in unstable and under-resourced working environments (Allan, 2017)? Nurse educators must confront our own resistance to teaching about race and racism (Bond & Others, 2017) – the recent debates about the inclusion of cultural safety into the Nursing and Midwifery Codes of Conduct reflect now far we have to go. Our curricula must more explicitly embed anticolonial and intersectional perspectives into learning experiences in order to prepare nurses for not only understanding how structural inequities affect health but also for the skills to counter them (Blanchet Garneau, Browne, & Varcoe, 2016; Thorne, 2017; Varcoe, Browne, & Cender, 2014). In Australia, the Indigenous Health Curriculum Framework developed by the Committee of Deans of Australian Medical Schools, recognised the critical need to teach students about racism. In particular, it asks us to see the connection between history and current health outcomes; to be able to identify features of overt, subtle and structural racism or discrimination and to be able to address and help resolve these occurrences.

Viewing nursing as a neutral, universal activity where appreciation, sensitivity and respect are adequate, prevents us from considering nursing as a political activity where power is at play. Conversely, embedding an understanding of the historical, structural and systemic factors that shape health, into our practice will allow us to create a meaningfully inclusive – and more caring – profession. This however, requires courage, commitment and accountability. Do we have it?

References

Allan, H. (2017). Editorial: Ethnocentrism and racism in nursing: reflections on the Brexit vote. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 26(9-10), 1149–1151.
Allen, D. G. (2006). Whiteness and difference in nursing. Nursing Philosophy: An International Journal for Healthcare Professionals, 7(2), 65–78.
Bell, J. M., & Hartmann, D. (2007). Diversity in Everyday Discourse: The Cultural Ambiguities and Consequences of “Happy Talk.” American Sociological Review, 72(6), 895–914.
Blanchet Garneau, A., Browne, A. J., & Varcoe, C. (2016). Integrating social justice in health care curriculum: Drawing on antiracist approaches toward a critical antidiscriminatory pedagogy for nursing. Sydney: International Critical Perspectives in Nursing and Healthcare. Google Scholar. Retrieved from http://sydney.edu.au/nursing/pdfs/critical-perspectives/blanchet-garneau-browne-varcoe-integrating-social-justice-2.pdf
Bond, C., & Others. (2017). Race and racism: Keynote presentation: Race is real and so is racism-making the case for teaching race in indigenous health curriculum. LIME Good Practice Case Studies Volume 4, 5.
Brian Raymond, M. P. H. (2016, August 2). How Racism Makes People Sick: A Conversation with Camara Phyllis Jones, MD, MPH, PhD | Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Policy. Retrieved August 17, 2018, from https://www.kpihp.org/how-racism-makes-people-sick-a-conversation-with-camara-phyllis-jones-md-mph-phd/
De Souza, R. (2014). What does it mean to be political? Retrieved August 21, 2018, from http://www.ruthdesouza.com/2014/08/03/what-does-it-mean-to-be-political/
Hall, J. M., & Fields, B. (2013). Continuing the conversation in nursing on race and racism. Nursing Outlook, 61(3), 164–173.
Krieger, N. (2014). Discrimination and health inequities. International Journal of Health Services: Planning, Administration, Evaluation, 44(4), 643–710.
Mohanty, C. T. (2003). “Under Western Eyes” Revisited: Feminist Solidarity through Anticapitalist Struggles. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 28(2), 499–535.
Perron, A. (2013). Nursing as “disobedient” practice: care of the nurse’s self, parrhesia, and the dismantling of a baseless paradox. Nursing Philosophy: An International Journal for Healthcare Professionals, 14(3), 154–167.
Thorne, S. (2017). Isn’t it high time we talked openly about racism? Nursing Inquiry, 24(4). https://doi.org/10.1111/nin.12219
Varcoe, C., Browne, A., & Cender, L. (2014). Promoting social justice and equity by practicing nursing to address structural inequities and structural violence. Philosophies and Practices of Emancipatory Nursing: Social Justice as Praxis, Eds PN Kagan, MC Smith and PL Chinn, 266–285.
Young, I. M. (1990). Throwing Like a Girl and Other Essays in Feminist Philosophy and Social Theory. Monograph Collection (Matt – Pseudo).

