An Open Letter
To the 18-year-old Pakeha girl who decided to dress as a ‘terrorist’ for Halloween,
It is heartbreaking to see just months after the Christchurch mosque TERROR attack, you have the audacity to ‘dress up’ adorned in the traditional clothing of the very Muslim community that responded with the utmost humility to the white supremacist act of violence. Not nationalism, terrorism.
The white fragility that these acts are defended with include rhetoric like ‘iTs JuSt a CoStuMe, CaLm DoWn”. You’re the same people who had the “this is not us” frames on your facebook profile pictures. Does your empathy have an expiration date? Our cultures are not your costumes. There is depth in traditions that link us back to our ancestral land. As people of colour in the western diaspora, our traditional wear serve as reminders of the very culture your ancestors tried to assimilate. Our people did not survive war, colonisation, marginalisation and slavery (blackbirding, look it up) so that you could wear it and create caricatures of our cultures alongside your Vodka Cruisers.
The thing is, when you walk in our garments for the night – you can’t take on the obstacles we’ve faced. You’ve never experienced the fear of seeking refuge in a foreign land in fear for your life. You don’t have to deal with lack of access to health care, healthy housing or the under-resourcing that our decile 1 students face. Some of us are made to bloom from the concrete. You can take off your costume and go back to your decile nine Epsom girls grammar education and end of year NCEA exams. We can’t just choose to stop being brown, profiled and stereotyped.
This is not entirely your fault. After all, we are a product of our upbringing. You’re the result of a Eurocentric education system and a society that continues to justify its unconscious bias by minimising the experiences of minorities. It is never too late to unlearn your ignorance. Just like many of us have the responsibility of breaking the cycle of poverty in our families, you have the power to break the cycle of impoverished morals in your own. I hope wherever you are, that you understand the problematic nature of your action. I hope this serves as a reminder to all of us, to continuously check our own privilege. We as a collective community need to actively embrace the diverse experiences of one another.
Latayvia Tualasea Tautai