Following a story by Te Ao with an advocate for the Muslim community, there was an outpouring of anti-Muslim and anti-foreigner comments online.
Dr Arama Rata works in the area of race relations and decolonisation and shared with Te Ao her thoughts on prejudice held by Māori towards immigrants, and how Māori can better understand their role in race relations in Aotearoa.
Xenophobia is a dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries.
Dr Arama Rata says, “Xenophobia and racism are learnt, they’re not something that we’re born with but, because this is a settler-colonial country, we’ve been brought into this white supremacist thinking, and so white supremacy absolutely operates in Māori communities just as it operates in all communities
"So part of our own efforts towards decolonisation means unlearning some of those things because we can’t decolonise the country without getting rid of racism.”
The story gave voice to an advocate for the Muslim community who felt his community had been ignored during the Royal Inquiry into the Christchurch terror attacks, and that racism persists. But the story received a brutal backlash on Te Ao online.
The story, published yesterday, received an overwhelming amount of unsympathetic comments from Māori and Pākehā, such as, "If you don't like it, leave", and, "welcome to our world".
Rata says that after the terror attacks on Christchurch there was an enormous outpouring from Māori showing support for the community that was affected there "but then we also see in light of your recent story that there are very strong racist views within our communities as well, so this provides us an opportunity to reflect on that racism that exists within our own communities.
"Use this is as a moment where we can listen to Muslim brothers and sisters and what they’re calling for, and work in solidarity with what they’re trying to achieve. Because, although they see the state as having failed them, leading to this awful tragedy, they haven’t been calling for increases in surveillance, and all these extra resources that we know would be directed by the state against our black and brown communities. So what we need to do is work together to build community relations. We need to strengthen our legislation around hate crime and hate speech, and we need to resource communities to be able to keep ourselves safe.”
Rata says there seems to be a really artificial separation between issues that affect Māori and issues that affect other racialised communities, "when in fact racism affects us all. The same white supremacist thinking that led to the terrorist attack in Christchurch also leads to Māori babies being uplifted, also leads to us being overrepresented in the justice system and these types of things. So, if we’re going to address racism, that means addressing all forms of racism, even when it occurs in our own communities.”
The comments reveal a deeply ingrained ignorance among New Zealanders, despite the horrific events 22 months ago.
“Some people look at the problem of racism and think that it’s too big to tackle but we have to remember that racism didn’t always exist here. That was brought over by our colonisers. So, if we’re looking for a solution to racism, we have our own whakaaro Māori that we can turn to, with our own indigenous ideas and concepts that provide an alternative.
"There is some really great beautiful community-building work being done, for example Ngāti Whātua, where it'sholding community hui, inviting different racialised people together to wānanga, to build relationships across our different communities that’s not being dictated by the state at all. These are opportunities to build bridges, to listen to each other’s perspectives.”
Rata says it’s not a competition as to who experiences more racism but it’s about learning from each other and working in solidarity to dismantle racism.