I have been recovering from a puku illness that worked its way through our whare, beginning with Rangipua, my mokopuna. She shared it freely and without a care in the world as mokopuna do when they are deeply loved. So we sat today and she watched ‘Pipi Mā’ and ‘Dora Te Matatoa’ and I read and dropped occassionally into twitter-verse. The first tweet to catch my attention was from Sandy Grande. It was a powerful Op.Ed providing critical discussion about the looming Thanksgiving Day on Turtle Island titled ‘Don’t Forget Indigenous Struggles On Thanksgiving. https://www.facebook.com/NowThisPolitics/videos/dont-forget-indigenous-struggles-on-thanksgiving/1797268060304676/
It is somewhat ironic that the next story was of the missionary who deeply embedded in colonising practices was killed trying to forcibly enter Indigenous lands. On TV3 Newshub told us;
“An American missionary has died after trying to preach to a tribe known for its hostility to outsiders”. Interesting terminology “hostility to outsiders” when in fact the Sentinelese are protecting their territory and their people from outside invasion. TVNZ went a step further with their introduction “An American man has been killed by a stone-age tribe” – Seriously “a stone-age tribe” – what kind of imperialist reductionist view does that journalist have to write something that reads like it comes straight from a James Cook journal- yes another invader 250 years ago – who sadly our people did not kill on invasion. Did anyone even consider that he was killed by a nation asserting their sovereign rights as he attempted to invade their lands? No, it is more dramatic to use colonial denigrating phrases than to describe people in ways that are self-determining. Radio NZ gave some hope, introducing their piece “An American self-styled adventurer and Christian missionary has been killed by a tribe on a remote island where he had gone to proselytise, local law enforcement officials say.”
The article further describes the island as home to “what is considered the last pre-Neolithic tribe in the world”. Yes that is bordering on “stone-age” but quickly recovered with the statement that “Mr Chau was killed by members of the Sentinelese community using bows and arrows, according to multiple media accounts.” Yes this is a community of people who are self-determining and sovereign on their own lands and who chose to be so and where the countries nearby respect that decision. I was thankful to Tina Ngata who on her ‘The Non-Plastic Māori’ twitter wrote
“Sentinelese: Making Indigenous territory great again.”
The next thread in Twitter-verse highlighted the many partial or flawed media reports, and responses, to the Auckland Pride Festival Boards decision to not include Police in uniform in the parade. Well, to be entirely honest I was pretty disgusted when they agreed to that a few years ago given the ongoing embedded homophobia, transphobia and racism within both the Police and Corrections. And I have never attended a Pride Parade since.
The issues surrounding the inclusion or otherwise of the Police and Institutions of Incarceration such as Corrections are not new. In 2016 No Pride in Prisons (now People Against Prisons Aotearoa) made a clear statement protesting the inclusion of Corrections staff in uniform when there is clear violence perpetuated against transgender people in prisons. https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11592972
We should be thankful that there was a group of young activists willing and courageous to stand up to their own community, the Takatāpui and LGBTIQ community, and challenge that decision. They did so at their own personal risk and continue to be a significant voice for the wellbeing of all within Māori, Takatāpui and LGBTIQ communities. As we saw in 2016 the issues raised by No Pride in Prisons led to Corrections being called to task in regards to their failure to deliver.
The systemic racism in the Justice system began with the building of Prisons on stolen whānau, hapū and iwi lands, to incarcerate our people. Māori experience a long line of colonial imposed racist laws in this country, and continued systemic racism across sectors. What continues to concern me is the dramatizing of the issue by the media in ways that construct the Police as an Institution as the victims of exclusion. The Police are not victims. Our people are the victims of racist systemic oppression. The Police are not victims. Our people are the victims of homophobic, transphobic oppression.
For clarity of the Auckland Pride Board position I include here their recent press release
“The Auckland Pride Board remains committed to creating a space for our rainbow communities to feel safe celebrating their gender and sexual identity, despite some institutions pulling out from the Parade in recent days.
