Racial slurs from a man who “wouldn’t let his kids go out with a Māori” are just one example of the suffering women of colour in Christchurch experience, a new poster series shows.
Against Racism Ōtautahi (ARO) took to city streets with hundreds of posters depicting hands over a large red heart to encourage inclusion after a gunman killed 50 people at two mosques on March 15. To keep the ball rolling, it launched a new series sharing local stories of heartache and inequality in the city.
Stories from the victims – identified in the campaign using pseudonyms to protect their privacy – included being yelled at and abused by “skinheads”, being shooed out of stores and accused of theft, and having their lunch crumpled.
Lincoln-based woman Aroha, 38, highlighted comments from a man doing a building inspection on a property she was considering buying
“He kinda started hitting on me and asked me where I was from. When I told him I was from New Zealand and was part Māori, he was disappointed, saying he thought I was Tahitian and that he wouldn’t let any if his kids go out with a Māori.”
Her story was illustrated with a graphic from American-based artist Marian DeSouza-McAllister, who is originally from New Zealand. She sketched the works from her studio in Brooklyn to be displayed around Christchurch to create more awareness of the rampant casual racism in the city, she said.
Others shared similar tales in the 10-part series.
“Once, my brothers and I were playing at Sydenham park, some guys with shaved heads started coming over towards us and saying some racist stuff. They kicked our stuff around and stood all over the sandwiches my mum had made for us. I’d never seen my brothers scared like that. We didn’t play there after that,” 22-year-old Alofa said.
Another woman, Xin, 30, said she was told her name was “not acceptable” when she started a new job.
“My co-worker asked my name so I responded. He seems very confused by it. He reiterated his questions, like I hadn’t heard him. This time he added loudly ‘No, what is your Christian name?’ I’m not religious but why was I not acceptable with my name?”
An ARO spokeswoman said the posters were created to critique the “this is not us” message that emerged after the March terror attack and “challenge people’s ideas of racism in their own backyard”. That message rebuffed racism and hate, which “denied the everyday experiences of people of colour”, she said.
“The hope was to encourage local residents to see themselves in the scenarios … we felt that if white people are able to form a personal connection with the experience of racist violence they will be more likely to respond empathetically.
“Unfortunately there was no shortage of material to work with.”
DeSouza-McAllister said she wanted to show how strong, fashionable and relevant the victims were. So far, the response from women of colour who found it relatable had been “amazing”, she said.