Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: White in Brighton

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  • Russell Brown,

    I largely grew up in Christchurch's northwestern suburbs, and went to school with both rich kids and state house kids like John Key. Newish schools with growing rolls, plenty of open space to play in, a pretty good music after punk rock happened -- it wasn't bad.

    But I didn't miss the place much when I left, and when we came back from London to see friends and Fiona's family, I found my old schoolmates still thinking "Dorkland" jokes were funny, the place seemed waaay too parochial for me to feel comfortable in.

    But I've lately come around to the place again. I like the art gallery and the Botanical Gardens and Hagley Park and the Broadcasting School and Whisky Galore -- and I especially like my friends who live there. I actually look forward to a visit these days.

    And yet, I find the Christchurch CBD far more unnerving than the Auckland CBD. When I was down for the Austism NZ conference, I got people hitting me up for money and cigarettes in broad daylight. At night, there's a tension in parts of the CBD that I'm not aware of in Auckland.

    I should put up my hand and note that it was me who used the phrase "white trash" in this thread. It does seem like a reasonable description of the kind of greasy yobs who formed the suburban gangs when I was growing up. There was always the potential of being randomly assaulted when we went out.

    I am struck by the sometimes stark socio-economic demarcations in Christchurch suburbia. Leaving Brighton for the airport takes you across a couple of those borders.

    Here in Auckland, I'm in a gentrifying suburb, yet there have been some marginal characters over the years in the Housing NZ properties in our cul de sac, and we're only five minutes away from McGehan Close, the Mt Albert street that John Key labelled a "street of shame" before performing his political adoption of a 12 year-old girl (the irony being that until he was whisked in for his triumphant visit to the street, he thought it was in South Auckland).

    So it's, er, different ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Jogging Solo,

    @Simon

    In that case I feel slightly bad about joking about their slaughter. When was the last rabies scare? I was last in Bali in July. (Tahu Michi?) There were heaps of dogs around Ubud.

    Since Oct 2009 • 23 posts Report Reply

  • Jogging Solo,

    @Russell "white trash" is always used to refer to people from poor backgrounds, and that's why I have a problem with the term.

    Otherwise, I completely concur with you. I grew up here and HATED it, couldn't wait to get out. I was very surprised to find myself liking it when I got back a month or so ago. There's been some tremendous improvements since I've been gone. The city centre is still menacing and violent however, as you note... Sad.

    I probably have leaned too far in some of my posts in an attempt to bring some balance to the argument about ChCh. I just get annoyed when people use the city as a straw man, in order to express the righteousness of their own morals/views and to emphasize the supposed relative harmony of their own communities.

    Hopefully, some of the posters with negative views about the city will take the time that you have to rediscover it, and will come away with a more mature attitude.

    Since Oct 2009 • 23 posts Report Reply

  • Just thinking,

    Kyle is hanging out in Paeroa at the moment.

    There was a skin-head riot/party with multipul arrests a
    month or so back, just the southside of Tower Junction Riccarton/Addington area.

    They're small in number and pretty much live in hiding untill they get 10 or more together.

    Putaringamotu • Since Apr 2009 • 1158 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    I got people hitting me up for money and cigarettes in broad daylight.

    It's the approachable stubble. :)

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    @Russell "white trash" is always used to refer to people from poor backgrounds, and that's why I have a problem with the term.

    Just look at how the Cletus family is portrayed in The Simpsons - if that kind of portrayal was directed at any ethnic group, there would be outrage, and it would be taken off our screens. Discrimination against the poor is open and acceptable in New Zealand.

    Similarly, very often the opprobrium directed by the talkback-set against particular ethnic groups in New Zealand isn't so much to do with the colour of their skin (although that is often a convenient marker, and not to deny the existence of real racism), as to do with the fact that they are poor.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    JS, it's been an ongoing scare over the past 12 months. It started around the Bukit and Jimbaran and has slowly spread. 18 are dead so far, and the local health department has ignored all WHO advice to inoculate, and simply shot and poisoned the poor beasts, many of who, as you rightly point out, were in a fairly miserable way already.

    The poor street dogs of Bali are shamefully treated as it is, as are many other animals, and the way this scare has been handled is cruelly incompetent.

    I think the cull continues in Ubud right now, maybe taking time off for the current sport, extorting tens of thousands of dollars from Hollywood studios....nothing changes

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3284 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    City Centre is still menacing and violent however

    That's how it felt when I lived there - a sense of uneasy, suppressed violence bubbling beneath (swamp, anyone?). Reinforced by the stories I heard doing volunteer counselling work with men from many suburbs and backgrounds. And by experiencing the night crowds on subsequent visits. I do like visiting.

    Like Russell, I find the threats in Auckland's CBD somehow more obvious and therefore less scary. But it's also my place, so I'm expecting blinkers.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Discrimination against the poor is open and acceptable in New Zealand.

