I have been wracking my brain about how Socialink can best tautoko or support our Muslim community at this horrific time.

Tears well up regularly and I expect they will for some time as I hear the stories emerging of what happened and how people and communities are responding to what has happened.

We cannot deny that there is an under current of hate and discrimination in our communities, whether that be targeted at Māori, LTGTBQIA community, Muslim, Jewish, the list goes on and it exists here in the western Bay of Plenty.

Events such as what happened on the 15th of March emerge from this dangerous under current and must be challenged.

These are hard conversations to have and this is, I think, how SociaLink can contribute, not just now but for years to come. Let me start today.

I am a Pakeha, middle aged (hard to face up to but true L), middle class, heterosexual woman which is a common demographic group in the workforce of the social sector.  By virtue of being born into a middle class Pakeha family I have benefited from the colonisation of Aotearoa and being a part of the dominant Pakeha culture.

I have benefited from and had access to New Zealand’s schools and health services and have not experienced discrimination because of my race or sexuality.  Not only this, the schools and health services are delivered according to my cultural frame of reference and at a cost that was affordable to a middle class family.

This is not the case for most Māori who still suffer from the impact of colonisation, including being the victim of terrorist events in the 1800’s.  Māori and other minority groups have not had the same level of access to education and health delivered in a way that understands and reflects their culture nor in a way that is affordable.  They have also suffered as a result of systemic and unconscious discrimination.  The suicide rates, high levels of incarceration and poorer health outcomes are a testament to this.

So what do I do.  For a start I own and acknowledge my privilege and do whatever I can to redress the power imbalance.  I continue to learn and will continue to do so for the rest of my life about Aotearoa’s history, te Ao Māori , te reo Māori as well as about other minority groups and use any opportunity to raise awareness.  The more I learn, the more I realise I don’t know, like peeling an onion, as I learn about one layer I discover ever more layers.  I think this alone is one of the most important things that we can do, the dark under current of discrimination and hate thrive in ignorance which then cultivates fear.

I do my best to pronounce Māori names correctly.  I challenge discriminatory views or acts whenever I hear or become aware of them.

As I go on this journey, I can assure you I don’t get it right all of the time, it’s a work in progress.  I would like to thank my friends and colleagues who take the time to teach and advise me about their culture and their experiences so I can better understand life from their perspective.

I challenge you to reflect on and think about how you expose, challenge and ultimately eliminate the under current here in the western Bay of Plenty.  I challenge us to think about how we tap into the huge outpourings of aroha at the moment and foster this so it remains and becomes our ‘new normal’.