A level playing field? Sport and racism

At the weekend it was my parents’ wedding anniversary. They got married in Dar es Salaam and one of the distinguishing features of their wedding was the hockey stick “guard of honour” that their friends created for them outside the church after the service (my Mum played hockey for Tanzania). The family capability and Goan cultural propensity to excel at sport (take Seraphino Antao the first Kenyan athlete to win a gold medal at the 1962 Commonwealth Games) skipped right past me. Mostly I enjoy the social, political and cultural issues in relation to sport like the national anthems, the medals and the underdog winning. The recent completion of a PhD (yes really) has also given me some confidence and time to begin to explore questions like the neocolonial exploitation of African players by European football clubs and how raw materials in the form of players are sourced, refined and exported for consumption and wealth generation in Europe leaving the African periphery impoverished. But that’s another blogpost. This post is about racism and sport, but I needed to do a geneaological manouevre and trace my own relationship with sport through my experience of being a Goan via East Africa now resident in Aotearo New Zealand. I’ve mapped some of the ways in which sport has been mobilised such as the re-shaping of personhood for colonised peoples and in turn the ways in which western sport has been appropriated by diasporic and marginalised communities as a form of resistance. I then talk about the prevalence of racism in sport, the contributing factors and what can be done.

Photo of Goans in Dar es Salaam via Jo Birkmeyer-submitted to Mervyn A Lobo’s blog 

The establishment of sport in colonial contexts was linked with Western Christian church activity and colonialism. Sports were introduced to meet both the needs of churches and colonial governments in transforming bodies into desirable shapes and capabilities so imperial reform could be undertaken by locals thereby creating physical and moral reform against existing less palatable indigenous norms. Games like cricket and football were intended to reinforce the superiority of colonial culture and transmit a particular moral order and values that were seen lacking in the colonised group such as team spirit, commitment, the sacrifice of individual aspirations to the group, bravery and so forth. Particular versions of masculinity were also being promulgated in a context where many Asian men were seen as effeminate.

In the diaspora, Goans formed clubs and institutions replicating village ties and loyalties back home which helped to allay loneliness, cultural alienation and the challenges of navigating a new country. In 1921 it was estimated that almost half a million Goans lived in Goa, Dama and Diu and that up to 200,000 Goans lived in British India, East Africa or Mesopotamia (James Mills, 2002). One quarter of that number lived in Bombay. Expatriate sports confirmed ties with the homeland, created a sense of community and provided an oasis from the demands of navigating belonging in racially stratified communities. Every Saturday after mass at the Holy Family Cathedral in Nairobi my parents would make their way with us to the Railway Goan Institute founded in 1909 which later became the Railway Institute in 1967. I have great memories of hurtling around (we seemed to do a lot of running along those wooden floors) and being spoiled rotten by my parent’s friends who would provide us with bottomless supplies of coke and crisps. Goans in Kenya also formed other clubs like The Goan Institute Mombasa in 1901, Goan Institute Nairobi in 1905 and the Goan Gymkhana in 1936 with sports an important focus of diasporic life.

Closer to where I live now in New Zealand, Indians in Wellington formed their own hockey team in 1936, which also marked the year that the Auckland Indian Sports Club (AISC) was established.

Photo reproduced with permission from Te Ara. Original article: Nancy Swarbrick. ‘Indians’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 1-Sep-11
URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/indians/5/5

Many other communities also made sport a focus of their activities, for example the New Zealand Chinese Association Annual Sports Tournament (AKA Easter Tournament) started in 1947 and runs every Easter Weekend. It consists of a sports tournament and cultural event for Chinese members and competitive sports like basketball, volley ball, touch rugby, netball, lawn bowls and golf are enjoyed. Similarly pan-ethnic events like the Ethnic Soccer Cup at the Auckland International Cultural festival are eagerly awaited and full of good natured fun and tough competition.

Photo by the Localist

Sport seemingly offers a transcendent space, where cohesion and connection is possible not only within and across diasporic communities, but also across dominant and minority communities. A phrase bandied around frequently last year was the way in which hosting the Rugby World cup in New Zealand “brought us together as a nation”.  Who of us will ever forget the ferocious and irrepressible passion of the Tongan community in New Zealand supporting their team? I love the ideal that sport can be a place where people with diverse interests, histories and values can be unified in one setting. I’ve watched with growing feelings of warmth the ways in which our Pacific players have infused “the game” of rugby with flair and energy and increased the ratio of tattoos, dreadlocks and eye-liner.

