As Paul Spoonley spoke to us a couple of weeks ago a faded memory returned. I’d forgotten that I had had a public debate with him as Mayor years ago on the Holmes show. Where I had expressed frustration with some of his public pronouncements on white power in this city.
He, and the media, had homed in on a small group of white power extremists and all of us were being labelled because of this group. Wherever I went around NZ as Mayor I had to defend the label of “you guys are white and racist down there”. It was, and still is, frustrating.
When I think about how this city responded to the Mosque murders. Or how we supported each other following the earthquakes. There was what the spirit of this city is like. Don’t judge us by a few extreme misfits.
I have known Kyle Chapman for decades. We worked with him in employment schemes to try and turn around a small group of white mostly young men who were unemployed and angry. Our task was to get them into jobs and find them somewhere stable to live. Kyle is a natural leader who, when we were working with him, had decided that white power and hate was not for him. I think he’d even become a Christian. If he still is, then he must be referring to some sections of the gospels which most of us missed.
But don’t judge this whole city by this fringe very small group. They are mostly white, alienated and often unemployed. I stared at a very small group of them outside the library as they protested against transgender recently. There’s not a big group but they really believe they have been hard done by.
I stood outside our public library recently to support an activity being held there. A counter demonstration was organised by Kyle Chapman. I was approached by one of the protester groups asking why I was part of the group which was standing in support of transgender community. I used to work with this guy. He is Māori. I know him well and I like him. What made him head down this rabbit hole I wondered.
My friend and I agreed to catch up sometime. The conversation was polite and respectful.
The media and the researchers would say that this was white power living in this city. They focused on Philip Arps standing for the board of Te Aratai (Linwood) college elections recently. It got national coverage. There’s Christchurch, the white racist city, getting people into positions of power even at school board level was the underlying message. Well Arps is entitled to stand for the school board, but he bombed out big time. His was amongst the lowest votes of the candidates. His community quietly rejected him.
I found Paul Spoonley’s talk very good but I do get prickly about Christchurch being labelled a “white racist” city by researchers. We’re the same as every other place. It’s just we have a few misguided individuals who get unnecessary media attention.