    Agreed. I wish we had a stronger, pragmatic class analysis that wasn't so cloaked in archaic "comrade" overtones.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    IIRC, the US etymology of 'white trash' is pretty racist, because it implies that all black people are *already trash*, but the white folks need to be demarcated into trashy/not trashy.

    (Of course, most people who use the term here don't do so within that particular historical framework, so the broader meaning is lost.)

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    IIRC, the US etymology of 'white trash' is pretty racist, because it implies that all black people are *already trash*, but the white folks need to be demarcated into trashy/not trashy.

    For that purpose, the more race-neutral term 'trailer trash' is often used in its place.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5445 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    So Keir saw a swastika tatt when visiting a city of 375,000-odd souls and had to have a wee lie down afterwards? The poor dear.

    No, Keir was going down the supermarket to get something to eat and saw a chap with a swastika tattoo and thought `what the fuck, that's a bit over the line, eh' and rather thought it a handy anecdote to bring up. (I didn't mention the chap heil-ing away at the Bus Exchange at five-ish in the afternoon, but that would have worked just as well.)

    And in fact I didn't go for a line down; I did a proper tutting and shaking of my head then went and got dinner and then I walked home.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    the more race-neutral term 'trailer trash'

    Yeah, although speaking as someone with a lot of 'trailer trash' connections, I have spent *so much time* in double-wide trailers. Half our friends in Texas lived in them; half my family in Louisiana lived in them. I mean, they all have central air conditioning and freaking ensuite bathrooms. They're actually bigger than my current house!

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    Here in Auckland, I'm in a gentrifying suburb, yet there have been some marginal characters over the years in the Housing NZ properties in our cul de sac, and we're only five minutes away from McGehan Close, the Mt Albert street that John Key labelled a "street of shame" before performing his political adoption of a 12 year-old girl (the irony being that until he was whisked in for his triumphant visit to the street, he thought it was in South Auckland).

    So it's, er, different ...

    That different, really? Right now I live in a small flat in Bryndwr; we're about five minutes from the snobbishly rich part of Fendalton and equally close to Aorangi School and a bunch of state houses. There are more borders than some places, but there's an awful lot of mingling along the edges.

    Can't we go back to shaking our heads at Michael Laws?

    Discrimination against the poor is open and acceptable in New Zealand.

    I saw his latest outburst this morning, and half of me just sighed, because it's such typical Laws attention-whoring it's hardly worth the outrage.

    And then I thought: hold on, when he talkes about sterilising beneficaries because their children never amount to anything? He's talking about people like my mother-in-law. He's talking about people like my partner, who according to Laws shouldn't have been born because he's incapable of achieving, e.g., the Masters' thesis he's starting next week.* He's saying this horrific shit and the media are enabling him, have been enabling him for *years*, to the point where we sigh because it's just Michael Laws again.

    George has it exactly right.

    *To be fair, though, it's in the impractical and dole-attracting field of computer security, rather than medicine or brain surgery like everyone who wants to overcome their shameful past of poverty needs to study.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    @ Danielle,

    O/T, but this new box set may be of interest:

    Dolly Parton's story is mighty but it's never properly been told on record until this 2009 Legacy box set. Spanning 99 tracks over four discs, beginning with the early-'60s demo "Gonna Hurry (As Slow as I Can)" and running until the end of her stay with Columbia in the early '90s, Dolly may miss her bluegrass comeback of the new millennium but this is the only gap in the narrative, and it's not greatly missed, because this captures her prime.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    I did a proper tutting and shaking of my head then went and got dinner and then I walked home.

    Ah good on you. Like little Mr. Camopants who haunts my neighbourhood - you should see him do his balls down at the BP ATM when his benefit hasn't come through - the guy'll have a case manager to micromanage his excesses. I'm sure you realised that if you'd written a stiff letter to Bob Parker you'd have got something useless, like a voucher for a free ride on the Port Hills gondola.

    BTW, have to agree 100% with your earlier take on the prolapsed CBD.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report Reply

  • Just thinking,

    Gentryfication is a bit of an issue.

    Lyttleton for example has been preserved because it was poor & out of the way. Now it is valued for its Heritage and so the port workers move the other side of the hill to Woolston and the trendy middle classes move in.

    Bryndwr is ripe for it too (has anyone heard the Realestate term Fendalton North?). If we can buyback the privatised state houses and build the community up (which won't take much) and keep it for those in need then we improve society as a whole. Need to keep Aorangi School open (about 2km from Fendalton School) and celebrate 17 Hollyford Rd (John Keys state home that could do with some TLC).
    It's time to Blow on the Pie...

    Putaringamotu • Since Apr 2009 • 1158 posts Report Reply

  • dyan campbell,

    IIRC, the US etymology of 'white trash' is pretty racist, because it implies that all black people are *already trash*, but the white folks need to be demarcated into trashy/not trashy.

    I can see how you would think that Danielle, but no, not at all.


