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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

My essay reflecting on my learnings from the Bicultural and Indigenous Studies paper



I wrote an essay reflecting on my key learning from a paper on Bicultural and Indigenous studies that I did as part of my social work training. I was writing it against the backdrop of the consequences of the murder of George Floyd by four policemen in America. It seemed appropriate to be wrestling with what I learned about what racism means and what systems underline it while Black Lives Matter protests are being held all around the world. I decided to share an edited version of my essay here.

For most of the semester I walked around with a pain in my heart because of the things I was reading and hearing and because I couldn’t see how any of us could make a difference. However in the last two weeks of the semester, things have changed and although I will not even pretend to have all the answers, I am starting to see what my part is and what I can do going into the future. I have learned that the feeling of powerlessness was me making this about me and my feelings; whereas this is not about me, this is about an underlying racist system that I benefit from and that I need to be open to listen and to have the knowledge what to say when I need to speak up.


On reflection, there are a handful of stand out moments for me from this paper. The first was the lecture by Emma Maurice on generational trauma. This was the first time I had heard about the effects of colonisation in this context. I knew that colonisation created systemic inequality for Māori, but it was the first time I had heard about trauma as a consequence of the loss or injury of their lands, culture and traditional manner of living (Reid, Taylor-Moore & Varona, 2014). I learned that it is well recognised that generational trauma is carried in our bodies leaving lasting consequences across the years till today (Menakem, 2017). Trauma combined with an underlying racially biased system contributes to the inequality that we see in society. As an example, one of the effects of trauma is that it leaves you vulnerable and unable to process when things go wrong, it means you are one step closer to not being able to cope; and understanding trauma, puts into context things like mental health statistics for Māori (Te Puni Kōkiri, 2017).

I was really impacted by a reading where I realised that bi-cultural in a New Zealand context meant Māori and then everyone else, especially seeing the “everyone else” was basically a european/pakeha framework and system. Unfortunately because of Covid I wasn’t able to print my readings and underline them and so I cannot find this reading again to reference it, however I still want to mention it because it made such an impression on me. Once it was pointed out in such a clear way, it is easy to see that the political and social systems are overwhelmingly set up in a Pakeha model as opposed to a Māori model (Sibley & Liu, 2007). Recognising my white privilege is the starting point to the work I need to do to learn where I fit in this and what I can do differently.

“White privilege doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been hard, it means your skin tone isn’t one of the things making it harder…. White privilege exists as a direct result of both historic and enduring racism, biases and practices designed to oppress people of colour. White privilege means you actively benefit from the oppression of people of colour.” (Ahn, 2020).


Next there was a zoom meeting in my group project where we were discussing tina rangatiratanga especially in relation to whakapapa, tikanga and mana (Kōkiri, 2010). We talked about what could be achieved if we could write policy that gave Māori the tino rangatiratanga to use their cultural ways and traditions to make decisions for themselves (Durie, 1998). In our group we imagined a New Zealand where Iwi were properly funded to set up education and health and corrections with a marae at the heart of it all. The next week we listened to Sacha McMeeking give us a lecture over zoom and in it she articulated the story of the marae that developed an after school program, a school and a food business and how all the things fitted together (Manaaki, 2017). We discussed it after the lecture, how amazing it was when Māori did things their way and the mana it gave the project and how all of the values fitted together for the benefit of everyone (not just Māori). It was encouraging actually to hear about the principles in action when there is the appropriate funding and resources.



