NZ - Know Your History! Opinion piece: A Samoan Journalist reacts to racist cartoon.
Tuki laumea is an international award winning filmmaker and journalist and director of the award winning documentary, 1918: Talune - Samoa and the ship of death.
This is a place I’ve spent a lot of time in. So today when I touched down in Samoa, there was something to me that was noticeably different about it. There’s a sorrow that sits in the air, a sadness in the faces of usually jovial people and a silence in the streets which typically burst with life.
So, unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ll know the reason for this is that the measles has taken a stranglehold here and is rapidly ripping the life out of its beautiful population.
I’m here for what in western culture would be considered ‘sad reasons’, a funeral (non-measles related) but for my family at least, it’s a celebration of life. We laugh, we eat and we make fun of each other. So as I was eating my taro and chop suey, trying to ignore my auntie regaling some embarrassing childhood story to people I don’t know, I was scrolling through Instagram when I saw something that made me spit up the best lunch I’ve had in months.
It was that disgusting cartoon you can see below.
Published in the Otago Daily Times by editor Barry Stewart and cartoonist Garrick Tremain.
I mean, where do I begin?
As I write this 55 people are dead from this disease. By the time you read this that number will be higher. Most of the dead are innocent beautiful children. Babies with entire lives left to live. Dead for no good reason. Dead because of a disease that originated from your country! NZ.
Families are devastated and grieving and the whole nation is in shock and you two are making jokes at their expense.
As a New Zealander, seeing that cartoon, I’m embarrassed.
As a Samoan, I’m disgusted and outraged.
As a journalist who has seen the worst of war, famine and utter devastation, the one thing I never saw was any news or media outlets making fun of people dying, especially dead children!
In what world is it ok to make fun of sick and dead kids? If these children were dying in Dunedin would you think it was funny? If it was a legitimate fear that your own children could catch this deadly disease would you be laughing? Have you no humanity?! Have you no empathy? Have you no soul?
Both you Mr Stewart and you, Mr Tremain are an abhorrent and vile representation of your community.
The South Island already has a reputation for being inhabited by racist rednecks and you are not doing your region any favours by publishing this disgusting mess... or perhaps you’re just showing your true colours. Red... you know, right on your necks.
This is an opinion piece. I’m not writing this as a journalist, I’m just using my platform as one. So I don’t have to be impartial. And to be honest I’m angry.
Not too far from where you both sit on your high horses, was once home to a man by the name of Col. Robert Logan. He was a racist redneck sheep farmer from The Maniototo. Back in World War One NZ was pretty keen to get into the colonising game and Great Britain was nice enough to throw us some scraps and let us look after Samoa for them, so we did so with a military led administration.
So naturally of course who better to do that than the sheep farmer from the South Island?
That’s not the shocking part though. On the 7th of November 1918 Col. Robert Logan knowingly allowed Spanish influenza in to Samoa. Did you know that Baz and Gaz - want to guess what happened next? It wiped out 20% to 33% of Samoa’s population!
it’s closer to 33% to be honest. that 20% was the racist European estimate to make themselves feel better. Stop and think about those numbers for a moment. Imagine how catastrophic that was... it struck down the strongest and most able men and women. Entire families were wiped out. Generations of cultural knowledge was lost.
It took 70 years for NZ to acknowledge what that piece of s#%@ did in Samoa and so that’s why I’m sitting here completely gobsmacked as to what you put in your sad excuse for a paper.
Given your location and the ties it has to this epic historic wrong in Samoa, you should be more aware and more sensitive than anyone!
Percentage wise The 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic in Samoa is the most devastating loss of a countries population In the history of the world, so 101 years after your Otago brethren aided the decimation of the people of Samoa, it baffles me as to how you see fit to take the piss out of a nation of people who are suffering at the hands of another devastating pandemic. Which can once again trace its origins back to your country! Where the hell do you two get off?!
As journalists we have privileges that aren’t afforded to everyone else. We have a voice that is louder than others. So here’s a thought; instead of publishing white privilege hate messages, why not use that space to raise funds for the families of the dead and affected? If all of your usual readers donated $1, then you’d be able to add your $5 to the aid effort! There are families here that are so poor they can’t afford to take time off to grieve! Think about that! Everything counts! Even positive thoughts and good intentions... something that you, Baz and you, Gaz, seem to be well short of.
So, as a disgusted journalist, an embarrassed kiwi and an outraged Samoan, here’s what I would like from you two ignorant South Islanders.
An apology! Not just to your 5 readers, but to the families of the dead and the dying and all Samoans!
Then I want your resignations. You’re both an embarrassment to the profession, so you’ll be doing the rest of the world a favour.
Now, I know you’ll both have a lot of spare time on your hands once you’ve given up your racist hate rag, so perhaps you could spend some of that time researching the horrendous history NZ has in the Pacific.
Is all of that clear enough or should someone draw up a cartoon? I’ll make sure they colour your necks red, so you can clearly identify yourselves.
If you are looking for places to donate to help the people of Samoa during this state of medical emergency - please find organistions you can donate to or volunteer to help with below: