The world which we have inherited has been shaped significantly by the domination of one group by another. Men over women, rich over poor, able bodied over disabled, white over persons of colour. While the tide of overt discrimination synonymous with the New Zealand of yesteryear has for the most part receded, and our society has grown into a more considerate, more accepting and more rational one, prejudice endures. We are confused when we see confederate flags flying proudly above a society that would like to believe it has grown out of something so ugly, and other forms of prejudice endure in subtle, quiet, ambiguous and yet damaging ways.
About a month ago, a few friends and I had just finished swimming at a beach on Auckland’s north shore, and were heading back into the central city to pick up some food for a BBQ later that evening. On the way to the city, in a convoy of three cars, we had to stop and fill up with gas. Thankfully the driver of the car, was a North Shore local, and he knew of a gas station close by. He particularly liked this gas station, because it afforded him the opportunity “pump before he paid”. This was his regular. The two other cars had parked across from our car, in the area where you re-fill tyres, as one of the cars tyres were a little flat. The driver of the car I was in, hopped out of the car, went for the pump, punched in the amount needed for his car, and waited for the petrol to flow from the pump into the car. Nothing happened. So he punched in the amount the car needed again and again, nothing happened.
After a while, and a little banter from the people in the other cars, he then decided it would be wise to go into the store and form the attendant that the pump must be broken. Ten minutes later my friend came bursting out of the shop, hands in the air, and some colourful language following them. I asked what was the problem, he turned to me and said, “The guy at the counter reckons, that “we would prefer that you pay first because you’re with a diverse group of people.”
Tuvaluan, Egyptian, Cook Island Maori, Maori and European descent. Yes, we were a diverse group of people. Apparently untrustworthy. Apparently trouble. I would like to give the guy behind the counter the benefit of the doubt. That while rude, and disrespectful, his actions came from some motivation other than a set of internal beliefs and attitudes that I guess amount to racism. I would like move past the experience and not feel anger, hurt and sadness. I would like to believe in a better New Zealand than that.