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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fear of a black planet

"The Arc of the Moral Universe Is Long, but It Bends Toward Justice" MLK jnr

My wife and daughters are Australian and I don't pretend that NZ doesn't have similar problems and doesn't struggle daily with the wrangling between the tangata whenua (people of the land, first nations?) and those whose families have arrived since 1816 or so. Health, justice and education statistics all over the world reflect the problems that arise when large groups of people move from one region to another: Who is in prison, who is sick, homeless, educated to less than their potential, earns less, lives a shorter time?

Recently my concern about this has gone from a theoretical quandary to an urgent problem because I now have daughters approaching adulthood, too quickly. What kind of world will I have allowed them to grow up into? What futures am I denying them by being overwhelmed by the size of the problems the planet faces? By feeling powerless in the face of greed and cynicism?

My daughters have Maori cousins and have more connection with them as individuals, as relatives, as people like them than they do with the Aboriginal people they encounter - Caz the local begger a poly-addicted homeless woman with mental health issues - Mazza the feral urchin who sprays racist homophobic abuse everywhere - The intimidating gangs of kids who loiter menacingly nearby with barely concealed clubs and the hint they have knives and that they do not see us as like them - my daughters are afraid of Aboriginal people and see them entirely as other - junkies, thugs, crims, losers
  • Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they can not communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated.
    • Stride Toward Freedom : the Montgomery Story (1958) MLK jnr
When she was little Little Bear who is now seven regarded Caz the begger as a friend because she was friendly and three year olds assume everyone is going to like them. Caz not sure whether Little Bear was genuine or just playing a whitefella game was really, really pleased when she realised Little Bear saw her simply as a friendly person. White middle class three year olds know nothing of history, of racism, or prejudice - they have two mobs; people I like and who like me and: the others. It didn't occur to Little Bear not to like Caz. It didn't occur to Caz that Little Bear might like her, for who she is with her, for how she behaves. Little Bear made it OK for Caz to just be - that there was nothing innately wrong with her and how she is. The opposite of the racism and prejudice she encounters every day.

Four years later Little Bear has learned to be wary of Aboriginal people, to see them as potential threat. This same reaction applies to the homeless, to beggars, to junkies. I've let this happen.

The challenge now is to change this - day by day.

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