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With the current drama regarding Paul Henry continuing todominate the news to the point that some people are saying “hobbit what?” The above linked article caused me to be reminded of a guy I dated last year and who is likely indicative of the problem that has lead to some people not understanding the gravity of Paul Henry’s social gaffe and John Key’s weak response.

See, this guy I dated was cute, witty, quirky and I genuinely was attracted to him. We seemed to hit it off and despite a rather serious issue that was something I spent a few weeks prior to really asking him out, we started dating and he even stayed over at my place.

In other words, I was in a developing relationship with the guy. But every so often he would say something when walking past people who weren’t White. At first I did the “he’s just being stupid” and I expressed my discomfort at his “jokes” – but it just kept going on. The breaking point was when he sat down and created a series of racist caricatures on the wii and spent time mocking them and making mocking voices. I pretty much hustled him out the door and we never really spoke again.

What I realise now is that he just saw it as a silly joke, that to him it wasn’t really racist. He just didn’t comprehend that it was actually offensive – or that I would be offended by it. So the following quote from Andi Botherston, the TVNZ PR person who ended up aggravating the current drama, seems to match with his casual racist comments.

I know Paul Henry very well and I absolutely, categorically know he never set out to offend anyone or to upset anyone and neither did I, neither of us meant to do that.

And this is the problem. John Key refuses to call it racist because he just fundamentally can’t understand how it does offend people.

I find that the usual process is to reduce the words to their mechanics. Just saying someone isn’t a New Zealander isn’t racist to John because it is just saying that someone is from somewhere else. It isn’t about race, it is about location. That’s all.

But what he is missing is what isn’t being said. The implied – because he looks like an Indian. And then there is the not subtle implication in the following questions that looking Indian is somehow a bad thing for the Governor General.

Ultimately, no matter what he says, John Key’s response at the time and his refusal to see the bigotry in Paul Henry’s statement suggests that deep down, he also sees a New Zealander as someone who is Pakeha or Maori. Maybe Pacific Islander, but no more than that. Or at least that he accepts this as a view that can be held by others.

But as PM, it is his duty to set a good example. He’s a leader. He should have been up in Paul Henry’s grill about such a stupid statement.

But in this country, it seems, we prefer to be quietly embarrassed rather than slap this down. You don’t need to yell, you just need to calmly say “don’t be so stupid. They don’t talk like that/their name isn’t pronounced like that/there is no scientific evidence to support that claim.” Or just say “don’t be such a bigot.”

And don’t even politely laugh.

These people need to learn that this is not the how New Zealand in the 21st Century is to be. We are a nation of immigrants, we have always been a multicultural nation and the future lies in being inclusive and tolerant. But tolerance isn’t just shrugging when people say hateful jokes or insult others. Tolerance is making room for everyone at the table equally and with compassion.

A trait that people like Andi Botherston and Paul Henry like to believe they have but are actually sorely lacking in.

In other news, the government is now reviewing the case I spoke of yesterday. It turns out the local National representative saw the way the political wind was blowing – along with a strong statement from the Human Rights Commission. Here’s hoping sanity prevails.


September 2022

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