I will stand up and speak up

I like so many other New Zealander’s have a heavy heart this week. It’s hard to try to find something to say following the horrific terrorism event in Christchurch that hasn’t already been said and it’s hard to truly comprehend the factors that came into play to lead down this road.

I’ve taken some comfort in attending memorial services, joining others in the community to collectively grieve as well as show solidarity and support. I’m proud that politicians from most parties have come together to swiftly change our gun laws. And I’ve been impressed at the determined effort to focus on the victims and their families, alongside encouraging the country to come together using positivity, caring and support to help families, communities and the nation to heal.

It’s also heartening to hear some of the conversations that are taking place, having a good look at New Zealand and New Zealanders and questioning levels of racism in our country. We are all a product of our upbringing and personal experiences but we can also choose to change our understanding of the world and of those around us. We can consciously choose to know more, to understand better and to do better.

New Zealanders are known around the world for our mediating and peace-making/keeping skills – so maybe we’re not very good at challenging others on poor behavior. It can be easy to let little things slide, but all those things add up and create a culture where some things are normalised and made okay. Hopefully the discussions taking place will help us consciously as a nation decide what we will accept as okay.

Right now in the heat of the aftermath, when the country is truly horrified, grieving and seeking to help, it’s easy to challenge racial or intolerant behavior. The challenge for us is to maintain those standards as time goes by.

So what can we do? I can’t tell anyone else what to do but I can tell you what I will do. I will pay attention to my own internal dialogue and thoughts and try to catch any prejudices or intolerance I may have. I will challenge casual racism, sexism, prejudices based on religion or any other form of ‘difference’. I will stand up and speak up. If as New Zealanders we want to say “this isn’t us” – then let’s make sure it isn’t.

As a cultural institution MTG Hawke’s Bay has a responsibility to create a better space, to build connections and to lead by example. So I will ensure we build a strong focus on creating connections and breaking down barriers. I’ve previously quoted that museums should be a safe place for unsafe ideas – and because of that we can provide a safe and neutral forum for people to learn about each other, to ask ‘dumb’ questions (there’s no such thing!) and to seek understanding. I hope as a community you will support and join us in this endeavour.

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG
Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 23 March 2019

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