Darkness at heart.

Lets consider a hypothetical scenario.

A group of women appear to be well on their way to intoxication at a polite venue on an island known to cater to the affluent. They are not caucasian. A well-heeled older white male patron observes them and decides, perhaps after a few tipples of his own, to take it upon himself to caution them about the perils of drinking and driving in an area that has a heavy police presence over the holidays. He assumes that they are not locals.

His unsolicited advice is not welcome and he is told by one of the women, a 23 year old, that as local born and indigenous to boot, she “can do what she pleases” (according to his account).

His response, according to her, is to say that she needs to acknowledge that it “is also a white people’s island.” He says that it was just joking banter.

My questions at this point are this: even if she was being drunk and dismissive, of all the things he could have said, why that particular line? Could he not have replied in a myriad other ways, such as by telling her that her behaviour was drawing unwanted attention? Was he trying to say that the rule of law applies to everyone regardless of origin, but that the law is made by white folk? Even more to the point, why did he feel the need to go over and caution them? Is he in the habit of approaching strange women in public venues and giving them the benefit of his unsolicited advice? If so, why?

In any event, in the real world the young woman hits social media with her displeasure and the incident becomes a media frenzy. Various celebrities weigh in to defend the old guy, leaning on his good deeds for sport and various charitable contributions. Others are not so charitable.

The scenario gets stickier because he uses as a PR spokesperson a well-known reactionary woman who, in response to the furore over this remarks, at first says that the 23 year old is too fair skinned to have been the subject of racism and then says that she has never heard of the term “casual racism” until today.

The Race Relations Commissioner, herself of disputed background when it comes to issues of racial awareness, at first says that the old white gent is not a racist but then backtracks and introduces the term casual racism that the PR spokeswoman had previously never heard of. The term is certainly not new but it seems that the PR woman travels in insulated circles.

The questions that arise at this point are: seriously, the old white guy uses an even more clueless old white woman with a rightwing track record to defend him against charges of “casual” racism? And she then decides to use the 23 year old’s skin tone as a defense against the charge of racism (because the young woman is light skinned)? And in 2017 she claims to not know what “casual” racism is (perhaps because she casually is one)?

As for the Race Relations Commissioner–was she conflating her personal and official views when she made either or both of her statements?

Anyway, like I said, this is just a hypothetical scenario about race, gender and generational difference referencing current events in a post-truth age.

in a weird way, it reminds me of another (not so) old guy getting into some strife because of his penchant for serial hair-pulling of (sometimes very) young women in public venues or at events. He too claimed that his actions were just playful, joking physical banter that was misconstrued by one recipient of his attentions (and to be fair, none of his other instances of hair pulling were even noted, much less protested until a waitress complained). According to his many defenders, he was not a sexist or a fetishistic creep.

I guess offence is taken in the eye of the beholder, but in both cases the offence was taken after an older white male in a position of power decided to unilaterally approach and engage younger women in ways that were unwanted. In each case the older male felt entitled, or privileged, to initiate contact with a younger woman without first ascertaining whether that contact was welcome, and continued the contact after it became apparent that it was not. That others defended their actions as, at worst “misunderstandings,” speaks to a number of things.

What could they be and why, in 2017, should they be?

7 thoughts on “Darkness at heart.

  1. I wonder how much the teflon of “post truth” is simply the the 1% flexing their muscles and seeing themselves, and being seen by their sycophants in the media, as nowadays above the law. The law is for everyone else. The rich “do deals” and engage in “light hearted banter” immune to the petty social mores and legal constraints of the 99%. “Post truth” can look awfully like divine right absolutism.

  2. Old white guys huh! Pussy grabbers, ponytail pullers, domain protectors. I wonder where the truth is that saying one is tangata whenua entitles complete freedom? Silly me it’s post truth now!

  3. As much as I disliked John Key and all he stood for, no current group of white fellas are as scary as those surrounding Trump at the moment.

  4. Nailed it, Pablo.
    BM, I haven’t heard any ‘tangata whenua’ claim entitlement to ‘complete freedom’. Maybe you could enlighten us sometime.

  5. Peter Leitch allegedly interpreted the words of the young woman he was reprimanding on Waiheke recently in his own way. Leitch argued that in saying that she was tangata whenua meant that no rules applied to her i.e. that gave her ‘complete freedom.’ I have no way of knowing who said what as the video was taken down before I saw it. Being tangata whenua conveys rights but they are not carte blanche. I am pakeha married to someone who is tangata whenua i.e. a Maori person.

  6. The status of tangata whenua gives rights to such iwi/hapu/whanau land as may remain in collective ownership. There should be no dispute on that point. However it confers no political rights beyond those possessed by other persons resident in Aotearoa, whether native-born or immigrant .

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