“The 2019 Auckland Pride Parade was always intended to be a place to cultivate our roots in activism and protest. We have always welcomed business groups and institutions who wish to participate in a way that works for the safety of all members of our Rainbow community”, says Cissy Rock, Auckland Pride Board Chair.
“The Auckland Pride Board remains committed to delivering an event that places the visibility and safety of our Rainbow community at the forefront, while ensuring every organisation that wishes to participate works proactively with the Board to meet those standards.
“Unfortunately, institutions such as the Police were not able to compromise with the Pride Board despite months of consultation with the community that highlighted more work needed to be done in order for participants to feel safe with the Police’s presence in the parade.
“The Pride Parade is so much more than its corporate sponsors or Government institutions. It is about our Rainbow community coming together to both celebrate and fight for a future where everyone is free from systemic discrimination.
“We remain open to finding common ground with institutions that are working towards ensuring they are truly Rainbow inclusive, but have yet to get to that point. True allyship by institutions to our community is listening to its affected members and compromising where possible. If members from our community are highlighting concerns around discrimination by those institutions, we expect them to work to address them, and that may include making compromises regarding their participation at the Pride Parade.
“We will resume our work towards creating a Pride Parade and Festival as soon as we come to an agreement with our members about the way to move forward at the upcoming special general meeting.”
I ended today with some sadness, in Twitter-verse, reading this poem by Laura O’connell Rapira, and I share it here with her permission.
A POEM FOR OUR TIME
Who do you call
When the people paid to keep your brown body safe
Make you feel erased
Because they love their uniform
More than they love you
What do you do
When you’re afraid
And the newspapers say
You’re a muppet
This is what inclusion looks like, idiot
Go back to your fringe
What do you do
When your brown skin gets you arrested
And put in prison more often
By people in blue uniforms
But blue uniforms are considered
Than brown bodies
Your phone company thinks so too
So does your bank
So do the people on Facebook and Twitter
Look, there’s a rainbow car coming It says ‘Safer Communities Together’
Maybe they can help us?
Oh, they drove past
I guess there’s no room for bruised brown bodies
In the rainbow
To those corporate sponsors that have chosen to remove their support based on a misguided notion of what constitutes inclusion, diversity and exclusion. Lets be clear, it is not for corporate entities or their representatives to define for us what inclusion means, nor is it for the Police to cry victim or foul when they have failed to make substantial systemic changes to protect our people from racism, homophobia and transphobia. To assume such a position merely reinforces the position taken by the Auckland Pride Board, that such Institutions continue to only make superficial changes that serve their interests. The Police are not victims. The Police are not being excluded. They are being asked to up their performance in regards to the Takatāpui and LGBTIQ community. And they have failed to do so. Painting a rainbow on a car does not make that a different kind of Police diversity car, it is still a car that Takatāpui and LGBTIQ are placed into for arrest. Just like painting koru and the word “Pirihimana” on a Police car does not make it a ‘Māori-friendly’ car, it remains a Police Car. As I hashtagged tonight on my final tweet this day in Twitter-verse #OnceAPoliceCarAlwaysAPoliceCar.
I remember Pride when it was in its earlier form from 1992 as the Hero Parade. It was about community. We went on those early parades to take a place for ‘Wahine mō ngā wahine o Te Moana nui a Kiwa’ and for ‘Lesbian Mothers’. We marched with twin sons in a pram and then with all three of my eldest tamariki. I remember my tamariki as they grew up standing on step-ladders in Ponsonby Road so they could see friends and whānau on the parade. And then reading letters in the newspaper the day after about “those people” that take children to a parade of “obscenities” and thinking “oh that’s us, those are our children.” Where it is great to have financial support it should never be tied to giving away the fundamental reason for why the Pride Parade exists, to celebrate ourselves as Takatāpui, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Intersex, Transgender, Queer and our whānau, friends and colleagues that support us fully.