Tuesday, 5 April 2011

no racism without race

woah, it's almost the end of the first week of april and i haven't had a post up this month. i do have good reasons though.

i spent friday & saturday in auckland at the ethnica conference (pdf) organised by the office of ethnic affairs. you'll notice that i don't appear on the programme, but i ended speaking twice. on the friday, i spoke immediately after representative farah pandith. i only spoke for 5 minutes, about multiculturalism in a nz context, particularly as it relates to the muslim community. if i get time later in the week, i'll write up the speech and post it.

later that day, there was a debate in which joris de bres, ali ikram & raybon kan shone in terms of their sense of humour & style. and they managed to make a few salient points - loved ali pointing out the lack of asian or middle eastern doctors & nurses on shortland street, proving that multiculturalism is not a reality in nz. and raybon with his observation that just like there would be no divorce if we didn't have marriage or no death if we didn't have life, so there would racism if we didn't have race. therefore racism was our fault for having different races (yeah, it was one of those "you had to be there" moments).

the next day, one of the more memorable sessions was the panel on domestic violence, which had the new CEO of the ministry of women's affairs rowena phair, district court judge ajit singh, CEO of women's refuge heather henare and ranjina patel of the manukau indian association. they gave good and detailed presentations, but wouldn't you know it, the question & answer session immediately turned into "what about the menz". a comment about the so-called severe psychological abuse suffered by men when their wives changed after coming to this country received a lot of laughter and a few men applauding.

as you can imagine, yours truly had smoke coming out of her ears, and when given the opportunity to ask a question, had to throw in the comment "it's a pity that any discussion on violence against women quickly gets turned into a discussion about men, and it's clear that more education is required on the subject of violence and abuse. if your wife is not cooking dinner for you when she gets home, that is not abuse. and if she doesn't pick up your socks or hang out your washing, that isn't abuse." needless to say, i got thanked for that by a couple of women, including ms phair!

there was one valid issue concerning men that was raised. in the case of protection orders, where they have to leave the house, many men have no place to go. particularly where there are issues of poverty, and the lack of a social support network (faced especially by many refugees and migrants), there needs to be some kind of emergency housing provided. maybe there are already places i don't know about, but none of the panellists enlightened us about any such places.

the session put me in a bad mood for my next speaking slot, which was a workshop on stereotyping in the media. i basically talked about the letter in the waikato times that i blogged about recently, and the impact that this kind of commentary on the targets of it. the panel discussion was a little frustrating, but gavin ellis (ex editor of the herald) was quite supportive & clearly stated that he would not have run that letter.

all in all, it was a tiring couple of days, though filled with yummy food and good company. i got back on sunday and had to finish my homework for the taku manawa programme (pdf) as well as getting the washing & shopping done & putting out the rubbish. i got it all done, and have been at the programme the last two days. the final day is tomorrow & i expect it's going to be a little sad. the group taking the programme are inspirational, dynamic and generally wonderful. the people who have taught us are pretty amazing too.

i have to say that it hasn't been easy to do the programme, in that some of the issues that come up can be triggering or upsetting. despite that, it has been hugely rewarding & i'm looking forward to doing some facilitating out in the community.

all of this activity has meant i'm pretty tired, especially when added to the fact that 7 april is a major tax date & i had to go into work last night after the course to get a few hours work done. i have felt enriched by the variety of experiences over the last week, but hopefully things will quiten down a little later this week & i can get back to writing.

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