This illusion that sport can be a connecting force is challenged in Sara Ahmed‘s critique of the “happy” multicultural film Bend it Like Beckham. Directed by Kenyan-born, Punjabi British filmmaker Gurinder Chadha, Ahmed suggests that the central message of the film is that “the would-be- citizen who embraces the national game is rewarded with happiness”. The feel good vibe of this film ignores the negative affects surrounding racism and unproblematically represents visibly different migrants as patriarchal, closed, traditional, fixed and unchanging. White people can be inspired and warmed by Jess’ migrant success, as she bends the ball (a metaphor for disrupting cultural barriers) without needing to feel guilty about racism. The film plays into the notion that success is the reward for integration and is also proof that racism can be overcome.

My fantasy that the arrival of the first Asian All Black will give Asians more street cred and admiration has taken a battering with the racist responses to the “Linsanity” phenomenon. Jeremy Lin, the Asian American son of Taiwanese immigrants and graduate of Harvard has experienced spectacular NBA basketball success but the headline “Chink in the Armor,” or the tweet by Jason Whitlock referring to “two inches of pain” have deeply hurt many Asian Americans. Understandable, given the limited representation of Asian Americans in mainstream media and because the blatant racism provided a barometer reading of how this group are viewed in a racially charged landscape. But as Long, Tongue, Spracklen and others have noted, we live in a racist society so why should there not be racism in sport? Racist taunts and chants at matches and the throwing of banana skins at players have been supplemented by attacks via social media adding a new viciousness. A Welsh student was recently been imprisoned for using twitter to spread racist rants about acritically ill footballer Fabrice Muamba and locally, unhappy fans took to twitter to racially denigrate Blues coach Pat Lam.

Sport media coverage contributes to inequity by not reflecting social and cultural diversity. The MARS – Media against racism in sport programme– developed by The Council of Europe and the European Union recognises the following inequalities in representation in sports news stories:

  • Gender under-representation -where women comprise only one quarter of all stories despite making up half the population.
  • Migrants making up around 10% of the EU population but representing less than 5% of the main actors in the news in Europe.
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people representing roughly 6% of the population of the United Kingdom but accounting for less than 1% of the population seen on TV.
  • 20% of the British population has an impairment or disability but less than 1% are represented on British TV.

These inequalities in sports media coverage reflect broader societal inequalities. The New Zealand Human Rights Commission’s annual review of race relations Tūi Tūi Tuituiā, Race Relations in 2011 released in March 2012 noted a “continuing degree of racial prejudice, significant racial inequalities, and the exclusion of minorities from full participation in all aspects of society”. The Commission identified racial prejudice in the form of: “negative attitudes to the Treaty, to indigenous rights, to Māori, Pacific peoples, Asians, migrants and refugees”. The report noted that these prejudices were implicated in discrimination, marginalisation, and inequalities, ultimately proving a barrier to the realisation of the social and economic benefits of diversity.

The racist soup of Pakeha media culture not only excludes particular groups but it also reproduces pathological, deficient and destructive representations of groups that are already discrimiinated against and marginalised. Take the “common sense” racism of Paul Henry, Michael Laws and Paul Holmes who all compete for New Zealand’s top racist.Take the comments by the former All Black and World cup Rugby Ambassador Andy Haden, who referred to a “three darkies”selection policy by rugby franchise The Crusaders. When Haden made an apology it was “to anyone who was offended” by the comments. He received a smack on the hand with a wet hanky from our Prime Minister John Key despite the outrage and I don’t think he had to resign. Key defended Haden’s actions as having a precedent in Paul Holmes‘ “cheeky darkie” comments in 2003. The gutless and useless Broadcasting Standards Authority refused to uphold 10 complaints over the  comments on Radio station Newstalk ZB. They acknowledged that the comments went beyond the limits of acceptability and breached broadcast standards, but they were happy that the actions taken internally by broadcaster were adequate. Thank goodness for writers with a conscience like Tapu Misa who is my only reason for continuing to purchase the morning newspaper and the long missed Karlo Mila from the Dom Post who can still remind us through her poetry that words scar.