    Etymology of "White Trash"

    The term white trash dates back not to the 1950s but to the 1820s. It arises not in Mississippi or Alabama, but in and around Baltimore, Maryland. And best guess is that it was invented not by whites, but by African Americans. As a term of abuse, white trash was used by blacks--both free and enslaved--to disparage local poor whites.

    In 1854 white trash appeared in Harriet Beecher Stowe's bestselling Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin--her defense of the abolitionist play [sic] that had garnered her international fame. Stowe devoted an entire chapter to “Poor White Trash,” explaining that the slave system produced "not only heathenish, degraded, miserable slaves, but it produces a class of white people who are, by universal admission, more heathenish, degraded, and miserable." The degradation was due, Stowe argued, in part because plantation slavery locked up productive soil in the hands of a few large planters, leaving ordinary whites to struggle for subsistence. But there were other factors as well: "Without schools or churches, these miserable families grow up heathen on a Christian soil, in idleness, vice, dirt, and discomfort of all sorts. They are the pest of the neighborhood, the scoff and contempt or pity even of the slaves. The expressive phrase, so common in the mouths of the negroes, of 'poor white trash,' says all for this luckless race of beings that can be said."

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 595 posts Report Reply

  • Jogging Solo,

    Being labeled "White Trash" and feeling it probably has a lot to do with why Kyle and his boot boys have adopted the belief system they have. They are some of the city's losers, as Emma points out, and they clearly feel it, because they've gone and adopted a belief system that give them a reason to feel some pride in themselves. It's unfortunate that it has to be Nazi "white pride."

    If only Kyle and Co could take a more positive approach.... Perhaps they could take a lead from hip artists who re-appropriated the 'N' word.

    e.g like the Stereogram boys:

    <dylan>The term white trash dates back not to the 1950s but to the 1820s. It arises not in Mississippi or Alabama, but in and around Baltimore, Maryland. And best guess is that it was invented not by whites, but by African Americans. As a term of abuse, white trash was used by blacks--both free and enslaved--to disparage local poor whites.</dylan>

    Where did that come from, Dylan?

    I'm not sure if that's the case because I'm unsure of the source, but I have read a bit about the history of the 'N' word. Before it was positively re-appropriated (and some people dispute that that re-appropriation is a positive thing) by some black artists, it was often used by black people who felt they had risen to a better place in society to describe black people who had not.

    Personally I'm not sure I like the use of either word even if it is being used in a positive re-appropriated way.... It gets in the way of the facts of poverty and alienation that affect people of all colors.

    Since Oct 2009 • 23 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    I can see how you would think that Danielle, but no, not at all.

    Well, perhaps all my history lecturers in my PhD programme in Houston were extra-specially-sensitive snowflakes and made that explanation up from scratch, but that's why, they explained, none of them ever used it.

    The idea that poor whites in the 20th century carved out a place for themselves by being extra racist to the black people slightly lower on the totem pole is basically a truism at this point, however. And given that you missed out this rather key point from your link: 'while white trash is likely to have originated in African American slang, it was middle-class and elite whites who found the term most compelling and useful and they who, ultimately, made it part of popular American speech', it's pretty clear that there's a race-based subtext to the term in the USA, at least. This quote sums it up for me: 'White Trash is identified as such through being perceived as "acting like Blacks" which in the language of racism is actually worse than being Black because it constitutes a degradation of "racially superior" Whites'. (That's from White trash: race and class in America by Matt Wray and Annalee Newitz.)

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Jogging Solo,

    It gets in the way of the facts of poverty and alienation that affect people of all colors.

    Urg, sorry - that's so wishy-washy and means nothing.

    I am against the use of the N world and WT because all they do is remind people of their subjugation and/or economic and cultural privation.

    And I think the use of WT and viewing poor white people as WT could even be a factor in encouraging groups like Kyle Chapman's to turn to white supremacist ideology.

    I therefore don't like the re-appropriation of either WT or N, though I'm not going to tell Mos Def not to use the N word if he wants to... i.e, it's not Whitey's job to tell people how to speak proper....

    Since Oct 2009 • 23 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    (That's from White trash: race and class in America by Matt Wray and Annalee Newitz.)

    Oh snap! But with footnotes. Awesome.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Dinah Dunavan,

    sculpted Nick Smith out of shit

    That explains a lot.
    I can almost see how you could get the sculpture to walk and talk (although the mind boggles) but how did he get it so pasty white and red?

    Dunedin • Since Jun 2008 • 186 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    The title of the piece is inspired: Nick Smith Is Shit.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Dinah Dunavan,

    Having lived in a few NZ towns I don't think there is anywhere that is more or less racist. I've heard racist comments all over NZ (although nothing to match the former NZer in Queensland who rented us a car). I'd like to think that most NZers are more tolerant than not.

    The poor of small town Otago are not a lot different from the poor of small town East Cape. Except the northern poor get more rain, and are probably warmer a lot of the time.

    Dunedin • Since Jun 2008 • 186 posts Report Reply

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