Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Brown lives matter

The perennial cheerleader for arming New Zealand Police, Greg O'Connor, is at it again.  In true NRA styles, O'Connor has renewed his call for guns straight after Vaughan Te Moananui was shot dead by Police on the weekend.  He similarly used the shooting of Steven Wallace by Police in 2000 to campaign for more weaponry, in that case, the introduction of tazers.

Criminologist John Buttle described O'Connor's Police Association as "obsessed" with arming the Police back in 2010:
"The justification for routinely arming the NZP with pepper spray was that it could be used to protect the police from incidents of violence. When they wanted to introduce the tazer the police used the media to discredit the supposed effectiveness of pepper spray and champion their latest weapon of choice. Now it seems that tazers do not offer enough protection and only firearms can save police lives.... The way things are at the moment suggests that in the near future the police association will use the next unfortunate incident as a means to justify the routine arming of every police officer in New Zealand."
It's certainly topical. The wave of rage and grief sweeping through the United States right now was born out of community pain when Black teenager Trayvon Martin's killer was acquitted.  In the US, a Black person is killed by the Police or vigilante law enforcement every 28 hours.  Armed Police aren't the only reason.  But if you put a gun in the hand of institutional racism, you better believe Black lives will not matter.

And institutionally racist is exactly how the United Nations described New Zealand's criminal justice system in 2013, right before they told us we needed to improve our record-keeping about discrimination:
"The Committee, however, remains concerned at the disproportionately high rates of incarceration and the over representation of members of the Mãori and Pasifika communities at every stage of the criminal justice system."
By the time we're talking prison, differential treatment by ethnicity in the justice system is stark:

51% of people in our prisons are tangata whenua.  Colonisation is literally allowing us to lock up Māori, with Pacifica not far behind. 

But it's perhaps more salient to think about how the Police use their latest new weapon, the tazer.  We can compare two fascinating reports, from after national rollout in 2010 to last report 2013.  In terms of ethnicity:

In 2010/11, Pacifica were more likely than Māori, who were more likely than Pākehā, to be tazered.  By 2013, that hasn't changed.  Rates of tazering every ethnicity have increased dramatically at pretty similar rates and so the gaps between Pākehā and Māori and Pacifica are widening.    I've not been able to find the ethnicities of those killed by the Police in New Zealand (22 up until 2008), but I know the ethnicities of the men I remember, and they're not Pākehā.

How people experience the justice system in Aotearoa is "raced" at every point, including imprisonment and state violence sites.  If this concerns you - especially if you're Pākehā - don't turn your back, stand up against arming the Police.  Brown lives matter.
“Some problems we share as women, some we do not. You fear your children will grow up to join the patriarchy and testify against you; we fear our children will be dragged from a car and shot down in the street, and you will turn your backs on the reasons they are dying.”


Anonymous said...

Thanks but Black people in America asked other races not to use their slogan now you a white person are appropriating their slogan on behalf of "brown" people &creating unnecessary problems between groups you don't belong to. you could just say Maori &/or islanders btw Indians south east Asians etc aren't included & we don't refer to ourselves as "brown". It's kind of creepy..

LudditeJourno said...

Thanks Anon for feedback about Black Lives Matter crew not wanting their framing to be copied by others, I didn't know that. I think the content of the post makes it clear who I'm talking about, and who is included is based on Police stats, not my ideas of ethnicity. Point taken though about me writing outside my own experience and needing, always, to be mindful of that. I stand by the key point I was trying to make though, that Pakeha must recognise arming the Police is a raced issue. If you want to comment again, can you please follow our comments policy and give yourself a consistent handle?
Thanks, LJ