OPINION: If you don't think that New Zealand is a racist country, I'm happy for you. I'm happy that you've never had to navigate your way through the world wearing a skin that isn't white.
When Taika Waititi said New Zealand is "racist as f**k", he wasn't using some metric racism scale which goes from "nah not really just jokes" all the way up to "as f**k".
No, he was using the binary reality of racism which has two options: not racist, or racist as f**k. You either accept that racism exists, or you don't.
- Taika Waititi 'sabotaging' New Zealand - Duncan Garner
- 'New Zealand is racist as f***' - Taika Waititi
And there's not "really bad racism" and "good racism", just like there isn't "a really bad punch in the head" and "a good punch in the head". It all hurts. But the difference between racism and a punch in the head is that only one of these things leaves a bruise, and bruises are proof that violence exists.
The bruises of racism show up in statistics. If you're Māori, there's a greater chance you'll end up in jail, or live in poverty, or die young.
If you're Asian, you're more likely to get sick and die from preventable disease.
And if you're Pasifika, you've got a much bigger chance of living with a lot less money.
That's the hard stuff which is there for all to see in black and blue and purple. Though somehow, we still manage to ignore these statistics and explain it away as something other than what it is: inequality. It's going to be pretty hard to argue New Zealand isn't racist until we can make some of these statistical bruises go away.
The less visible racism, the stuff that you don't know anything about unless you're brown or black or Asian, is happening all the time. And it hurts like hell.
Getting followed around a shop in case you steal something is humiliating. Laughing off 'jokes' at school is exhausting. Reading comments on news articles drives you into a rage. If it only happened sometimes you'd survive, but it can feel like death by a thousand cuts.
I read that lovely conversation between Taika Waititi and Ruban Nielsen in Dazed over the weekend and I was thrilled. It was two of my favourite New Zealand artists fanboying over each other's work, celebrating their Kiwiness and making astute, funny jokes about their own experiences growing up.
It reminded me of the conversations I have with my own friends. It felt like I had been invited for a beer with them.
The backlash to it is like someone listening in to that imaginary beer from the next table, hearing that one comment about New Zealand being racist, and jumping up in the middle of the room to yell and start a fight about it.
That's a bit rude and you wouldn't do it.
Instead, I invite you to sit down at the table and listen.
Taika starting this conversation isn't sabotaging New Zealand, it's trying to fix New Zealand. And if, reading this, you find yourself getting angry at me, feeling like jumping up to start a fight or make a comment - ask yourself where that anger comes from.
Kanoa Lloyd hosts The Project NZ on Three, weeknights at 7pm.