Poster by Dudley Benson (2012)

Where there is power, there is resistance (Thanks Foucault). Racism (and anti-Semitism) in sport have also provided a space for protest and resistance. American sprinters Sam Stoller and Marty Glickman who were the only two Jews on the USA Olympic team, were pulled from their relay team on the day of the competition in the 1936 Berlin Olympics,. There was speculation that the American Olympic committee did not want two Jews to win gold medals in the context of Nazi Germany and Hitler’s Aryan pride. These are the same games where Jesse Owens won four gold medals.  Fast forward to the 1968 Olympics when Tommy Smith and John Carlos powerfully raised their fists on the podium in a Black power salute. The symbolism of this gesture referenced the black American community (black gloves); black American poverty (black socks, no shoes), black American lynching (Smith wore a scarf and Carlos a bead necklace).

Source Jonny Weeks:The Guardian

Closer to home, look at the stand many New Zealanders took against the Springbok rugby tour of 1981. 150,000 people took part in over 200 demonstrations in 28 centres and 1500 people were charged with protest related offences. The protests were in response to New Zealand opposition to the apartheid and segregation practiced in South Africa. These apartheid policies had impacted on team selection for the All Blacks, and Māori players had been excluded from touring South Africa by the New Zealand Rugby Football Union (NZRFU) until 1970. I take my inspiration from this event that “New Zealanders” might take their history into account and challenge the unacceptable comments against Pat Lam and show leadership over such behaviour.

So what are we to do about racism in sport? How can we use the values of sport, ostensibly fairness, teamwork, a fair go, equal opportunity, respect and care for each other to help us create a real level playing field, locally and globally? We can protest the sponsorship of the London Olympics by Dow (Union Carbide was merged into Dow and responsible for the tragedy at Bhopal not least 25,000 deaths and much much suffering). We can ask much more of our junk food media and not consume it as Jennifer Sybel suggests.  We can ask that the groups in our communities that are under-represented (disabled, women, LGBTQ, visibly different) get a fairer go and that  stories that purport to represent them contribute positively to our cultural and social diversity. We can take more responsibility for the actions of racist tweeters and taunters and recognise their actions come from consuming the same junk food media that we do. Rather than individualising their behaviour we can ask questions about what kind of playing field we have created and whether we want to put any effort into creating an alternative.

Illustration by Jim Sillavan for the Guardian

 

 

Contributing to Islamophobia on New Zealand radio?

This afternoon I made a complaint about the quality of public broadcasting on Radio New Zealand’s ‘Afternoons with Jim Mora’ on Thursday 25th October 2011.

The broadcast can be heard at: http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/afternoons/audio/2501142/the-panel-with-tony-doe-and-john-bishop-part-1.asx

The offending comments can be heard here: http://soundcloud.com/hinemoana-1/terrorist-barbie
I’ve pasted my letter below:

To whom it may concern

I am a long-term fan of Radio New Zealand and the National Programme, having appeared as a guest on programmes such as the Asian report, Afternoons with Jim Mora and Saturdays with Kim Hill.

I write this as an academic who is actively involved in community affairs and committed to being part of an equitable, flourishing and humane society for all of its members. Consequently, I am committed to critiquing the institutions that purport to represent the needs and aspirations of their diverse constituents.  Hence this considered decision to make a formal complaint about the quality of public broadcasting on Radio NZ’s Afternoons with Jim Mora on Thursday 25th October 2011.

Around 4pm on the 25th, the host and a panellist were having a discussion about the release of the new Barbie doll – a collector’s edition being produced by toy company Mattel and in so doing made remarks about the Muslim community that I believe breach Broadcasting standards. During the discussion, John Bishop (a panellist) suggested that Mattel could market the doll to Muslims. However, he then added  ‘why can’t we have a Terrorist Barbie?’ The host Paul Brennan responded by saying ‘Suicide Bomber Barbie….she could come with a little belt.’ Meaning that the belt could be made of explosives. ‘Why not?’ said Mr Bishop, implying that a product like ‘Terrorist Barbie’ would sell well to Muslims and then names like “terrorist Barbie” and “suicide bomber Barbie” were suggested.

