Friday, 14 October 2011

Racism vs Reason

There is a growing sense of anti-Filipino sentiment in the Bay of Plenty after the Rena crashed, sparking our worst maritime environmental disaster.

This is stupid on a number of levels. Most obviously, the idea that the crew are representative of their entire people is utterly ridiculous. If they'd been white, we would not be stewing in anger at all white people, because white people are seen as the default. Further, Filipinos who are already living in the Bay of Plenty have proven themselves as part of the community. They're just as angry about the oil spill as anyone. Why turn on each other? How is that going to help? They didn't come here as the advance guard for some kind of conspiracy that planned for this to happen - especially not those that were born here.

But even beyond these considerations is the awareness that many foreign shipping companies try to cut their costs as much as possible to maximise profit, something that our government tacitly encourages with our incredibly lax regulations. One of those cost-cutting measures involves the crew. Even in the last few months there have been accusations of outright slavery on ships in New Zealand waters. Now clearly none of us know the exact conditions that the Rena's crew were under, but we do know that the disaster was partly caused by adherence to cost-cutting measures. The captain is almost certainly liable, as are a few others. But we have no idea about the rest of the crew. They may have been victims in this themselves.

All of which means, not only are people completely illogically spreading the blame from individuals to a whole nationality, the individuals may not even deserve that blame in the first place.

All this shows, of course, that the culprits here are simply taking advantage of the situation to express latent racism that they already held, whether consciously or not. Likely it wasn't even directed specifically at Filipinos before, just this murky idea of Others, and the Rena incident has lit a spark to that Othering. But it's no more acceptable than it was two weeks ago. These people should be ashamed to call themselves New Zealanders.

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