All Lives Matter.

We have become desensitised by the constant bombardment of live coverage, along with witnesses sharing their accounts from every manner of disaster both locally and across the world. Initially our hearts go out to those involved and we follow the news feeds and discuss the latest updates with our colleagues during our coffee breaks but all too soon another situation develops and we move on to the next topic for our concern.

The saying 15 minutes of fame comes to mind, however desensitisation inadvertently provides permission for strangers to pass judgement on situations that they are not intimately involved in.

But for those caught up within a disaster, the resulting after effects of these judgements can be catastrophic for a lifetime. I use the term ‘disaster’ to cover any traumatic event that is suffered by an individual and their family.

Right now it’s topical to make judgements around COVID19, criticism about the sick, criticism about those who are overseas and wanting to return home either to visit loved ones or to live; the voices are loud and polarising in their opinions.

Debates and judgements seem to be part of human nature but do they have to be. Using two examples below (not COVID related) I hope to highlight how judgements, assumptions and injustices occur and challenge you to take a minute and consider your impact on others, not just today but everyday.

Be kind. All lives matter.

Bias of age/gender. Some years ago I received an early morning phone call from a police officer ringing to advise me that my son was involved in a car accident and had serious injuries. After the officer identified who I was and that I was the mother of the person involved, they then proceeded to advise that it was a “significant head on accident involving two vehicles, one of which was a family, there were multiple fatalities and YOUR SON WAS THE DRIVER”.

It was not enough to convey that there had been an accident, their tone left no doubt that the officer was suggesting that the accident was my son’s fault. Later that morning my husband and I were also confronted by the friends of the family within the second vehicle, they were extremely angry accusing our son of being a DRUNK BOY RACER.

Fortunately the medical team showed no bias and treated him with the same amount of respect and dignity of all their patients from the second he arrived, as they know seconds can make a difference between life and death. Our son had in fact been the innocent sober driver of a group of young people and the crash occurred when the driver of the other vehicle fell asleep and crossed the center line.

But what if he wasn’t innocent? We all know that young men do not always make rational decisions, they are often risk takers and they live for today but they are also someone’s son, they have families and if mistakes are made they have to live with the consequences, they need understanding and support. Anyone in this type of situation is harmed by suspicion, injury and continual judgements from others which just compounds the trauma as does the constant images and rehashing of the traumatic incidents by media when an anniversary rolls around.

All lives matter.

Racism. I live in an area strong in agricultural roots with many of the industries requiring seasonal workers. Gone are the days where picking apples was the pastime of university students now we have a policy where Regional Seasonal Employers (RSE) in the horticulture and viticulture industries recruit overseas workers for seasonal work. These workers are predominantly from the pacific and they are earn money to send home to their families. The number of workers has grown exponentially over the last few years so during the summer months we see hundreds of groups of men driving around in mini vans going to work, or in the community at the supermarket, shops and banks. Our economy cannot survive without these essential seasonal workers. Unfortunately they are not always welcomed and treated as well as you would expect; because they travel in groups people choose to ignore them rather than engage and talk with them many feel uncomfortable and threatened by their different appearance. These men are away from home, working to support their families and our economy is benefiting from their hard labour, we should be celebrating their contribution. Imagine your next holiday, if instead of the friendly smiling welcome as you arrive in their island paradise, they stared at you with distrust and treated you with distain; I can just hear the outcry of feeling rejected, unwanted and being looked at differently because of our different skin tone and because we choose to walk around in groups.

Unfortunately we can be just as unkind to our neighbours. The Voice of Racism experience is unique; by using verbal examples it communicates the everyday racism experienced by people in New Zealand including stereotypes, verbal and physical abuse, unconscious racism, internalised racism, nationality assumptions, rejection of other cultures and diversity. This experience both acknowledges the hurt for those that have experienced this whilst providing insight to others who have no concept that they have contributed to harm of others. Please take the time to listen and review the explanations around why the comments are racist.

Some years ago our healthcare system recognised Maori and Pacific Islanders as having a higher need for health equity and in some instances offered incentives. There was an outcry from white middle class New Zealanders at the time questioning this however research has shown that Maori and Pacific being treated differently within our health system, in part due to unconscious racism, and as a result having much worst health outcomes.

We are better than this. Lets stand up for all, lets make the effort to be nonjudgemental in all situations, lets put ourselves in the place of others and think how we would like to be treated. Be kind.

All lives matter.

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