The last aspect I wanted to mention was for me the one I struggled with the most. If you had asked me at the beginning of the year what racism was, I would have said it is the way that we treat someone differently because of the colour of their skin, their religion or where they came from. I would have said I was not racist. But through the process of learning in this paper, the lectures, the readings and the discussions, I have come to see that it is much much more than that. Racism is really a whole system of oppression that I benefit from (Oluo, 2019). A political and social system set up in a European based manner on the land that was stolen from Māori with no regard for the tangata whenua of New Zealand. Worse than this, it was a sustained and deliberate attack on Māori language, culture and way of living that carried on from almost the moment the ink dried on the Treaty of Waitangi until now (Reid, Taylor-Moore & Varona, 2014). When you think about white privilege and racism and hold them up against tino rangatiratanga, it makes me ashamed to even be here. It feels so wrong to be growing vegetables in my little house on land that was stolen from Ngai Tahu (O’Regan, Palmer & Langton, 2006). But my great grandparents came to New Zealand long before I was born, I cannot change that. But what I can do is recognise that the system is set up in my favour, that I am privileged by my skin colour in a manner that I do not deserve. The fact is, that Māori are over represented in every single negative statistic (Marie, Fergusson & Boden, 2008). I can understand that all of these terrible statistics are a result of colonialism, trauma as the result of colonialism and a deeply flawed and faulty system that still discriminates against Māori today.
“Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people’s expense, whether whites know/like it or not. “ (Woods, 2014).


How will this learning influence my future social work practice? The role of a social worker in New Zealand is covered by a code of ethics (Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers, 2013). Article 1.7 states that “Members accept the responsibility of their status and are actively anti-racist in their practice.” This sums it up really quite neatly: first accept the responsibility of the privilege that my white skin and the way society is structured and then secondly be actively anti-racist in my practice. In a practical sense, this means that I need to listen more and talk less. I need to be aware constantly of my own bias and world view; and actively listen to my client or service user to see what their world view, their own goals and their own motivations are. I’m ashamed to say that it really has been a revelation to think about what informs privilege in this way and I am acutely aware that I have a lot to learn. In the words of Rabbi Sandra:


“You are either racist or anti-racist. Those are the two choices. The latter meaning you are working everyday either emotionally or physically to dismantle the racism that we all have been taught since day one…”
In conclusion I learned about the relationship between colonisation and generational trauma and how it affects all of the statistics regarding Māori such as health, wellbeing, crime and so on. I learned about white privilege and how the system is a Pakeha system set up to benefit the Pakeha. I learned about the power of tino rangatiratanga and how the Māori way is actually so powerful and inclusive for everyone, not just Māori. And finally I learned about a system of oppression that disadvantages Māori. I recognise that I have a lot to learn and I accept that it is my responsibility to do the mahi and to commit to continuous learning. Or as the Code of Ethics says, “to actively promote the rights of Tangata Whenua to utilise Tangata Whenua social work models of practice and ensure the protection of the integrity of Tangata Whenua in a manner which is culturally appropriate (Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers, 2013).

 
References


Ahn, C. (2020). A Guide to White Privilege. Retrieved from https://www.courtneyahndesign.com/illustration/guide-white-privilege June 2020.

Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers. (2013). Code of ethics. ANZASW National Office.

Durie, M. H. (1998). Te Mana, Te Kāwanatanga: the politics of self determination. Auckland, Oxford University Press.

Kōkiri, T. P. (2010). Arotake Tūkino Whānau: Literature review on family violence. Wellington, New Zealand: Author.

Manaaki (2017). About us. Retrieved from https://www.tastemanaaki.com/about June 2020.

Marie, D., Fergusson, D. M., & Boden, J. M. (2008). Educational achievement in Māori: The roles of cultural identity and social disadvantage. Australian Journal of Education, 52(2), 183-196.

Menakem, R. (2017). My Grandmother's hands: Racialized trauma and the pathway to mending our hearts and bodies. Central Recovery Press.

Oluo, I. (2019). So you want to talk about race. Seal Press.

O’Regan, T., Palmer, L., & Langton, M. (2006). Keeping the fires burning: grievance and aspiration in the Ngai Tahu Settlement. Settling with indigenous people: modern treaty and agreement-making, 44-65.

Rabbi Sandra. (2020, May 31). Let me be clear. You are either racist or anti-racist. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/rabbisandra/status/1266746572131483653 June 2020.

Reid, J., Taylor-Moore, K., & Varona, G. (2014). Towards a social-structural model for understanding current disparities in Māori health and well-being. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 19(6), 514-536.

