The Lantern Festival and Racism


The Lantern Festival and Racism

I am angry and sad and confused. In that order.

I had a lovely evening at the Lantern Festival and highly recommend it. It is as it has always been, nothing has really changed. Maybe a few more branded lanterns? I stuffed myself with dumplings. I’d been anticipating them.

I don’t really have more to say on the topic because my head is now filled what I witnessed as I was leaving. My friend and I were walking down from Albert Park when this yelling started in front of us. It quickly became clear that we were witnessing a verbal hate crime. A stupid drunk girl was yelling the most horrid torrent of racist hate at a Chinese lady walking down the street. Apparently, I gathered, because her dog was yapping.

“Shut your f*cking dog up you f*cking Asian. Go back to your f*cking home. Why don’t you just f*cking eat it?”

It went on until she was dragged around a corner by a less hate-filled drunk friend.

We were stunned. Do people really think things like that still? We, as well as others, who had witnessed it went over to the lady and apologised and she seemed far more composed than I would have been in that situation. She said it was fine. We said it really wasn’t. And her dog was lovely.

How are there still people who think that crap? And with such venom? And how do you stop it? Did she not get how extra-ridiculous it was to be being that racist on her way from the LANTERN FESTIVAL?!

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I decided against confronting stupid-racist-drunk girl when I passed her later. I was on my own by then and didn’t feel like being beaten up by her rather large group of (also very drunk) friends. I also decided that it probably would actually do no good. Maybe if she was sober and not put into a defensive position in front of her friends. Maybe I should have tried anyway.

Thoughts? Have you encountered this sort of hate-filled racism (or bigotry in general) and what did you do about it/ would have like to have done about it?

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  1. An appalling episode. I am concerned you ask “do people really think things like that still?”. Of course they do. You need to get out more. You only need to get out of the nice, middle class liberal inner-suburbs and into any provincial centre to hear casual and vehement racism every day. Where I live and socalise the NORM is racist. Pacific Islanders don’t have the brains and leadership qualities to play 1st Five; Maori are violent and lazy; Asians are rude, won’t integrate and eat their pets; the Dutch are tight with their money; Muslims want top push their religion on us; there are too many refugees. This racism does not come from pissed little idiots it comes from ordinary, salt of the earth, compassionate, hard working, fun loving, well traveled, educated New Zealanders. They are your friends’ parents and grandparents, the women you work with in the orchard or the office, the bloke at the garage and the local lawyer, the check out operator and the real estate agent. It is the norm.

    • “This racism does not come from pissed little idiots it comes from ordinary, salt of the earth, compassionate, hard working, fun loving, well traveled, educated New Zealanders. They are your friends’ parents and grandparents, the women you work with in the orchard or the office, the bloke at the garage and the local lawyer, the check out operator and the real estate agent”

      Exactly right. But I would argue that this represents the nice, middle class liberal inner-suburbs too. I don’t think this means we are surrounded by ‘racists’. Only that we ALL are surrounded by ways of thinking at speaking that keep racist stereotypes alive and create real life challenges in everyone having equitable access to opportunity.

    • You are right Rob. Sorry, wasn’t an actual question. I know full well that those attitudes exist. However, I am never any less shocked just because I see it more. Particularly with that level of hatred.

  2. Sad to hear of this experience but I have to say not surprising. The presentation of the lantern festival aside (which seems to get less Chinese and more hipster every year), ask any person of colour and the experience of what you describe is pretty commonplace actually. And in terms of interpersonal acts – name calling, stereotyping, – white people too experience this albeit not to anywhere near the same levels. So this is nothing extraordinary in that sense but there are structural and institutional levels of racism that make this kind of thing more likely for non-white people to experience at the personal level.

