When we lose somebody to tragedy here in our own country, it is awful enough. But when death comes for one of ours in a tragedy overseas, we feel a different shade of raw.
They weren’t here. We couldn’t protect them. We didn’t have them in Aotearoan arms.
Our distance from the plagues and rushing concrete of the world, our fresh air, our fluting birds, our glittering oceans, our miles of salt and sand and our night sky streaming with stars we can actually see, our places of peace and quiet – these things didn’t save them from a dark, huge, sudden catastrophe in the air.
MH370 has caught the world’s attention.
The headlines were already upsetting. We’re a small country. Ximin Wang’s family have been thrust into horrifying grief they didn’t deserve or expect. Their lives, we can only imagine, are now full of fresh despair and horror.
If they glance at a paper, they will see that a kiwi died on that plane. But apparently, it wasn’t their one.
It is true that the papers already had material on Paul Weeks, because he spoke to the media in 2012 about moving to Perth. But they didn’t find out anything about Ximin Wang. His traumatised family – understandably – didn’t want to talk to the media.
Neither of our country’s two newspapers bothered to find out his profession, whether he is a father, whether he has a partner, or anything else. Just his name was enough for them.
We get 17 lines about Paul Weeks in one article before a hastily-added Also on board was Ximin Wang, 50. He lived in Auckland, the Herald on Sunday reported. Nephew Ned Wang told the paper his family were too distraught to comment.
Some of the New Zealand articles about the flight don’t even mention Ximin’s name at all.
He is mentioned second in every single article he is actually mentioned in. (At first I wondered if there a rule that our dead must be listed alphabetically in any article, hence Paul > Ximin? But even if that were so, Wang comes before Weeks).
But it isn’t only the lack of humanising information in the articles themselves that has really made me wild. It is the lack of mention in headlines. Looking at the mainstream media – specifically Stuff and the NZ Herald – you’d think there was only one kiwi who went down with that plane.
Missing plane: ‘Miss you already’ – Lost Kiwi’s last text
‘I can’t give up hope’, says wife of missing passenger
Family in the dark as search for missing plane continues
Wife of man on missing jet praying for a miracle
Chch man missing on Malaysia Airlines flight
The international media is a little better:
Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370: Two New Zealanders Feared Dead in Lost Aircraft (International Business Times)
And one or two Herald articles are more inclusive:
Two Kiwis feared dead on missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft
But the text, the terrible text: it mentions nothing of Ximin Wang but his name.
Let’s be clear that these are our country’s two biggest newspapers here. They have ways and means of finding out professions, hobbies, life details. But it seems if you’re not a Pakeha, they’re not interested.
We are missing two beloved New Zealanders: Paul Weeks, 38, the father of two sons; a 3-year old and a 10-month old, who’d just left for a new job in a construction and mining company…
…and Ximin Wang, 50.
They have glossed over him like he’s nothing. Like he’s nobody. He is repeatedly, callously referred to as “the other kiwi.”
Is he not as equal a New Zealander as the Pakeha man? Does his life not matter so much? Why is he the other? (He actually lived here, unlike Paul Weeks.)
We see this kind of racism all the time, but we don’t notice it. Those in that privileged space of media don’t seem to see that they have a voice that yells above everybody else’s. They don’t see that in pointing out everybody’s race but theirs they are promoting their own privileged place above us all.
Oh, she’s part Maori? He’s part Samoan? They’re part Niuean? She’s part Korean? Well, what’s the other part?
Normal, of course. Pakeha.
When was the last time you saw a newspaper article pointing out someone’s race as Pakeha? How many times have you seen articles that proclaim the pedigree of someone as something else, though – Maori, Namibian, Lebanese, Cook Islands? Chinese? Oh, that’s right: every time they’re not Pakeha.
Ximin wasn’t very Pakeha-sounding, and I suspect this is why he does not interest the mainstream media.
His nephew is named Ned, and doesn’t want to talk. He lived in Morningside. And with all the newspapers’ journalistic talent amassed, this is all we know of Ximin.
So, he lived in Morningside, did he? Probably he went to St Lukes quite often, then. He maybe bought trousers at Hallensteins or the Warehouse. Perhaps he shopped at the Countdown in there. He almost certainly would have bought some treats from one of the many bakeries and cafes there.
Morningside for life. It’s a funny area. Sort of industrial, but very lived-in; there is an almost equal mix of apartments, bungalows and townhouses. There are some mature trees, including a few huge pohutukawa, but mostly you see coprosma, willow, silver birch and assorted shrubs in the streets. There is a lot of footpath, many large retailers and their resulting traffic, and from many spots you can see across to the Waitakere Ranges.
I went the long way and drove to Morningside today on my way home. I wanted to travel through the area Ximin Wang must have travelled through so many times.
It was a light evening, with people stretching in their cars and bobbing their heads to music. Cars waited at the intersections with red brakes and open windows. A quiet breeze feathered the tops of trees, and clouds got ashen and thicker above the jagged tips of the Waitakere Ranges, heated by the edges of an orange sunset. St Lukes had its usual billboards and carparks, and dehydrated coprosma trees were, as always, sagging in the back streets.
It was a beautiful day here in Auckland – clear and fine, like it was when flight MH370 disappeared into the void a few days ago.
There was a 50 year old kiwi man on that plane. He was named Ximin Wang, and he was dearly loved, and he belonged here, and he lived in Morningside, and he has been lost to us.
To the family of the New Zealander Ximin Wang: I am so, so sorry.