A march against racism was held in Christchurch on Saturday. Sionainn Byrnes, a member of the Canterbury Socialist Society, was one to the speakers to address the march. This is a transcript of her speech.
TENA KOUTOU Akatoa. Nga mihi mahana ki a koutou katoa. My name is Sionainn Byrnes, and I’m a member of the Canterbury Socialist Society.
I’m here to talk briefly about the task of organising together against racism, but also together for a fairer and more prosperous world for all. Let me start by condemning the recent terror attacks against our Muslim whanau. We acknowledge your grief and the material hardship you are experiencing.
We know that white supremacy does not come from nowhere. As my friend Josephine stated, white supremacy is fundamentally built into Western societies, including New Zealand: from our history of colonisation, to our foreign policy, in our courts and prisons, in Work and Income offices across the country. But, we should add that white supremacy does not exist in isolation. It is interwoven into our economic system, it is an effective tool of capitalism, which requires us to believe that some people are more or less deserving of security and wealth than others, that there is something uniquely good about white people that entitles us to the best of our collective resources.
Throughout history, white people with power have used whiteness to accumulate and deny others wealth, and when whiteness is no longer sufficient to guarantee us economic and social superiority, when white people start to experience the material hardship that is integral to capitalism, we are more inclined to blame and enact violence toward other ethnic and racial groups than we are to see the root causes of material hardship and so opportunities to organize together for a fairer and more prosperous world for all.
The far right and specifically white-supremacist groups exploit white people’s feelings of disaffection to foment hatred and violence, but we must not let ourselves be tricked. Yes, the far right identifies real issues of disempowerment, hopelessness, and material hardship, which the mainstream left has been slow to take seriously, but its apparent solutions—bigotry, misogyny, nationalism, racism and xenophobia—are not solutions at all.
Everything good that we have—art and culture, democracy, legal protections, social welfare—has been fought for and built by people of all cultures, ethnicities, genders, and races, and we are all entitled to the best of our collective resources. I’m a socialist, and I’m speaking from and for a particular position with which you might disagree, but I hope that this event and your presence indicates that you are open to ongoing conversations about racism and white supremacy, their roots causes, and lasting solutions that guarantee us not only safety in the immediate sense, but also prosperity long-term.
Throughout history, socialists have been involved in anti-racist organizing, and this tradition of solidarity across culture, ethnicity, gender, and race is something that white people might actually be proud of. I urge you to consider joining a union if you are not already a member, because racism is a reliable worker if nothing else. It is likely present in your workplaces and not only your social circles. I urge you to learn about the history of anti-racist, anti-war, and socialist organising in Otautahi and Aotearoa.
Otautahi is not only a city of skinheads, but also a city with a history of industrial feminism, conscientious objection, anti-apartheid activism, and more recent opposition to white-supremacist groups. The far right imagines a world of closed and militarized borders, of the basic management of continuous crisis, and this is not a world I wish to live in.
Please consider this an open and strings-free invitation to organize in solidarity with myself and the Canterbury Socialist Society. Nga mihi nui. Noho ora mai. Thank you.