No such thing as casual racism

The recent trial closure of the lakefront has divided local opinion with many views expressed online in a variety of group discussions. One barb used in the divisive debate online was, ‘how long have you lived here?’ Some of those who have been here longest asserting their right to prevail, whilst newer arrivals should “go back to Auckland” as one keyboard warrior so bluntly said on the Wanaka Sun facebook page. The issue here is not necessarily race-based, but it is nuanced intolerance and it’s a slippery slope downwards.

However, another opponent took the online debate about the lakefront on the Upper Clutha Community Notices (UCCN) Facebook page about where to park during the closure as a chance to have a crack at Asian drivers. One member replied, “Did it matter what ethnicity the tourist was?” But he was shot down by an online bully labelling him a “bloody whinger” for calling out racism. This online dialogue was only a matter of hours after the vigil on the Wanaka lakefront to mourn the 50 people killed in a senseless act of hatred and white supremacy.

But it didn’t stop there. In response to the UCCN member’s attempt to call out ‘casual’ racism, he was lambasted with a long response which the Wanaka Sun has chosen not to repeat in its entirety but did include phrases such as: ‘They bring it on themselves.’ ‘They follow our rules’. ‘I have no problems crashing into them’. This is the language of a Wanaka resident this week. Of all weeks.

Philip Patston, managing director of Diversity New Zealand says, “there's no such thing as casual racism – it's a euphemism privileged people use to discount their racial bias and absolve themselves from responsibility.”

“My view is that ‘casual discrimination’ is more harmful than overt discrimination because it is often hard to quantify and often flies under the radar because it is subtle, invasive and cultural in an organisational sense.”

“It often isolates the targets and mutes them because there is no permission to confront it as a serious issue,” he continues. “Targets of casual discrimination are often laughed-off as being over-sensitive, PC, or simply wrong.”

“The debate is whether or ‘call it out’ or ‘starve it out’ by ignoring it. I say, do both. Call it out once, but don't get locked into debates.”

Patston also recommends reporting the comments to Facebook.

At the vigil service in Clyde on Sunday, Central Otago District Council Mayor Tim Cadogan had sage words for recognising and weeding out intolerant words at their root.

"The evil that has come to our nation on Friday started small, and the small is where each and everyone one of us can try to stop the evil gaining purchase again. The small is not laughing at a racist joke. I've done it, I'm sure we all have. No more. This is not us. The small is not shouting at the foreign driver who is going too slow for our liking. I've done it and I'm sure we all have. No more. This is not us. The small is not tolerating bigots in our workplaces, meeting places, even in our own homes and families .... No more. This is not us. New Zealanders don't want to cause offence, even in the face of offensive words. No more. Just say 'This is not us'."

Any racist inference posted to the Wanaka Sun Page will be immediately blocked and the user will be reported, see our guidelines for more information.

Eddie Deere, administrator for Upper Clutha Trading Post agrees: “we have a zero tolerance policy on such discussions on the UCTP. Anything we think is racist is deleted and sometimes if the person is a repeat offender or particularly bad they are removed from the group. If it isn’t relevant, kind or helpful it’s not welcome here.”

Karen Tippett, an administrator for Upper Clutha Community Notices agrees that they will have no tolerance for racism and she encourages users to flag posts that are offensive but may not have been picked up by administrators. The person who made the comments referenced above has now been removed from the group.

In light of Friday’s event, calling out racism will no longer be considered ‘politically correct’-it is simply ‘correct’. And those who insist on being racist, are simply, wrong.


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