Let it go, and let’s grow
It was the Sunday after the horrific shooting in the Christchurch mosques. My almost teen girl wanted to relive her childhood days by ordering a ‘Happy Meal’ at the Wairau McDonald’s and as is the norm, it came with a toy – this time, with a brown Barbie doll with auburn hair and a cowboy hat. Like a typical teenager, she felt awkward holding the doll and was eager to gift it away.
Around the same time, a family walked in through the Macca doors. I spotted their little girl skipping up towards our table and told my girl to ask if she wanted the doll.
The little girl shook her blonde crown is negation, and her mum swung around to look at us. Instinctively, I smiled back at the mum and added that her child can have the doll if she wants to. The mum smiled back and replied, “She doesn’t want that doll.”
It took me a few seconds to comprehend the implication of her response – her girl isn’t familiar with brown Barbie dolls and so doesn’t fancy having one. It reminded me of another incident when my then primary school-going girl was called a “mud-face” by her Kiwi classmate, just because of her chocolate skin.
Is it surprising then that a right-wing fanatic decided to cleanse his brethren of European descent from people of other ethnicities? The answer is yes and no.
Yes, most non-white migrants in New Zealand have, more or less, experienced overt and not-so overt racism in their daily lives. Yes, I have actually been asked by a potential landlord if I will cook Indian food every day and if I have plans to bring my extended family to stay with us in the near future – not once, but several times during our conversations. This particular landlord found it very difficult to comprehend why a brown single parent would want to rent a two-bedroom property to live with her pre-teen girl only and no one else. I wonder if he would have asked a single parent of European descent – migrant or not – as to how often she will cook sausage sizzles or pasta in tomato sauce, or whether her extended family will join her soon.
No, this is not to say that all Kiwis are the same. I am lucky enough to have a number of friends of European descent – Kiwi or not – who are extremely supportive of a multicultural society and perhaps more curious than me to learn about other ethnicities. They are also often the most travelled, and mind you, a lot more interesting to talk to given their wide range of experiences.
Migrants or refugees, on the other hand, have travelled outside of their comfort zone to find a home in New Zealand. By default, they are curious to learn about the new culture they encounter on a daily basis and by default, they have to try and fit in with their new surroundings. Migrants to any land cannot settle successfully unless they can muster a certain level of perseverance and a willingness to adapt.
Of course, this does not equate to the host country’s duty to accommodate the new arrivals. But there is a reason why the host country is welcoming the migrants and refugees – think about how the diversity of skills and experiences they bring with them are enriching our country and making it economically viable.
That day isn’t far away when thanks to the evolving human geography migration patterns, the world will cease to be divided into white, yellow, olives, red, brown and blacks. Instead, the entire palette of skin tones and the corresponding combinations of facial features will have to be re-visited across the global village.
A five-point agenda:
- We are a nation of 200 ethnicities and 160 languages. How about learning a new language starting today?
- Our extremely humane PM, Jacinda Ardern, said about the victims: “They are us. We are them.” How about saying hello and extending a helping hand to our neighbour today – irrespective of their creed or colour and race or religion?
- Isn’t it amazing that our PM not only called the Christchurch shooting an act of terrorism, but called off on white supremacy and took steps to change the gun laws of the land? What are we doing to toe this line?
- Can we also ban video games that entail virtual killing? There’s no fun in killing, even if they’re zombies.
- In fact, can we ban toy rifles and guns to begin with? Have we considered gifting our children toy knives to play with? If not, why give them toy guns?
Top photo courtesy: www.abc.net.au