I have been meaning to provide an update on our ‘What is Racism?’ campaign for some time now, but we needed to respond to the Three Waters rebrand and what it means for co-governance quickly. As you know, the Government is as committed to co-governance as ever!
But I have an update for you now, and I’ll be asking you to support the campaign by simply signing our open letter to the Minister of Justice Kiri Allan.
Recent events have shown that not all racism is treated equally in New Zealand and that senior members of the Government perceive that some people don’t ‘qualify’ as victims of racism.
A few weeks ago, I sent an Official Information Act request asking ministers to define racism as it relates to their portfolios. What should have been a straightforward question was met with further proof that ministers like Kiri Allan don’t actually have any clue what racism is. Or, alternatively, they aren’t willing to share it with voters.
The Justice Minister’s office claimed that it isn’t their responsibility, under the OIA, to ‘create’ a definition where it doesn’t exist. It seems strange that her ministry wouldn’t have a definition for it given they have a ‘National Plan Against Racism’ as a ‘Key Initiative’ on their website.
We have received similar replies from ministers Nanaia Mahuta, Willow-Jean Prime, and Rino Tirikatene. We are still to hear back from the rest.
Without a definition, how do they have any idea what they are actually fighting?
It’s unsurprising that New Zealand’s Race Relations Commissioner has been evasive and selective in his role too.
We recently learnt that not only did Meng Foon donate to Kiri Allan’s 2020 election campaign, but his wife is effectively the minister’s landlord (with heavy discounts) for her local electorate office. This is significant because Allan is the minister responsible for the Race Relations Commissioner.
At a Cabinet level and throughout our public service, it seems to have become the political consensus that racism is a tool to be used to justify the undermining of our democracy. This Labour Government has based legislation and policy on a foundation of racism.
New Zealanders are now afforded different rights determined only by race.
And to avoid any criticism of their race based policies, we do not even have a definition of racism. Even whether you can be a victim of racism is dependent on whether you’re seen as the ‘right’ race.
We cannot allow our nation to be divided into brown and white; or as we are led to believe victim vs oppressor.
If we are to stop the division of our nation by race, then we need clarity from this Government as to what it means and to hold them accountable. All New Zealanders must be afforded the same rights and protections regardless of colour.
We need to make our voices heard. Our Government needs to be held to account. They need to know that we do not tolerate any form of racism, no matter who it is targeted at.
Just the other week, Marama Davidson claimed she knows “who causes violence and it’s cis white men”.
This comment should have sparked outrage, but her party stood by her, defending unacceptable and racist comments. The Prime Minister stood by her!
Her comments were provably false as, unfortunately, violence is present in all cultures and ethnicities. Yet we didn’t hear a peep from the people who have been banging the “misinformation” drum at the drop of a hat.
Can you imagine if this was said about another race?
We have seen time and time again that the Government is selective about when it takes racism seriously.
And it goes beyond the Government.
Not long ago, I wrote an open letter criticising Tusiata Avia’s racist poetry and tried to get it published in one of New Zealand’s biggest newspapers, only to be told we can’t call her racist – even though her work is objectively racist.
The media uncritically mirrors the race-politics of those in power in New Zealand. We have few options for holding the Government to account.
However, in October, we have our best chance to send a message about the kind of country we want to live in. What we need to do is exercise the power of the election long before we step into the ballot box.
We can do this by making clear to politicians what we will base our votes on. That means we simply must be more politically active than we have ever been before. We have a plan to put our messages in front of every politician and expose more Kiwis to our concerns.
For the next five and a bit months, we will be calling on our supporters to sign open letters, send emails, talk to their local MPs, and share our messages with everyone who will listen.
Can we count on your support?
>>> Today, we are asking you to sign our open letter to Minister Kiri Allan.<<<
The letter demands clarity around what this Government understands racism to be and calls on the Ministry of Justice and the Human Rights Commission to have zero tolerance for racism, no matter who (or what colour) the target.
If we can’t agree on this simple thing, we can’t have fruitful discussions about anything race-related. We need to be able to talk about matters like co-governance and what role the Treaty has in New Zealand in 2023. The ambiguity and tensions around race makes this so difficult.
This year has already been hectic, and it is only going to ramp up as we get closer to October 14th. We are ready for the battles ahead, but we can only succeed with supporters like you alongside us.
Thanks for your ongoing support, and please sign our open letter!
Casey Costello, Trustee, Hobson’s Pledge