Mandy Hager: ‘If it looks like racism, sounds like racism and smells like racism, it IS racism!’

Anyone who has been following the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care will have noticed that those stepping forward to speak out fall into one of two categories, Māori or vulnerable (and poor) Pākehā, says Mandy Hager.

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‘In a clip on TV One’s main news on the 6th May 2021, researcher Oliver Sutherland said of Strathmore Girls’ Home in the 1970s, that the girls faced ‘institutional torture’ and that most were Māori, in one year that figure rising to 100% Māori. 

institutional racism at work

It’s pretty obvious that institutional racism was at work here, just as it still is today in organisations like Corrections, Police and Oranga Tamariki, whose uplifts of Māori babies has been shown to be brutal and misguided. 

How has this been allowed to continue? Some may argue things have changed since the 1970s but, given we’re now in 2021 and Māori welfare statistics continue to be shameful, I think it’s time to accept that, as Taika Waititi said, New Zealand is still ‘racist as fuck.’

Casual racism is alive and well in all aspects of our society and unless we, those who have the privilege of not suffering from racism, don’t grow some balls and be prepared to call it out every time we see it, how do we expect things to change?

It’s hard to chqallenge those you know, but…

I know it’s hard to challenge your mother, your auntie, your neighbour, your friend, but this is what we have to do if we genuinely want to turn a corner.

Yes, there will be push-back; the people who have gained from structural racism don’t want to share any of their privilege and are fighting hard the shock jocks on radio, the Don Brash clones, the National Party, ACT — and they’ve enlisted the behaviour of the US’s white supremists to protect their patch.

They dog-whistle, they call enlightened thinking ‘woke’, they blame the victims.

‘Woke is…protecting human rights’

To my mind, much of what is labelled ‘woke’ is best practice, protecting human rights, and the fact more people are prepared to call it out has brought out a rabid fear among the haters.

Look at what is considered ‘woke’: a focus on human rights for all, a desire to see those at the bottom lifted up, a focus on equality for all, a fairer sharing of the wealth.

We saw it at work again recently, with the government’s announcement of a new Māori Health Authority – a move welcomed by most in the sector as a way to address structural racism in health access – yet damned as ‘apartheid’ and (for the love of god!) racist!

They talk about the need for fairness, not understanding that fairness means supplying what is needed according to the unique requirements of every individual group, in order to level the field.

‘A promise to myself’

A few years ago, I made a promise to myself that I would never ignore or turn away from racism when I heard or saw it.

It’s led to some fraught discussions but means I haven’t allowed fear or passivity to stop standing up for human rights. I challenge you to do the same. If we aren’t part of the solution, we’re aiding the status quo.’

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