Sibley, C. G., & Liu, J. H. (2007). New Zealand= bicultural? Implicit and explicit associations between ethnicity and nationhood in the New Zealand context. European Journal of Social Psychology, 37(6), 1222-1243.

Te Puni Kōkiri. (2017). Māori Family Violence Infographic. Retrieved from https://www.tpk.govt.nz/en/a-matou-mohiotanga/health/Māori -family-violence-infographic, March 2020.

Woods, S. (2014). Five things no one is actually saying about Ani Difranco or plantations. Retrieved from https://scottwoodsmakeslists.wordpress.com/2014/01/03/5-things-no-one-is-actually-saying-about-ani-difranco-or-plantations/ June 2020.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Adapting to our new normal: social distancing


A few weeks ago I saw someone on Instagram use the term "social distancing".
I think it was the first time I heard the term.
Now it is just part of our language, the same as living in our bubble
and washing our hands.


We have been living in our bubble for two and a half weeks now.
I don't mind at all the staying home part.
After all we had just moved house and it's been amazing to sort the house out
and get the vegetable garden underway.


But it is hard not to be able to hug anyone. 
To not be able to hang out with your friends and family,
have dinner together or catch up for a drink.


The child of mine formerly known as the Resident Teen is living in someone else's bubble.
He seems happy there and I think he is adjusting to having to be home all the time
(I think there are a few trips to the local dairy)
As a kid who is very comfortable hanging out on the streets with his friends,
this is a big adjustment.


Every single day, Annie and I have lit a tea light candle for him.
It burns for about three hours wherever we are,
sometimes in the kitchen and sometimes in the living room.


It's just a way for us to hold him in our hearts. 
To say a prayer for protection for him
and for him to make good choices as he goes about his day.


It makes us feel connected to him in a time when we can't just message him
and invite him for a feed of Mcdonalds.


He made the candle holder at school a few years ago.
It has the words "she laughs without fear of the future" engraved by him on the side.
Seems very appropriate.


We used one of our special advent candles from Christmas for Easter Sunday.
That burnt for a lot longer.

Even when the lockdown level goes down to three,
i feel like social distancing is going to be part of our lives for a while to come.

But as long as we all get out of this alive,
then we are doing the right thing.

Stay safe friends xox


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Adapting to a new normal: getting outside!



 Today we slept in, stayed in bed late and just generally couldn't be bothered. But you know, in the usual scheme of things we would still have to go off to work and school. Today we basically swapped our night pjs for day pjs (aka the comfiest clothes we own) and then went outside to sit on our verandah and have a hot drink and listen to Miriam read from C S Lewis.


With no desire to go inside and do our jobs, I told Annie she could have a day off school work and instead we filled our pots with flowers from Awapuni Nurseries (with some emergency potting mix that someone kindly dropped off for us).


Annie took her precious strawberry plants out of this old pot and planted them in the garden and we filled that with flowers too. We had four mixed bundles from Awapuni Nurseries and we filled every pot that we had. Once they reopen for purchasing, I fully plan to get more flowers from them.


 I'm so so so glad that the last weekend before lockdown that I hired a rotary hoe and with a lot of help from our neighbour rotary hoed the whole front garden. If we hadn't done that, we would not have been able to get this garden going.


The first lot of seedlings that I brought are already doing well. We have lots of parsley, celery, silverbeet and chives in the garden and we have 25 kale waiting to be planted (Annie is going to plant them in the shape of her name). We have 8 bundles of veges coming this week in the very last shipment from Awapuni nurseries to the South Island (so glad I ordered those).


I have to say that just being outside in the garden made us feel heaps better. I also feel better knowing that I'm working on our food security. I wish I could have done it sooner, but hey we only just moved in here really.

And then we did actually get all the laundry hung out just before dinner and all of the dishes washed and a decent dinner cooked. Now we sitting in front of the fire watching tv and tomorrow is another day. 

Can I just say though, even if you don't have a garden, just being outside in the sunshine does make you feel better. For what it's worth, I recommend it. 

Love to you all xoxoxox





Monday, March 30, 2020

Adapting to a new normal: finding a rhythm!

