A Reckoning for Our Country
Aotearoa New Zealand experienced an act of terrorism yesterday. In Ōtautahi Christchurch, two mosques were attacked. 49 people attending Friday prayers died; 48 were injured.* My heart is broken for Aotearoa New Zealand’s Muslim community.
As Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stated last night:
Our thoughts and our prayers are with those who have been impacted today. Christchurch was the home of these victims. For many, this may not have been the place they were born. In fact, for many, New Zealand was their choice.
The place they actively came to, and committed themselves to. The place they were raising their families, where they were part of communities who they loved and who loved them. It was a place that many came to for its safety. A place where they were free to practice their culture and their religion.
The gunman, prior to the attack, spewed vile white supremacist rhetoric on social media. Far right politics and hatred is in Aotearoa NZ. As I listen to coverage about this act of terrorism I am revolted. I want to push it away, reject it. I want to say, I want to write, “this is not us! This is not Aotearoa New Zealand”, but the phrase catches in my throat.
Prime Minister Ardern went on to say:
For those of you who are watching at home tonight, and questioning how this could have happened here, we—New Zealand—we were not a target because we are a safe harbour for those who hate. We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we are an enclave for extremism. We were chosen for the very fact that we are none of these things. Because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values, refuge for those who need it. And those values, I can assure you, will not, and cannot, be shaken by this attack.
We are a proud nation of more than 200 ethnicities, 160 languages. And amongst that diversity we share common values. And the one that we place the currency on right now—and tonight—is our compassion and support for the community of those directly affected by this tragedy.
And secondly, the strongest possible condemnation of the ideology of the people who did this.
You may have chosen us—but we utterly reject and condemn you.
And although I find some comfort in her words—they were the words we needed at that moment—they are also, in some respects, palpably wrong. We are a nation of diversity—but we are also a nation that has institutional, structural and individual racism, which propagates, props up and feeds the views that find their ultimate expression in acts such as the one we witnessed yesterday.
Yes, the media coverage says the gunman was born in Australia, but he found a home here. He found a group of like-minded supporters here.**
This act came from our country, it happened in our country. It is New Zealand. To say that this act of terrorism ‘is not us’ is to ignore a reckoning that Aotearoa NZ—particularly Pākehā New Zealanders, the white population of NZ—must go through. To say it is not us is to ignore the fact that this hatred, fomented by the growing global white supremacism, came from sectors of New Zealand. It came from sectors of my New Zealand. It’s partly my responsibility to interrogate how New Zealand got here.
To simply say it is not New Zealand risks turning our faces away from some uncomfortable truths that, in the weeks, months, years to come, Pākehā New Zealand must reckon with.
So I reject it. I condemn it. It has no place in Aotearoa New Zealand. But as a Pākehā New Zealander, I have to also own it, look hard at it, and be a part of the cultural work to change it.
Because this must never happen again.
Arohanui to the victims of this attack.
Arohanui to our Muslim community.
There are a number of ways to support the victims of this attack, and The Spinoff has a full range of ideas (just follow that link). Here are a few:
Share support helplines
Spread this link from the Aotearoa Resettled Community Coalition, which gives the phone numbers for multilingual volunteers.
Donate to the families
Here are two options:
The New Zealand Islamic Information Centre (NZIIC) via Launchgood.
New Zealand Council of Victim Support Groups via Givealittle.
Attend a vigil
There are a number of vigils taking place across the country. Wellington’s main vigil will be held in the Basin Reserve on Sunday, 17th March from 6pm. Link to event here.
Call it out. Report incidences of it. Give nothing to racism. Rewatch this campaign, fronted by Taika Waititi, because it’s the small drip-drip-drips of racism that build to horror like this.
And, for the sake of goodness in this world, don’t watch, share or give any oxygen to the online content generated by the shooter.
*As of Sunday morning, the death toll has risen to 50. The number of people injured has risen to 50.
**One man has been charged and is believed to be responsible for both shootings. He is an Australian. He does appear to be a lone shooter. But there are groups people in New Zealand who share his abhorrent views.