Thursday, 30 January 2014

Collins, Turei and Racism

Ugh, you can tell we're in an election year. The cellophane is barely off the new stationery for the term before the bitter fighting and mudslinging between parties and politicians begins. National, bless them, have decided that the electorate are shallow enough to vote based on character digs rather than policies and so Judith Collins' vicious little takedown of Green co-leader Metiria Turei this week comes as no surprise, as does John Key leaping to her defence.

A professional. Dressed professionally.

The #nzpol hashtag is alive with this so feel free to check it out if you care enough but the main point I take from all this is that Judith, you are a racist.

There you go sweetheart, this is a callout.

Your insinuation that a Maori woman cannot speak for people in poverty dressed as a professional politician is a twofold slap in the face. If Turei turned up in jandals and cutoffs you and your bitter pointy-shouldered cronies would cackle and point in your contempt for someone not taking their role seriously. You would dismiss her out of hand. If Turei, a former lawyer and advocate for beneficiaries, dares to dress in the clothes of a professional in a country that clings to European standards of formality, then you label her a hypocrite as since when did anyone currently successful ever understand the realities of poverty? The suggestion that a Maori woman should not get ideas above her station is subtle, but there. (It also smacks of a classist assumption that people in poverty are somehow "other" but that's a whole other post.) Her follow-up patronising comments to Turei after being called out is classic privilege. Put someone down, then suggest the wounded party is just oversensitive. "A sensitive little sausage" Judith? This is really how you publicly address another MP?

It is hard enough for a woman in politics to be taken seriously, as Jacinda Ardern's recent comments on the sexism she's faced as an MP testify, without facing the intersectionality of being Maori and female. The fact she's currently popular with media and public is the final provocation for a party that thrives on holding down others to benefit the minority of business cronies and schoolboy networkers. Judith's open admiration for that odious pit of despair and hatred that is Whaleoil (no, I'm not linking) should speak volumes all by itself.

The election is strongly rumoured to be held in September, giving us another seven months of backbiting and personal grudges. One would hope that voters consider what qualities they want in the people who represent them. Are racism and the gleeful snarking at others really the traits we think represent us best?

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