 I'm sure everyone is managing this weird situation differently but here in Whare iti, we are finding our rhythm. We tried a pyjama day on Sunday, but it didn't really suit us. We are finding shape to our days in a fairly relaxed but productive way. We wrote out a bit of a time table but it's very flexible.


 But there are some definite markers to our days. We get dressed by 9 am every day and take a photo of ourselves for Instagram. That's just a fun thing that makes us feel better about the day and gets us set up well for the rest of the day. Turns out, we just don't feel like ourselves in our pjs!


There's some maths (we are currently practicing the times tables), some drawing. A listen to Miriam read from C.S. Lewis. There's handwork, drawing and reading. And of course there's chores.


Our little old cottage is full of draughts (we knew it would be). But because we cannot hang all the curtains it's probably a bit colder than we expected. Anyway, Annie is in charge of bringing in firewood and is learning to light the fire. Good life skills I think to be kept warm.


I've been making us tasty and health meals. So many meals. With us home all the time, there's no let up. And no popping down to the shops for something you forgot. My top tip so far is to substitute milk power for milk in everything except hot drinks. It's working great for us.


The old cell phone has become a lifeline. Most days, Chrissy and I spend a good chunk of time doing our chores while we chat to each other. Turns out when you are home all day, there's a lot more chores, who knew?? Sheesh. How did we ever have time to go to work??


Annie, Chrissy and I are addicted to watching Bon Appetit on YouTube. Tonights soup in the slow cooker is a direct result of watching Clare make Chicken Soup. It's great to be inspired to make different things in a time when cooking could Very Quickly become a drudgery!! Already I cannot wait to eat hot chips from the local Fish and Chip shop with some Watties Tomato Sauce.
 

Right I'm just off to stir the orange skin from our daily orange that I'm trying to turn into candied peel for our future hot cross buns, take the dry laundry off the line and then hopefully a quick walk of the dog before we finish making our soup for dinner. I'm absolutely loving having time to run my household properly!

How ever you are filling your days, I hope it's going smoothly for you and that you find some kind of rhythm. Love to you all xoxox

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Adapting to a new normal: living in our bubble!



Last night I was searching through the blog of my friend Stella for a photo of her that I remembered from the past. As I scrolled back through all the pages, I was reminded of all the good things about blogging and inspired to pick up my camera again and start writing! I've missed the regular arranging the words on the page and reflecting on things. It seemed fortuitous in these strange days to maybe dust off my old blog and start writing again.


Like a lot of you, we are in complete lockdown here. Annie and I are in a bubble with our two cats and Kenny the terrier. For now Annie and I have been using our time to unpack and organise our things. Room by room, we have cleaned, got rid of rubbish, unpacked the boxes, hung pictures and arranged furniture. It's so lovely to walk around our house now and see it all organised.


We have lots of resources to keep us busy while we are in lockdown. Annie got a whole pile of books out of the school library and rescued her handwork from school. While we were unpacking, we also found her pompom, her patchwork, some paints and some extra knitting.


 I'm sure we will get tired of being in our bubble, but for now we are warm and cosy; we have lots of things to do and we are enjoying each other's company. We are also finally catching up on Australian Masterchef (which finished months ago!)


Today is Sunday and we have declared it a rest day. We are still in our pjs at 3.30 in the afternoon. Annie has sorted the very last box of her things that needed unpacking and I have been practicing with a weaving loom. We are grateful for flannelette pyjamas, a kettle that boils on the fire and a lent-to-us TV that we can enjoy our shows on.

How are you going where you are?? 


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Loving Adam {adventures in dating}


Almost two years ago I matched with a guy on a dating app who told me his name was Adam Watson. For 18 months we were seeing each other in a pretty low key way. I was busy and he was busy and we didn't see each other often, but we talked or messaged every day and we didn't see other people.

Adam was everything I thought I wanted in a guy, but he was busy and there was something about him that I knew he was hiding. My guess was that maybe he still lived on the property of his ex wife. Sometimes that happens. I fully believed what he said, because I could often verify it. Anyway I knew he was not being completely honest but I didn't know what about and I didn't pry much because I wasn't ready for a full on relationship anyway. I always knew that he wasn't a forever guy, in that he was never going to change from his workaholic ways, but I loved him and he loved me and I decided to worry about the details later.

