In the Sunday Times this week there was an amazing article by Florence Kerr where she spoke with some unvaccinated Māori in Hamilton. I have been unwavering in my condemnation of those who are choosing not to become vaccinated. This article stopped me in my tracks as I put myself in the minds of these people and how they have been treated by the state.
Here’s a portion of the story and I recommend that you read the whole article at the bottom:
Huddled under the table Rose* and her two younger brothers watched as police searched their home for them.
It was late at night when Child, Youth, and Family (now Oranga Tamariki) with police entered the Hamilton home to uplift six-year-old Rose and her two younger brothers.
“I remember trying to grab for my mum, but the police officer had me in a tight grip. I remember watching my mum trying to grab for me, and she was screaming. I can still hear it. That was the last time I saw my mum for years.”
That was 20 years ago, but she remembers it clearly.
At her cousin’s home in the Hamilton suburb of Enderley, the least vaccinated suburb in Hamilton, Rose recounts her first interaction with the state. It is the starting point of her mistrust in government, and the relationship hasn’t improved since.
She feels the state and its agencies have treated her like a criminal, despite having no convictions.
It’s these interactions throughout her life that have informed Rose’s decision not to get the Covid-19 vaccine. Many Māori feel the same way, even though Māori are at greater risk of severe illness and death if they catch Covid-19. Māori are also disproportionately impacted by the current Delta community outbreak.
I always get stopped by the police even if I’m just walking and minding my business. I never feel listened to at the doctors, and I’m made to feel bad when I have to get assistance from WINZ [Work and Income],” Rose says.
“So yeah, I have no criminal record, I work when I can, but I have a new born, and sometimes I need help, but it’s never good enough for them. You know sis, it’s like I was never good enough until now when they need me to do something, and I’m like what the f….”
Rose says when the government started pushing for all Māori to be vaccinated after the Delta outbreak began, she noticed a shift in attitude from agencies. It was like night and day.
The “kindness” shown by state services was “weird” and made her suspicious.
“I was walking past a vaccination site and a police officer, who had pulled me up a few weeks earlier, must have thought I was going to get vaxed, and he gave me a high-five and tried to give my son a lollipop, but he hid behind my legs,” she says.
“I mean how do you go from treating people like s… to this. It’s like they forgot what they did for the last 20 f…ing years of my life. I don’t trust what they say, I trust their actions.”