Monday, February 20, 2012

Dear White People: A How To Guide for Talking with them Ethnics

Dear White People: A How To Guide for Talking with them Ethnics
Michalia Arathimos

1. When you ask our names and the pronunciation is hard for you, it is polite to at least make one attempt at it.

2. If you try and get it wrong, that’s Ok. We’re not about to smack you on the hand with a stick for wrong pronunciation of a language you don’t know. We’re not into repeating the mistakes your culture made with our parents.

3. After we tell you our names and you try / don’t try to say them, we don’t need to hear that you think our names are ‘so lovely!’

4. When you ask us where we are from and we say, ‘here,’ we aren’t being cute. It means we were born here, like you. If you laugh and say, ‘no really,’ that doesn’t actually make sense. Because are you really from England? Or from Ireland? No. Your people might be. If you’re asking us what our ethnic background is or where our people are from, we might feel inclined to tell you. But we’re not obliged to, any more than you’re obliged to explain to us that your grandfather was a convict from Ireland and your grandmother was a barmaid who married a land-grabbing thief in the 1800’s.

5. If we say we’re born here and that we’re Greek, or Samoan, or whatever, then it’s not up to you to say whether we are or are not ‘a real’ Greek, or Samoan, or whatever. You don’t get to decide if we’re ‘authentic’ or not.

6. If you move into our neighbourhoods, we don’t think you’re really awesome and open-minded. We just think you live here.

7. If you tell us how lovely and amazing our neighbourhoods are, that they’re so interesting and truly multicultural, we just nod and smile but secretly we think you’re a tokenistic white liberal dick.

8. If you say you love it that you can walk down the road and get a kebab, or Chinese food, or Greek food, and that’s what makes the neighbourhood so ‘different’ and why you love living here, we’re thinking how sad it is that you’re so bored with your own culture that you need a kebab to make you feel special.

9. When we open a kebab shop, or Greek restaurant, or Chinese takeaway, we don’t care that you feel that we’re enriching your boring white middleclass neighbourhood with our exciting ethnic-ness. We’re just thinking about how great it is that you have to buy our food because your own food is so bland.

10. When you give us art grants to help us express our culture and to help contribute to the grand multiculturalism of the nation, we are grateful for the money. We take it, but we are not using it to build your nation of fabulous white people being benevolent to their interesting ethnic others. We take the money because we are working to represent our communities to our communities, not to you. We take it to begin the process of explaining ourselves to ourselves.

11. Maybe you could spend some time thinking about why we are so exotic and interesting, like someone else’s taonga or an ethnic souvenir you can collect and put in your pocket?

12. Maybe you would like to spend some time explaining?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Some words on Decolonise Your Minds! Hui

Decolonise Your Minds! Hui, 4-5 Feb 2012, at the kindly-gifted-at-no-cost, Ponsonby Community Centre, in Tamaki Makaurau, Aotearoa, saw just under 40 fierce, fantastic and fabulous women, genderqueer and trans folk, bubbling and raging under its rafters.

Two days of speakers, workshops and conversations covered the multiplicity of identities and communities we inhabit and partake within, and all the delightful complexities and painful tensions that come with it.

The first presentation was a showcase of Elizabeth Kerekere's art, much of it commissioned and placed in the Gisbourne court. This was a strategic positioning acknowledging that there are many Maori who don't go to art galleries, so expanding the venues where more Maori can access her art. She also recognises the courts and the prison system being a structurally violent place for Maori, and using her pieces to challenge, heal and uplift. Through her art, Elizabeth spoke to various aspects of her identity and politics sharing personal stories of her involvement in various movements and experiences of structural oppression throughout her life. It was a moving, insightful and inspiring presentation. Elizabeth's talk brought us to the multiplicities in ourselves and communities, and the healing of those wounds and disjunctures. Belinda Borell showed us through the smokescreened invisibility of whiteness and white culture, as an operating norm that plays out in indigenous and coloured tau iwi negative statistics. A wee booklet called "Understanding Pakeha Culture" compiled by the Dept of Labour in the 60's was a hilarious hit, much of it blatantly applying today. There was also a strategic suggestion that due to pakeha culture and the value it places on professionalism, social justice for indigenous peoples and learning more about NZ history, racism and structural inequity, needs to work the angle that it would be beneficial to their careers. Belinda also illustrated how the common symbols regarded as “kiwiana” or parts of “New Zealand culture” are mainly symbols of British and European culture, aspects of Maori culture are incorporated when it is convenient for Pakeha. Zac and MZ presented some of the intersections between speciesism and decolonisation. Exploring the use of animals in the process of colonisation in Aotearoa, and the status of animals as property under western capitalism, they challenged the structural violence against non-human animals in colonial settler states. They showed that animal agriculture was a crucial aspect of making colonisation possible by providing an economic base for settlers. Justifications for colonialism often reduced indigenous people to animal status to dehumanise and dominate. The dairy industry was used to illustrate the connections between colonialism, speciesism, sexism, neo-imperialism in the context of Aotearoa. Images of animalisation of people of colour were used to illustrate the symbiotic relationship between speciesism and racism. It challenged us to examine our relationships to non-human animals from our own cultural perspectives.

Decolonise the Mic, the Saturday evening, saw a diverse range of performances from poetry to punk rock, from kapa haka to acoustic folk. Thanks to all the performers who made the night so powerful, fun, inspiring and beautiful! Nga mihi nui ki a koutou. Cheers to Nga Tangata Hou, Texta, Whaitiri Mikaere, Marama Davidson, Kamea, Ellie, Giang, Takiaya and Pandie and Melting Pot Massacre!