    While we can’t defend the indefensible its important I think to see it in the context of understanding racism in NZ. This young woman (no doubt exacerbated by her inebriation) is drawing on some pretty old, well used and heavily entrenched racial stereotypes about people with Asian heritage that can be traced to the earliest of colonial times. Same can be said for Maori, PI, and numerous other groups as Rob outlines below. These then, make up a set of verbal/language patterns (what we in anti-racism work call discursive resources) we ALL are then able to draw on if we choose (not that we all DO of course but the point is that they are available to us if we want). Alternatives to these patterns (to describe and think of others in more embracing ways), are far fewer to be honest and alot less entrenched as they are less used by institutions like news, media, politicians, etc so require more thought, time and personal investment to use. When people are tired or stressed or in this case drunk, then the more entrenched patterns are usually the ones drawn on because they are the ones most readily available. This is how structural and institutional racism impacts on the everyday lived experiences of people of colour in so far as they are ‘different’.

    So, although white people get called ‘honky’ or ‘cracker’, entrenched racial stereotypes about white people if you’ve ever asked about it (and I have) are actually pretty rare and are usually of a positive orientation. So the racial stereotypes to draw on to put down white people aren’t anywhere near as available or entrenched as those that can be drawn on for pretty much everyone else. This is not coincidence. But an outcome of the different treatment the structural and institutional forces bear on the white population. That ‘treatment’ is to view the white/pakeha population as what is ‘normal’ and ‘ordinary’ and the measure by which all others are compared. If this is hard to grasp, think of it terms of gender. There are untold patterns of language to draw on the describe women which have major impacts on their well being. They are drawn on often ‘bitch’, ‘slut’, ‘ho’, the list goes on. The are readily available to all and are drawn on often to keep women in their place so to speak (even by other women). The equivalent for men is just non-existent, are less available and often positive (calling a man a slut seems to often be taken as a compliment, go figure). I would argue the structural and institutional forces are just as much as play there as for race, ethnicity, religion, age, able-bodiness, and numerous other variables. What needs deconstructing I think is what constitutes the ‘normal’ rather than looking at what is ‘different’ from that.

    In terms of speaking out, I can completely understand your dismissal of that stupid woman and would not seek to place judgement on anyone for making that choice given that circumstance. But I would say that when members of the dominant group be that men speaking out about sexism, white people speaking out against racism, it can make quite significant differences in the hearts and minds of all who hear it. It takes some of the ‘load’ off the group being disparaged who often feel they are always dealing with this kind of thing (the Chinese lady’s casual dismissal and composure speak to me here). Choosing those moments can be important in terms of not wearing yourself out and staying in the struggle long term. But as Rob points out those battlegrounds are often alot closer to home than what you view on the street and I would suggest starting there.
    Power to you.

    • Belinda- really enjoyed reading that comment. Thank you. It’s like the concept of exnomination, right?

      It wasn’t so much that I dismissed her- but she was clearly worked up and I knew that there was no getting through to her in that situation. Pick your battles I suppose.

      Also- more hipster, and WAY more corporate.

  3. Over-analysed, mebbe? … the operative word here is ‘drunk’, not ‘racist’ and the operative trigger (apparently) the yapping dog, not racism.

    From what you have reported, the fact that the victim of the abuse was Asian and the perpetrator (apparently) was not just gave the perpetrator a handy peg to hang her rant on (under other circumstances, the taunt could have been ‘fatty’ or ‘beanpole’ or ‘gimpy’ or whatever other attribute the victim may have had which could be used as an insult – in my experience angry people use whatever they think will hurt most).

    Ask yourself (and it doesn’t sound as though you were there early enough to observe the trigger), if the dog HADN’T been yapping, could it be that there would have been no incident?

    (I’m not ‘white’, by the way)

    • Sounds awfully like you are attempting to blame the victim here. Trigger? Really? Interesting choice of word there. And of course using the simplest analyses of what is actually a problem with structural and institutional roots is comforting I’m sure. Why not just stick to reading the Herald? I think a blog of this kind entitles people to a little more analysis if that’s ok with you.

      I’m intrigued that your dismissal of the depth of these issues comes with a disclaimer that you are “not white”. If you truly believed what you are saying, surely such a disclaimer would be unnecessary?

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