ANALYSIS: In hindsight, Sir Peter Leitch probably wishes he’d smiled and waved as he passed Lara Wharepapa Bridger and her family at the Waiheke Island vineyard but New Zealand is better off because he opened his mouth.
When the Mad Butcher made comments to Bridger about Waiheke being “a white man’s island” he sparked a race row.
After a few days of going backward and forward, the sensible majority can now agree stupid things were said - stupid, racist things.
The day after Bridger posted a public video about what happened, Leitch’s publicist Michelle Boag (also the former National Party president)took a spade and dug herself into the hole Leitch had started to scratch out for himself.
Meanwhile, Kiwis debated whether Leitch’s comments were racist or just a joke.
As Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy eventually came to explain, the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
New Zealanders, including Boag, have since had a crash course in casual racism.
Aotearoa gained a perfect score when it came to attitudes towards ethnic minorities and immigrants.
“The strength of the country’s social capital stands out like no other, underpinned by the Māori idea of society built around the whānau (family), hapū (community), and iwi (tribe)…
“Of all the world’s nations, New Zealand is the most tolerant of immigrants,” the independent global survey states.
So, on a global scale of 1-racist New Zealand doesn’t do too badly but this saga has shown racism is not a thing of the past.
The webpage for the recent New Zealand Human Rights Commission campaign That’s Us is not short of personal examples of casual racism.
This most recent example of casual racism has also brought out disturbing examples of overt racism, particularly on social media.
Some Facebook users accused Bridger of being racist for saying she is tangata whenua, some have accused her of being an attention seeker.
People also submitted comments to Stuff - which were rejected by moderators - accusing her of playing the victim and even told her to “get back in your grass skirt”.
Spoonley said anyone who believed there was not racism in New Zealand should read the comments about the unfolding story on social media.
It shows there are “some very racist elements in New Zealand”.
WHAT DOES THE PUBLIC THINK?
While some members of the public referred to this as a “storm in a teacup” or a “media beat-up”, the amount of public interest suggests a discussion needs to be had.
Kiwis are ripe and ready for this conversation after a year filled with high-profile examples of casual, and not-so-casual, racism.
Trump’s tweets attacking Muslims and Mexicans, not to mention the wall, as well as racism stemming from the Brexit vote, and local examples like when Julia Sloane called fellow housewife Michelle Blanchard a “boat n….”.
Many feel like they need to pick sides when these types of incidents arise, and with hashtags like #teamleitch popping up on social media it’s clear some immediately drew the party lines.
Spoonley says it’s not up to others, especially the person who making the comments, to decide what is and isn’t racist.
If someone takes offence, then the comments are a form of casual racism.
Bridger removed the video from Facebook soon after her story, saying she’d received death threats and she didn’t want to incite further racism.
Essentially, Bridger is a whistleblower and she’s been attacked by many for speaking up, Spoonley says.
“She’s done us a service, so I would agree that now we need to have an adult and respectful discussion about whether what Sir Peter said was appropriate.”
IS THERE STILL A CULTURAL DIVIDE?
Musician and feminist columnist of Te Arawa descent Lizzy Marvelly took the opportunity to talk about the divide that still exists between Pakeha and Maori in New Zealand.
Among other things, Marvelly posted: “I have so much admiration for Lara [Bridger]. She has spoken up about the kind of comments that Māori have been dealing with for generations.”
Spoonley says while some divide still exists, attitudes towards Maori have changed greatly during the past 30 years.
“If you went back to the 60s or 70s we would have found a lot of this casual and overt racism in the country,” he says.
“So the debate has moved on but to think it’s gone is a fallacy.”
And this isn’t just a Maori issue. In the wake of this story, more than one person from New Zealand’s Pasifika community has shared alleged accounts of being referred to as “coconuts” in the past.
WHERE TO FROM HERE?
Hopefully Lara Bridger wasn’t hurt in vain.
If Kiwis can rise above petty, personal attacks there’s a chance to learn from this incident.
“This is one of those moments where we should have a good public debate and it should be respectful,” Spoonley says.
“It should be a moment where we redefine the boundaries.”
A comment that he made isn’t racist it’s so much more exaltation of the white race. That’s not racist. I a racist but i don’t so much believe us whites have it all together. I just piss off at the dark crimes and anger of those people. Bringing humanity down to shit.
” casual racism”is nothing more then another excuse to brow beat white people.No one ever calls a black, Hispanic, Asian or Mideastern person “racist”. had Sir Peter Leitch been non-white himself we would never even hear of this incident, kiwis are getting sick and tired of the double standard.
Who wrote this rubbish? Whoever wrote it decided we needed to have a ‘discussion’ about it. So, is Stuff going to open a ‘discussion’ page. No. Thought not. The article, probably paid for by the Human Rights Commission or some other Government organisation, was I am sure given to Stuff.
It is blatant brainwashing. With Threats. If you speak like this, you have no job.
How do we find out who paid Laura Walters for the article?
Is her ‘pen for hire’ to anyone who pays?
“The views expressed by Commenters and Guest Writers on this Blog and Website may not reflect the views of the NZ National Front – however we stand for freedom of speech and the inalienable rights of New Zealanders to hold and express their opinions. People have a clear choice whether or not to view this Website and the Comments Blog – the NZ National Front respectfully suggests that people exercise that choice without judgement… particularly if the views held and expressed may cause offence to any person or persons. We consider this fair warning and disclaimer”