Opinion: The Christchurch mosque shooting is 'who we are' - but it doesn't have to be

By Aaron Hendry

OPINION: "This is not who we are."

The Prime Minister's words were beautiful, eloquent, and filled with hope.

And yet sadly, they were also untrue.

We say "this is not us" as if that makes what happened on Friday somehow less real, less confronting, less us - some one-off, crazy, unrelated incident, which just popped up out of the blue.

Yet this wasn't out of the blue. Friday's events shouldn't have surprised anyone.

The ideologies and beliefs which drove these people are sentiments shared and broadcast by "regular" Kiwis on the daily. Just listen to talkback radio, or explore your closest social media platform, and you'll see proof that this man's divisive rhetoric and ideology is not only held here in New Zealand, but in many circles it is also normalised and accepted.

Racism is rampant in this country, and over the last year we have seen growth in racially charged politics and ideologies.

Ideologies of division that have been decidedly anti-Muslim, anti-refugee, and anti-immigration, have grown and taken root.

Politicians and more than a few prominent media personalities have used fear of the unknown other to garner support and boost their popularity and reach. Sowing seeds of fear which were always going to produce a harvest of hate.

And now this.

Our own people, those who came to join us in this whenua, those we promised could have a life here, have borne the consequences.

There are some who are saying that it is too early to talk about such things, that we "shouldn't politicise such a horrific tragedy" - yet sadly, the actions of these people, these acts of terror, are already political.

This attack was borne out of seeds planted in the soil of racism, discrimination and white supremacy. And if we are to prevent something like this happening again, we must look full in the face of the ugliness of Friday's events.

This was an act of terror.

A mass murder carried out by people driven by an ideology built on the foundations of white nationalism. Ignoring the problem won't make it go away. Our ignorance won't prevent more lives being lost.

It is time we acknowledged the racism and white supremacy, which is not only prevalent, but also foundational to our country.

For most Pākehā and European Kiwis that will be a hard pill to swallow.

But, as difficult as it may be to acknowledge, we can afford to do no less. We have allowed racism and fear to grow unchecked and unheeded. We have not resisted strongly enough the narratives of hate which feed on people's fears.

Too long we have fanned the flames of division and Islamophobia, and now we have all been burnt.

I get that at this time, in the face of such evil, such tragedy, that we want to distance ourselves from the people involved. We aren't like this man, we would never do anything like this, we aren't responsible.

But, at the same time, the idea and belief that immigrants are invading our nation has been an accepted and normalised part of public discourse for some time now.

It's time we put a stop to that. It's time we named it for what it is: hate speech, coated in honey.

The Prime Minister's words were beautiful, so let us make them true.

Let us rid ourselves of any ideology or belief that would provide a foundation for these sorts of terrorist acts to be built on.

Let us accept and acknowledge the kinship of all human beings.

Let us return to the way of Love, remembering that our neighbour is not merely those who share our blood, or our skin color, but all people regardless of ethnicity, nationality, gender, sex or religion.

This does not have to be who we are. But, until we acknowledge that it is part of us, we will never be rid of it.

A J Hendry is a writer at the blog When Lambs Are Silent