But then one day I got a phone call from his wife, the one he told me he was divorced from for four years. Lets just say that didn't go well. I also heard from his son (he was actually nice) who explained that not only was Adam not called Adam, he had a wife and a girl friend and maybe some other women as well on the side. I heard from his daughter, she was not nice, I hung up on her. I don't think I'm the baddie in this story.

I've spoken to his girlfriend (let's call her Sarah) several times and I really like her. She's a lovely person and she sounds just like me. In an other life, we would be friends.

Let's just say that these revelations were an absolute shock to me. It was far beyond the scope of anything I could possibly have imagined. It was devastating. Of course Adam Watson wasn't his real name. Even that was a lie. His lies were so many and so detailed, I don't know how he kept track of them. He's one smart guy, shame he uses it to manipulate vulnerable women.

But Sarah told me that maybe he was there for me for that time and to take the good. And that really resonated with me. Adam was so encouraging to me. His good morning texts made me feel visible to someone in a time when I felt invisible in big part of my life. His faith in me, helped me to make the decision to do my masters. It wasn't all bad. It was lonely and frustrating but his absence made me do all the hard things myself and made me stronger.

After his wife rang (she confronted him too) I never spoke to him again. I prayed that I would never run into him because I could not face it. Until two nights ago when an unknown number texted me and it was him. I could not believe it. He said he was sorry, he always knows the right things to say; it's what he does. I got to say all the things I needed to say. And then say good bye. And then I blocked him. And then I texted Sarah.

I woke up the next morning and felt so much relief. Relief that I didn't get sucked into his lies again (it could have been so easy). Relief that I was able to tell him how much he hurt me. Relief that I've moved on and don't need that anymore.

I'm dating again. I've met the loveliest guy and we have been out for dinner a few times and to the movies. We actually get to do things together. I can ring him and he's not too busy to answer. He's what I didn't know I was looking for. I have hope, I refuse to not have hope. I'm so scared but I'm not going to let Adam win. I'm learning to trust again.

What doesn't kill us makes us stronger right?


Tuesday, July 2, 2019

New beginnings and a fresh view...


To get to my new job, I take a slightly longer route each morning so I can drive past
the filtration ponds (known locally as the "poo ponds") and see the sun rise.
Then when I turn left I can see the mountains in the distance.
I missed the mountains the most when we left Rolleston a year ago
(how was that only a year ago?)

The strangest thing though, is that you cannot see any of the city.
Just the road I am on and the mountains far away.
It's a refreshing perspective, and a reminder I value as I start every day.


This last month I have been striving to live life like that. 
Keeping my eye on the prize and trying not to focus on all the things in between.
We were mostly successful really. 
We managed to pack up our whole house,
store some of the children's precious things in the attic
and my books in the attic at work.


After all the sorting, we still did end up with a truck load of stuff, 
but we discovered that if you give all your precious possessions a ride in a truck
and pile them outside at the required destination;
that it is far far easier to get rid of them.

To say we decluttered is an understatement.



And now Annie and I have mixed our treasures together,
we have Marie Kondo'd our clothes to the enth degree
and we have played jenga with the possessions we decided to keep.


In the kitchen, Chrissy and I merged our resources together,
keeping the best of both kitchens. Making a space where we can work together
and find everything we want close to hand.


Jacob carried out a mighty mission in the garage.
The camping gear that we absolutely could not part with is now stacked up neatly.
We were not ready to part with all that yet.
We hope to have some more camping adventures in the next few years.


And now here we all are, blending our lives together.
It's so lovely to be able to work together
and the household is running so smoothly so far.
Even all our pets are getting on at this point, long may it continue.

I think as long as we keep our eyes on the big picture
and don't focus on the little things that may annoy us in time,
we will all be able to live happily together until life
moves us on to another stage.

But first, rest and recovery and some catching up of study!