Ma te kotahitanga e whai kaha ai tātou

Ma te kotahitanga e whai kaha ai tātou

In unity, we have strength.

A comment arose in Room 7, which got us thinking and having a very in depth discussion, in which the students showed great maturity and compassion. The comment was, “I can’t believe people say things like that to each other. It’s 2022. How are people still racist?” This sparked a discussion of some uncertainty and made us talk about why these topics can make us feel uncomfortable. Why is it a weird thing to talk about? Why do people think like this?

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When we first started talking about racism, it made me feel uncomfortable because racism is not ok. It's never ok for anyone of any colour or culture to be put down for something they don't have control over. Racism has been around since the dawn of time, and I wish it were never around. - Alun.

Curiosity took over, and we discussed the history of New Zealand, where there were times of segregation and not everyone was together and as friendly as we all are today. The students were shocked and couldn’t believe that people were treated like this and that it wasn’t really that long ago. After talking as a group, some of us realised that we may have heard comments that were racist and brushed them off or tried to ignore them.

Room 7 decided that we wouldn’t  take it, and we would talk about it. 

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Whaea Teagan had a kit that arrived from School Kit. This kit was full of reading and art projects that help us think and find ways to show our thoughts and support towards others, not only through our words but also as art.

We watched a poem be read written by Vaughan Rapatahana called Be Kind - the virus of racism 2020/kia atawhai - te huaketo o te aukati iwi. Kia atawhai – te huaketo o te aukati iwi 2020 by Vaughan

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This got everyone having solid  discussions with each other. One question asked was, “why do we need a poem to remember to be kind? We always do this?”. This highlighted to Whaea Teagan the bliss of a child's world, where they don’t often see people being unkind towards others or may not pick up on the things we learn as we go through adulthood.

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When we read Stephanie’s letter, it stuck out to them.

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When they heard that people had yelled at them, this was a real scenario, not a fake letter. They all agreed this wasn’t ok, and if someone was born here, why should they have to prove it to stop people from being unkind? People should be kind to each other in these unsettling times.

I hate it when people are racist to other people. When I see it, I feel like a fire burning up inside of me. We should stop being racist to other people. - Bella.

A few words from the students jumped out when discussing how this made us feel. Sad, angry, uncomfortable, some even said they had a funny feeling in their tummy after hearing this. We worked as a class and talked about how we want those people to feel instead of how we are feeling now. We turned those feelings around and created something positive out of it. It is our time to stand up, be kind, and show people how we see the world and how people should be treated.

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When I read the poem, it made me sad to hear that people were called names and shouted at. It made me feel uncomfortable because it's not kind to think of them as isolated idiots, not everyone, just the ones that are being racist. Once Whaea Teagan said we had to make the unkind poem into a kind poem that made me feel better. I hope that those who are being racist read this and see how everyone feels when you say things like that. - Lily.

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Taylor New Found Poem

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Riley New Found Poem

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Paige New Found Poem

Since working through these lessons, there has been a change in the culture of the class and the way that we talk in our class. The students are more conscious of how they say things, and will say something when they hear someone say something that they think is not ok. We also have taken a bigger interest in other cultures and how we are all different. This has been a positive learning journey in Room 7, and helped to create an open, kind sharing space for the tamariki to discuss their families cultures and languages and share parts of their culture that others may not understand.

Keywords: School Kit, Racism, Kotahitanga, Unity

Discussion 6