A cruisy 12noon start time kicked off our second day.

Farida Sultana gave us a stirring/inspiring challenge to not censor or tone down our feminism in our communities, or else nothing changes and shifts. She talked about some of her struggles as an Asian migrant in Aotearoa and interactions with Maori women. She used personal anecdotes to illustrate that feminism is not just in the universities or western countries, many of her aunts in rural areas in Bangladesh practiced feminism and challenged patriarchy in their own ways without calling themselves feminists. Ruth DeSouza took us into the world of cultural safety, or cultural un-safety as more than a few workshop examples showed the damage that dominant culture acts and assumptions cause and maintain. She demonstrated the pakeha-centric discourses around maternity in her field of nursing and the way oppression impacts on the bodies of migrant mothers. A deep cutting, awkward and brightly honest exercise initiated by a number of indigenous hui participants, mapped out so clearly the costs and consequences of colonisation. An exercise showing, that while we all shared experiences of marginalisation and racism, the privileges available and accessible to coloured tau iwi within a colonial context, starkly contrasted to the colonial impacts on indigenous peoples, regarding class, poverty, domestic violence, substance abuse, education, incarceration and going hungry. It was a powerful display of some of the class differences amongst us and an exercise that brought up a lot of emotions and tensions.

The hui closed heartfelt and strongly, with challenges to reach, foster and create bridges with many groups of people not represented at the hui, as well as suggestions for a Reo component, noho styles on a marae, and for the hui to be longer.

Decolonise Your Minds! Hui 2012 would like to give the massive props, and deeply thank Rainbow Youth, Ponsonby Community Centre, The Quakers Local Peace Grant, A-Fem Hui and individual donors and supporters and helpers, for the myriad of your generous support.

Check out some audio of the presentations, kindly hosted by

A special thank you to the organisers and participants for allowing parts of the hui to be recorded and made available online.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Decolonise Your Minds!

Decolonise Your Minds:
marginalised gendered People of Colour DECOLONISATION hui

Sat 4th - Sun 5th Feb 2012
Tamaki Makaurau (Ponsonby Community Centre)
(Auckland, New Zealand)

$20 waged/ $10 unwaged, or whatever you can afford

The People of Colour Decol Hui is a two day celebration of Decolonisation, Feminism and Anti-Racism, for POC/indigenous feminists and activists, all mixed up with DIY workshops, skill share and talks.

The People of Colour Decol Hui is for marginalised gendered people of colour; including women, transfolk, intersex, genderqueers, wimmin (etc)- of marginalised cultures, indigenous and ethnic minorities in Aotearoa.

We clarify that "pale" coloured and indigenous people are very welcome at this hui. If you self identify with being a person of colour, and are happy to be in this space, then please come along.

We know that people of colour/indigenous people can have many parents/gransparents from all over, and we won't be perpetuating policing around whether someone is coloured or indigenous or not. For us this is just the kinds of things we seek to eradicate.

If you want to come but you're not sure if this includes you, please get in touch

The POC Decol Hui aims to open up space for discussion around being marginalised gendered tangata whenua and coloured tau iwi people in Aotearoa.

Examining the inherent power dynamics interwoven into our lives, connections between racism, sexism, colonisation, classism and other oppressions, and working in predominantly pakeha activist scenes... and how these things affect us and the feminist/ social justice/ peace/ revolutionary/creative work we do.

The weekend will be grounded around those main themes. There will be spaces for discusions to happen.

We hope that this gathering will enable us to share some experiences and tools for critiquing, challenging, and overcoming these oppressions.

There will be discussion forums, workshops and skill shares.

Featured discussion sessions/presentations/workshops include:

Elizabeth Kerekere: "Multiplicities: splitting ourselves across cultures, families and communities"

Belinda Borell:
"Co-opting whiteness, raced-based motions and moving targets"

Ruth DeSouza:
"The real impacts of marginalisation on bodies"

MZ and Zac: "Savage Beasts": Anti-speciesism and Decolonisation

Farida Sultana: "Asian feminism and decolonisation"

The POC Decol Hui is volunteer run.

If anyone has a workshop, skill share, discussion idea, from zine making, recipe swapping, difficult convos with family, kissing booths etc, that they would like to run please get in contact and let us know.

Further details (time, location) posted soon.Full(ish) programme will be posted in Jan 2012.

Exact info etc will be getting sussed shortly, consider this a heads up to get excited!!! Also for all our pakeha commrades out there fighting oppression, we welcome your support. Some things you could possibly do; include help with childcare, fundraising, food, places for people to stay during the hui etc. Get in touch :)

Email us any further questions.
Rego by 31 Jan 2012

(oh and please register even if you're not paying, so we know how much food to cook)

POC Decol Hui organisers: Rouge, Giang, MZ and Wai Ho

POC Decol Hui 2012 rego form:



travel assistance wanted?:
(we have some money avail for gas, plane, train or bus)

food requirements?:
(food provided)

childcare costs assistance wanted?:
(we have some money avail to pay childminders)

waged, unwaged, none/or whatever you can afford?:

any topics you would really like discussed?

(venue and toilets are accessible)

copy, paste and email rego to :

hui cost details:

Account name: W L Ho conference
Bank account number: 02 1242 0549383 032

We wish to thank The Quakers, A-Fem hui, Rainbow Youth and individual donors, for their kind support. It's much appreciated.