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Talking about racist ‘jokes’ in NZ

What is racism? asked the defence counsel. If someone says that Maori don't get ahead because they're intrinsically lazy, is that racism?

Jon Johansson, great friend of Bob Jones, current chief of staff for Winston Peters, isn't able to give a straight answer. Perhaps, he says.

But you just agreed that to stereotype a whole race of people in a negative way is racism, so why can't you answer yes?

Dr Johansson taps his long fingers on the desk and scratches his face, and says You'll have to excuse me but I don't think like that.

He doesn't think like that? Define "that" - someone who can call out a racist?

Does Dr Johansson think like a racist? I think we might be getting closer to the truth.

Dr Johansson thinks the piece Bob wrote for NBR was funny, it’s satire evidently. He chuckles.

Bob wrote that Waitangi day should be changed to Maori Gratitude day, and on that day Maori should bring Pakeha breakfast in bed to show their gratitude. Gratitude Why would anyone think saying that was funny?

If anything was designed to get NZers offended, specifically non-racist NZers, that was going to be it.

No we really didn't find anything funny about it. Renae Maihi went the whole way and called it out, she called Bob Jones a racist. She started a petition to have his knighthood taken off of him. Good on her.

No it’s satire, it’s funny says Dr Jon. Bob agrees. He's got Maori friends, Maori kids. We’re all one big family.

Yes, agrees Jon Johansson, Bob isn't a racist at all, he thinks that all the people in the world are one big race. He stumbles when it comes to culture though. Because evidently Maori culture isn't a thing. What? That's right, Bob says that learning te reo is as useful as stamp collecting or line dancing. Ummm are those words really coming out of his mouth? I glance at the Maori lady sitting along from me and she has her eyes closed and her mouth pursed. Quite.

You say that the article was just joking, just satire. And I think of all the times someone said a really mean thing and then when called on it they say, I was just joking, can't you take a joke? That's right put the blame on the person who's been insulted. The people who turn it on the victim don't take any responsibility for their offensiveness. Just because you wrote the words doesn't mean you intended to be a racist, does it Bob? They just slipped off of your pen, and when you saw them on the page you knew no one would be offended. At least no one that you cared about.

Because you don't care about Maori do you Bob Jones? You don't care about what they've been through, the systemic institutionalised racism that means if you're Maori you're going to have a rougher time in NZ. You don't care that this High Court of NZ is on stolen Maori land. You don't care that Maori were chased off their land, locked up because they resisted and worse. You think it is funny, eh?

It’s good that this is being heard in court. Not because Bob is right, (heads up - he’s not) but because the festering underbelly of NZ racism needs to be exposed. Just like an abscess, it’s a good idea to flick the scab off and squeeze. Yes pus is disgusting, but so is racism; to heal the boil you have to squeeze the pus out into the daylight and clean up the wound. A sickening job; you have to have a strong stomach and a strong heart to do it.

Kia Kaha Renae Maihi, I tautoko your mahi.

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