We see your TikToks, sly memes and Instagram posts saying “east side would never” and while it was funny at first, it’s only promoting a cultural divide. A report by the Human Rights Commission details an increase of racism and prejudice towards Asians, Pasifika and Māori communities. As we’ve come to know, the latest Covid cases have come out of South Auckland and with it, a plethora of memes, jokes and bashing of the southside. While the gags may seem innocent, they’re often pitting the whole country against South Auckland. And while there’s nothing new in New Zealand’s casually racist culture, it’s only intensifying with all this Southside slander.
The report written at the end of 2020 highlighted not only an increase in prejudice, but also that many communities feared for their safety and mental wellbeing while online or outside. The report stated that the biggest form of prejudice was digital abuse found in the form of harsh comments and negative posts. The southern neighbourhoods of Māngere, Manukau and Papatoetoe have received an intense amount of unjustified hate under the guise of ‘shaming people to do the right thing.’ But as it’s been reported by the NZ Human Rights Commission, stigma and shame has led to people being less likely to report their symptoms and less likely to go for a test. Shame has also been found to manifest itself into self hate and has many communities wondering about their place in Aotearoa.
Taika Waititi was right. New Zealand IS racist. And we’re seeing the country’s true colours come out in the racist subtweets and Facebook comments. Toxic Facebook comment sections have Racist Riley’s screaming that we should build ‘borders’ around South Auckland to discourage their high mobility. One thing though Riley: South Auckland homes the country’s only international airport and heaps of its quarantine hotels. Majority of our cases have been caught at the borders of our airports, which is in, you guessed it, Manukau! Manukau and other South Auckland suburbs also make up 75% of testing centers. And it is Māori and Pasifika, the two groups who take up the majority of essential work, who have the highest rates in taking Covid tests. So between the airport and the number of test centres if you’re really looking for a case, then of course you’re going to find it in the south. (My hands are looking for a case too, so talk shit one more time.)
Another reason for the high mobility rates besides moving people from the airport to quarantine facilities is because the south also has the highest number of essential workers. Mobility is just evidence of people going to their jobs. We’ve seen with the recent breakout case that people have been complaining about the, very good might I say, work ethic of case L (the KFC worker). Instead of asking, “why did they go to work’’, lets try asking, “why did they feel like they needed to go to work”, or, “why isn’t there any support or sympathy by employers.” Anyone who’s worked in retail has probably experienced coming into work half dead because no one could cover your shift. We’ve already heard of a CBD shop owner making employees come into work despite showing symptoms and this isn’t the first instance of employers taking advantage of their workers, nor will it be the last. Let’s try shifting the blame onto the institutions and the people in charge of them, instead of people trying to survive through this financially trying time.
During the first lockdown many South Auckland highschool students had dropped out of school to take up employment to support themselves and their whānau. These students would have also contributed to the mobility coming out of the southside. These kids, remember they’re still kids at the end of the day, should be commended for their efforts and hard work. Hearing all this slander just leaves me with the question, “where’s the empathy?” I’m not asking about empathy from just the general population, but empathy from the Government also. I’m asking where’s the state support to stop students leaving school? Where are the grants to help families in need? Where’s the aroha you told us to push Jacinda?
So if you’re done shaming kids, hard workers and people making a living for themselves we’ll be here. Besides shaming and slandering isn’t very ‘he waka eke noa’ of you. Do better Aotearoa.