COMMENT:

As social and mainstream media struggled to articulate their feelings in the wake of the Christchurch mosque shootings, the one thing that became immediately obvious was that we need more brown voices.

I hesitated to write this, because I know it is not my place, this is not my story and it is not about me. It is about our Muslim whānau.

To you I say: Ka nui te aroha ki a koutou. I am sorry for your loss, your grief, the injustice and the prejudice you have faced and will continue to face. I am with you.

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I cannot even begin to speak to your tragedy and grief, nor would I ever presume to. But what I can speak to is my own rage, because I am lucky enough to have a platform to express it, on behalf of many others I know are feeling the same.

People of colour are mad right now. We are scared and hurt, yes. But also mad.

The attack in Christchurch first and foremost impacted the Muslim community - 50 dead, dozens hurt, hundreds grieving. But the attack was not just anti-Muslim. It was pro-white, led by a white supremacist.

Following the attack it was not just the mosques they shut down. Local marae were shut
down too.

Online, everyone said "this is not us" about the attacker and "they are us" about the attacked.

Except this is us. I, and those in similar positions get hate speech delivered direct to our inboxes on a regular basis. In my opinion, this has always been us, this is a country built on colonisation and the assumption of white superiority - an assumption that still exists, whether you're aware of it or not.

The notion that "they are us" was inadvertently problematic; on one hand perpetuating the otherness of Muslim Kiwis, on another threatening to erase their identities. MP Marama Davidson eventually found the middle ground perfectly, stating: "We love you not just because you are us, but because you are you".

Elsewhere, Twitter was awash with people imploring others to reach out, not judge books by their covers, visit their local mosques, start a conversation - all without acknowledging that the fact it took 50 lives to prompt us to do so is part of the problem.

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Students perform the Haka at Al-Madinah School as part of a memorial service. Photo / Dean Purcell
Students perform the Haka at Al-Madinah School as part of a memorial service. Photo / Dean Purcell

All over the internet I've seen white voices comment on the tragedy and lead the broadcasts. I've seen Muslim voices introduced as sound bites; voices of despair yes, but also hope - to give the rest of us assurances, as if we're the ones who need it.

I've seen and heard and been put in a position where I'm expected to assuage people's white guilt and fragility. Of course, not all white people are racist. But as so many others are pointing out now, ignoring racism, telling me to laugh it off, sweeping it under the rug - that's all complicit in racism.

Because of such attitudes, I am made out to be problematic - always writing about race, a broken record. The reason I do it, not so much.

I acknowledge my privilege as a light skinned Māori woman from a family who gave me the world, who was able to get an education, this job and the platform to even write this now.

I know I have it easy. But if I have it easy, it only speaks to how much worse others have it.

This is why I'm mad. I'm mad because the nation was surprised by this. A friend of mine texted me soon after the news broke, she said: "Everyone's asking how this happened. You and I know how." She's also been on the receiving end of New Zealand's racist underbelly.

She's been told to go back to her own country. So have I - someone, astoundingly, once shouted at me on K' Road to "go back to where you came from, bitch".

Had we been near that mosque, we'd likely have been shot. Others might not have. We know the difference between which would be which.

These are all things we aren't supposed to say. It's upsetting to people. It's inflammatory in a time of grief.

You know what else is upsetting? 50 people being killed for how they looked, how they chose to worship.

It's upsetting that people who have perpetrated hateful rhetoric for years are now suddenly telling victims not to let such hate keep them down. It's upsetting that we're now telling people who have feared this all along that we saw no evil, heard no evil and spoke no evil. Telling them in their time of grief that "they are us", 50 lives too late.

So yes, I'm mad. I'm also terrified because now that this has happened once, it could happen again.

I'm terrified that those who support these actions are no doubt finding their community online and banding together just as we are, and my country is only just waking up to what some of us have always known.

I'm terrified that people are stockpiling semi-automatic weapons and the NRA is involving itself and I'm terrified of what that means.

But most of all I'm just tired. I'm tired of witnessing all the hate and all the surprised faces of those who have just opened their eyes. I'm tired of death being necessary to create change. I'm tired of keeping my mouth shut because I know the backlash I'll get from saying these things.

So let me be clear: I'm not saying no one has a right to feel how they're feeling. This is a horrific thing that impacts us as a nation and everyone has the right to grieve and react in their own ways.

What I am saying is that we need to stop acting surprised and indignant, speaking of a loss of innocence and giving our attention to "what will the world think of us now?".

Instead we need to start owning up and actioning real change - not just pretty hashtags. There's a lot of work to be done.