A few quick mullings on privilege

I’ve been thinking about privilege again over the last couple of weeks:

This morning on Morning Report, Phil O’Reilly of Business New Zealand, talked about increasing cost of living and the need for unions and workers to be “responsible” and not put pressure on wages. Helen Kelly mentioned the need to challenge poverty – he didn’t respond to that point. I guess his privilege means that’s not something he sees or has to think about.

Last week I was listening to Sir Michael Marmot talk about the social determinants of health –  income inequality is a key determinant of health; there were murmurs about the missing race analysis in this picture.

Professor Papaarangi Reid talked about the need to keep naming the ‘isms’ while we talk about promoting equality and equity.  An American academic noted that the agenda for fairness in the U.S without mention of the ‘isms’, has resulted in the notion of ‘fairness’ being picked up by the Tea Party in their push for a reduction in taxation.

Talking about the ‘isms’ seems so 80’s, but we haven’t won those battles yet.

I know of someone who was in Auckland with family recently, and one of their group was jumped and attacked. When the police came they refused to take action saying it was just a brawl. When one of the group stood in front of the police car with hands in the air saying he was protesting against police racism the police drove into him and then arrested him. He was the only person arrested.

I know of a woman (not middle class) who was publicly abused by a police officer and told never to make contact them because she didn’t want to make a formal police complaint against her abuser.

I know it is much much harder to get accommodation in Wellington if you’re not pakeha and middle class.  I know whole families are living in one room in boarding houses around New Zealand as the only alternative to the streets.

I know a young incredibly sweet young Maori man who has started stealing because there is no food at home and he’s run out of the will to go into yet another place looking for a job and being turned down.

I know an increasing number of people and families are struggling to keep warm and keep a roof over their heads let alone eat well.

I know of transgender people who have been beaten and raped for being who they are.

I know how dizzying, infuriating and numbing these struggles can be and I am so aware of how insulated I am from these realities. I also realise that many New Zealanders don’t have a clue that this represents daily life for many others.

Talking about the economy, welfare, employment, justice, housing etc without acknowledging the ‘isms’ is, I believe, an exercise of recreating discrimination and oppression.



3 responses to “A few quick mullings on privilege

  1. I think your comment re Phil O’Reilly’s views being informed by what he experiences and, more to the point what he does not experience, is very relevant.

    There would be much to be gained from a programme to take people out of their own little microcosms and get them to experience other people’s reality for a few days. A cultural exchange programme between families in South Auckland and Federated Farmers would be a good start!

  2. Though I’ve said it before – it seems worth saying again, that this Governments biggest growth industry will be crime

  3. Agree and agree. I’m just listening to the panel on National Radio talking about relatively poor educational outcomes for Maori and Pacific children and a man with a rather refined voice is talking about the underclass and how welfare just encourages them. (paraphrasing). eeek. In the Marmot review there is a shocking graph showing the connection between IQ and parental income in the first 10 years. If you start out poor and smart by the time you’re 10 the dumb rich kids will be smarter than you, in IQ terms. It’s dreadfully sad.

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