I believe that these comments made by a broadcaster who is viewed as authoritative and authentic, contributes to the portrayal and representation of Islam that are racist and anti-Islamic/Islamophobic and breach the following standards:

Standard 1: Good Taste and Decency: Broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency.

1a Broadcasters will take into account current norms of good taste and decency, bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs and the wider context of the broadcast e.g. time of day, target audience.

Conflating the ‘Muslim world’ with ‘terrorists and suicide bombers’ reflects a lack of taste and decency toward the community that Radio New Zealand purports to be serving- including Muslims. While the Broadcasting Standards Authority has previously stated (e.g. Decision 2008-080 & 2008-087) that standards relating to good taste and decency are primarily aimed at broadcasts that contain sexual material, nudity, violence or coarse language. The Authority has also said it ‘will consider the standard in relation to any broadcast that portrays or discusses material in a way that is likely to cause offence or distress’. (Practice Note: Good Taste and Decency (BSA, November 2006). Thus the comments made on the show offend and distress a significant number of viewers breaching Standard 1.

Standard 5: Accuracy

The suggestion that there may be a market for terrorist and suicide Barbies among Muslims overlooks the social, ethnic or cultural diversity of the global Islamic community and attribute to all Muslims the negative characteristics fundamental to Islamophobia. These include conflating the Muslim faith with terrorism and suicide bombers and inferring that Islam and Muslims are backward; inherently separate and ‘other’ to the West and Western values. The comments influence the beliefs and attitudes of listeners, which then has an influence on their behaviour and attitudes towards Muslims (which Muslim listeners might also internalise). In a recent UK report (Pointing the Finger) four common stereotypes about Muslims are invoked that are pertinent here. These are: all Muslims are the same, all Muslims are under the influence of religious teachings, all of them are lower than other people in moral, human, cultural and political terms and ‘all of them are considered a threat’.  It is disappointing that these racist anti-Islamic views, which could be expected from right-wingers, are present in our media.

Standard 6 Fairness

Broadcasters should deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.

The comments made during the discussion denigrated Muslims as a group (in a very homogenous and one-dimensional stereotypical way that suggested that Islam is without any internal differentiation or opinion) and promoted and reinforced discrimination against them by conflating the Muslim faith with terrorism and suicide bombers.

I have recently completed research about Refugee mothers in New Zealand who were despairing about the Islamophobia and anti-Muslim racism their children were experiencing-in the form of both verbal and physical abuse. They reported interpersonal racism that is “racism in interactions between individuals either within their institutional roles or as private individuals” (Ziersch, et al., 2011, p.1046).  They also reported more insidious Instititutional racism that is “practices, policies or processes that are experienced in everyday life, and maintain and reproduce avoidable and unfair inequalities across ethnic/racial groups” (Ziersch, et al., 2011, p.1046) specifically in terms of their access to employment.

Given that the wider community depend and receive their knowledge of visibly different ‘others’ through the media, often in the absence of direct experience with those ‘others’. I believe that a state broadcaster funded by Government and taxpayers needs to ensure that the media represent those communities who are already marginalised (in this case by the events of 9/11) are treated with care and decency

Standard 7: Discrimination and Denigration

Broadcasters should not encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, any section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief.

Conflating the Muslim faith with terrorism and suicide bombers does not assist understanding and co-existence. The statements and the inference behind them encouraged discrimination against Muslim New Zealanders with Islam and Muslims represented as being the ‘other’ to ‘New Zealanders’ thereby reinforcing the ‘them’ and ‘us’ dualism. The comments were neither funny nor satirical.

Standard 8: Responsible Programming

Broadcasters should ensure that programme information and content is socially responsible.

It is not socially responsible to suggest, that a religious minority are killers on the basis of their faith. The broadcast did not provide balanced factual information and entertainment was made at the expense of an already vulnerable group. In New Zealand after 9/11 we had incidents of violence directed both toward Muslim women because they wore the hijab and toward places of worship.

I look forward to a response from Radio New Zealand on this matter.

Sincerely

Ruth DeSouza