ANZASW Statement: George Floyd and a call for change

ANZASW is appalled and deeply saddened to see the extreme display of violence and police brutality that lead to the tragic death of George Floyd on 25th May 2020. We would like to offer our support and solidarity to the Black Lives Matter protests happening in the USA and around the world.

We would also like to acknowledge the work of social workers in continuing to be on the front-lines in fighting for and advancing human and social rights. Social workers act as critical contributors to upholding and advocating for social justice, equality and inclusion. Social work as a profession critically engages with and challenges issues of racism and the institutional systems that foster such beliefs.

The recent events in the USA have highlighted the need for collective action and voice in advocating for change to be made to the systems, institutions and laws that lead to and allow for the mistreatment and violation of human rights such as those seen over the past week.

Anger and upset is spreading around the globe surrounding the role that armed police play in the lives of people of colour. In Aotearoa, discussions around the Armed Response Teams’ trials have been brought to light through the #ArmsDownNZ movement in part as a response to the death of George Floyd. Figures released by Newshub last week show the trial had disproportionally impacted on Māori with nearly half of those apprehended being Māori and another eleven percent being Pasifika.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stated that she is “totally opposed” to the arming of police. ANZASW strongly supports this statement and calls for the discontinuation of armed police in Aotearoa.

Yesterday on Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report  Justice advocate Julia Whaipooti explained that the death of George Floyd “resonated with many New Zealanders”.

She furthered that “[w]hen we look to the United States, they are 400 years deep into a history of colonisation and slavery. In New Zealand, we are 200 years deep into our colonial history.”

“Colonial structures, by design, take powers away from indigenous people and people of colour, and that power is often used disproportionally on people of colour and indigenous people”.

“Policing in New Zealand, though not on the same scale as we see in the United States, the underlying issues remain the same and present in the way that we police in this country.”

ANZASW encourages reflection by all New Zealanders on what we can do as individuals and wider community groups to foster and grow an inclusive, just and safe society for all people. We further call on policing decisions to be made with consideration of the wider effects that such decisions will have on Aotearoa’s vulnerable communities.

4 Comments

  • MOHAMMED HASSAN KHAN

    Excellent statement
    Have reproduced it as SOCIAL SCOPE E NEWSLETTER OF APFAM INT..

  • Glad to hear a message from ANZASW so timeously and so relevant .

  • Adrienne Thomas

    Like many of us, over the past several days, I have been thinking and reflecting on how racism, discrimination and hatred operates in our lives.

    Whilst we know that racism occurs on so many different levels, it is perhaps at its most dangerous and frightening and insidious, when it operates subliminally or subconsciously. Derek Chauvin would likely deny that he was acting in a deliberately racist manner when his intentional actions caused the death of George Floyd, and he is never likely to agree with anyone who suggests that George Floyd died because he was a black man, and that he, Derek Chauvin, had murdered him.

    Many years ago I read a superb piece on subliminal racism, written by an American activist. It illustrates a little discussed mechanism for the transmission of inter-generational racism and how tragically and alarmingly, this can be involuntary; even when there is conscious awareness of what is happening.

    It went something like this:
    A white woman entered a lift carrying her young white child. As the lift stopped to pick up passengers, a black man entered. He did not interact with the woman or her child. But everything that the mother had been told about black people; that they were not like her, that they did bad things to white people, rushed into her head and she became scared. She realised that her feelings were totally irrational but she felt them nonetheless. Her heart rate increased and she began to sweat. Her young child recognized and tangibly felt the changes in her mother. She also noticed her mother looking at the man. She became alarmed and began to cry. The mother held her child close and hushed her. But the damage had begun. The little girl had subliminally been given the message, by her mother, that black people were to be feared.

    Where we all know about the many different types of racism; if we neglect subliminal racism, we do so, at our peril…….

  • Estelle Dyhrberg

    While i agree with the statement above, i am saddened at the jumping of NZ’s to break the lockdown rules over this.

    This has been going on for years in the US. While not making light of our own racist attitudes, particularly in the police and other areas such as discrimination against certain sectors, this is not for us to leap on the bandwagon in this way, support can be shown at a far higher more productive level.

    Australia has a far worse situation than us even and again while i support, i am disappointed that NZr’s are prepared to risk each other for showing that support after the sacrifices made by some in a very real way.

    Showing support, being calm and having emotional boundaries are all the hallmarks of good social work as well.