It was with some expectation that the family and I sat down in front of the television last night to watch the first part of a two-part documentary series called “That’s a Bit Racist”.
It takes a lot to get people to turn on the free to air TV these days. It needs to be appointment viewing. It needs to be something where you feel you want to be part of a community viewing and experiencing something simultaneously.
That’s why the TV that we still watch in any numbers anymore is something like the news, which constantly pulls half a million of us. Or sports finals. Or The Chase, just because Bradley and the Chasers are just so good – and we’re waiting for the news.
So we were keen to see this programme. The timing was right. The Mosque shooting, even though by an Australian, was racism writ large and it followed Taika Waititi’s blunt assessment of us in front to the world’s media last year as a nation that is “racist as f…!”. It was time for a reappraisal of race relations in New Zealand.
I was keen to see an investigation into how racism manifests itself in 2019 because it has changed. 40 years of the Waitangi Tribunal, 40 years of positive action, 40 years of education has succeeded in convincing most people that racism is a nasty, vindictive and destructive force in society. But in doing so it has forced racism underground. In my opinion, racism in 2019 is not blatant, but subtle and nuanced and insidious. Casual racism is rife. Blatant racism is hidden. So how does racism work today.
That is not what we got. What we got was a dumbed down, biased and selective history of racism in New Zealand.
We got a foul mouthed man screaming down the camera about the Settlements Act of 1863 as though it happened yesterday. We got Oscar Kightley reminiscing about the Dawn Raids of the 70s. We find out that most of the people the programme stopped in the street had no idea of who Sir Apirana Ngata is even though he’s on $50 note
But worse still was the sops to entertainment. The casually racist comedian dropping racist tropes but we’re allowed to laugh at those jokes because the joke teller was brown. The tongue in cheek Play School where poor old Manu always got the raw deal, which reached its climax when the presenter just casually threw the doll away.
The whole thing seemed to be achieving the opposite of its intention. In reiterating the dark acts of racism past and showing that behaviour it perpetuated those bad days. I posted on Facebook right after the programme and said as much and asked people what they thought of it.
All were disappointed. All hated the simplistic and biased nature of it. One person said “I feel like as a Pakeha I’m meant to go flog myself hundred times with a horsehair whip”.
Billie said this “It's probably one of the worst things I've watched. Stirring racial disharmony, and attempting to get laughs out of a serious and touchy topic in a very patronising way. NZ doesn't need this hatred. TV1 should be ashamed.”
I spoke to Alan Duff on my Sunday programme and he made a very good point. He says there’s money in continuing victimhood. There’s money for academics who write reports saying events from 200 years ago are still responsible for outcomes today. There’s money for people who keep telling their people they’re useless. There’s money for TV programmes that tell the white majority they’re terrible people. A lot was spent last night on a very poor show.
There’s another episode next week. Is it too much to hope that they consider the improvements this nation has made and offer a road map for the future? Based on last night’s waste of money, I doubt it.