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Spiritual Reflection - October 2022

Subtle Racism

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free
. (Luke 4: 18-19)

“Me, a racist? Never, some of my best friends …” Okay then. How many ethnic groups do you have in your parish? How many white people are in your conference? How many representatives from the ethnic groups are in your conference?

Before I go any further, I should say that in the parish next door to me, the parish priest assures me they do have someone from each of the groups. Well done Levin!

If you do have several ethnic groups in your parish it surely makes sense to have someone from each of them. Generally speaking, they will know the needs much better than we Europeans do.

Whoops! I have just realised that I am presuming to write for people whose skin is white! I haven’t visited any other conferences in over nine years, other than the one in my parish! So forgive me if what I write is well out of date.

Picking up on overt racism should be easy enough. The more subtle kind though is what catches us out. One woman told me that when her son announced that he was going to marry X who is Jewish, she said “I will have to watch what I say now about Jews”. Her son replied: “Mum, you shouldn’t have to watch, because you shouldn’t make remarks like that at all”.

Another example is of a Catholic community that every so often will have an ethnic Mass and all are invited to an ethnic meal put on for all. But do the Europeans ever put on a meal for all who have migrated here and live in their parish, or perhaps invite new arrivals to join Family Groups, or even home for a meal?

And then there are the Tangata Whenua to whose land our forebears migrated: for most of us only a generation or two back. How much effort do we make to pronounce properly the Māori words and place names we use. Is whanau correctly pronounced ‘far now’ or far no? How often do you hear ‘Marries’ instead of Māori (Maa or e)? Do you know how Māori pronounce their vowels? I grew up on the Ahipaipa Road (r he pie pa). We pronounced it “High Pipe!”

Do you know the meaning of words commonly used now: kōrero, kaupapa, e hoa, kaumatua, kuia, ahau, haere, hui, tino pai, e whai ake nei, tēnei?

And do you know anything about the Treaty of Waitangi … its articles and principles and why there are complications? Or are Treaty issues just something for the radicals?

Examining our lives around the issue of racism is vital for Vincentians. We share in the work of liberating the oppressed. We have to make sure we aren’t working against it?


  • What paragraph from the above stands out most of all?
  • It is often said that white New Zealanders are ‘recovering racists’. Do you agree or do you think racism is far from dead in New Zealand? If so, why?


Creator of all humanity
In your image and likeness
On every continent
In every land
Of all who reside in Aotearoa, New Zealand
Grant us the grace of hospitality
To make all feel welcome
To belong
To experience our love
May our hongi bear a lasting fruit
Hōmai tō iho, kia whakakōtahi tō tāua wairua
Give me your nose that our spirits might be one.