Shut up, Pālagi!
I have been known by many names over the years but one name that is synonymous with my work and who I am as a person is Bloody Sāmoan. It's more than just a self appointed moniker, it's my brand. People are more likely to remember Bloody Sāmoan than how to spell Michel Mulipola.
But there was a point in my life where the term Bloody Sāmoan wasn't a proud moniker, it was an insult. As a kid growing up, pālagi (the Sāmoan word for white people) would often say it in a fit of rage and annoyance if a brown person were to irritate them or do something wrong. The words Bloody Sāmoan itself never carried any malice, it was the condescending and venomous tone with which those very words were proclaimed. The fact that in their eyes, you are less-than, an inferior being who does not belong in 'their' New Zealand/Aotearoa.
When thinking of myself as an artist and creating a brand, the Bloody Sāmoan idea came from a character's t-shirt logo I created for the Lucha-a-Koko comic in 2008 for the New Grounds anthology. With the Sāmoan flag being predominantly red, I thought it'd be fun to create a blood splatter version of it and calling it Bloody Sāmoan as a reference to the racist term. I fell in love with the image so much that it became my new logo and my new artistic sobriquet.
The great thing about reclaiming the term, Bloody Sāmoan, and making it my own is that now whenever people hear it, it is more associated with me and my work rather than its racist origins.
Growing up as a Sāmoan kid in Māngere, South Auckland, you grow accustomed to being looked down upon by the 'majority' of the default society of NZ, the pālagi. South Auckland is where 'those' people live. Where all the gangsters, thugs, overstayers and dole bludgers dwell. Clutch your purses and keep your distance in South Auckland. When you're the 'minority' and so-called dredges of society, you get judged as a whole - if one person does something wrong, it is ALL of us who have committed that crime. Individualism is the privilege of the pālagi. When you're the 'default' in society, you are able to detach yourself from wayward souls and 'lone wolves.' You enjoy a level a comfort the 'others' can't afford.
A few days ago on Twitter, I called out European tourists who said they won't self-isolate as well as the St. Patrick's Day Parade going ahead amidst this COVID-19 pandemic. I referred to the lackadaisical attitudes of these Europeans to those of the European colonisers who brought their foreign diseases to indigenous people which decimated the native populations.
When society is built around the European values and customs of the European colonisers, it is easy for pālagi to think that these trivial afflictions won't affect them. They are so accustomed to having things go their way everyday that the COVID-19 pandemic is just a mere inconvenience for their plans. Pointing out the hypocrisy of events like Pasifika and ASB Polyfest being cancelled while the St. Patrick's Day parade, Kumeu Show and WOMAD go the go ahead, was met with a lot of agreement BUT it may have been the last straw for some pālagi people who perceived my tweets as a 'racist' attack on white people.
But the carelessness of these pālagi could worsen the pandemic and have it spread to ill equipped countries like Sāmoa. And New Zealand hasn't exactly got a great track record with introducing infectious diseases to the islands like influenza & measles
That's when I received this lovely comment on my Youtube channel from someone calling themselves 'captain Cracker:'
To be honest, this was an interesting surprise to see on one of my social media channels. It's been quite a while since I've come across overt racism so I had a little chuckle at what I had just read. You get so used to the subtle racism you experience everyday that when someone has the nerve to be flat out racist can come as a surprise.
If you are reading this and are wondering what I mean by subtle racism, as a Sāmoan man whenever I enter public places, I am often seen as threatening. I smile at security guards and staff to put them at ease but that still doesn't stop them from eyeing me up and often shadowing me instore. People grab their bags and belongings a little harder when I'm in proximity of passing them by. I keep a safe walking distance or actively cross the road in order to let other walkers know I'm not trouble. Everywhere I go, people unconsciously perceive me as a threat because of the way I look, because to them, I am an 'other.'
captain Cracker calling me a fat coconut after lambasting me for being racist (in his eyes) was interesting to say the least as he derails his whole complaint by being racist. In response, I decided to have fun with it and add 'fat coconut' to my many gimmicks:
I have been called many racist slurs throughout my life - coconut, bunga, fob, freshie, savage, overstayer, thug, Bloody Sāmoan, even the N word - so captain Cracker's 'insult' never hit its mark.
I put captain Cracker on blast via Twitter and in my tweet, I thought I'd troll him by using seemingly derogatory terms for pālagi so that if he read it, he'd become irate.
If you take a look at the previous tweets about the irresponsible Europeans in Aotearoa right now, nothing I said is particularly racist, I am stating facts and disgust at their actions. But pālagi don't like being lumped all together with blank statements.
As stated earlier, individualism is the privilege of the pālagi default of society. How many times have you seen systemic and everyday racism called out and pālagi come out of the woodwork with (get your bingo cards ready, folks!) the following? - They're just a bad apple/lone wolf
- #NotAllWhitePeople / #AllLivesMatter - I have nothing to do with what happened 200 years ago - It's not a race thing - I don't see colour - My best friends are (insert minority) - Stop using the race card - Freedom of Speech (for me and not you) - We're all the same on the inside Nobody likes having their flaws pointed out. But just because my statements make you a little uncomfortable doesn't take away the truth of what is said. I like to pepper my statements with some dark humour because sometimes shit is so dire, you have to try and find a little laugh in the situation. Sometimes I'm just angry. Some pālagi fans have approached me feeling like my Tweets are 'disheartening.' They just don't understand the world I and other POC live in. While you live nice and cosy on the inside, we get a better view of how thinks look and are held together on the outside. Your view is shaped by the window you look out of, ours is shaped by our surroundings. To reiterate, Individualism is the privilege of the pālagi. As someone whose entire existence has been lumped into blanket statements, to have pālagi feel personally attacked and offended by my tweets is interesting. It's not so fun being on the other side of the fence, right? To be judged as a whole by the actions of a few. Welcome to the life of an 'other.' I understand that my rhetoric can be offputting for my pālagi fans. Some of them I may have already lost their support because of my Tweets. But just like all my life, I am not going to apologise just for existing, thinking critically and expressing my thoughts. I get enough of that shit from society. Pālagi only care about Pasifika people when there is something to gain from them. The Pasifika people that are often celebrated our sports stars and entertainers. Hell, there are so many pālagi nay, pākeha ('cause I know some of you hate being called that) who abhor the Māori language and culture but are right up in there when the All Blacks perform the haka. The world is changing and POC are no longer taking shit from the majority pālagi society. There is a call to #decolonise ourselves and find freedom in our cultures and stories. Pālagi people feel like they're no longer in control because we will no longer be placated. Just because we are known as the Pacific, it does not mean we will sit idly by and be pacified. As the saying goes, "When you're accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression." I am not saying that pālagi voices no longer matter, what I am saying is that the pālagi voice is no longer the only one. Now, in the digital age, there is a cacophony of voices and perspectives being shared. As the voices grow, we slowly start to #decolonise the stories being told in the media. There is still a lot of work to be done to undo the harm colonisation has inflicted on indigenous and native people. And the slight discomfort pālagi feel when called out on their bullshit is nothing compared to the pain, suffering and loss we have lived. You may think that the dark days are far behind us but in the 70s, only 40+ years ago and within your parents' lifetime, Pasifika people were being hunted and treated like dogs with the Dawn Raids of the Muldoon regime. Pasifika people who were enticed to Aotearoa for a better life (and as cheap labour for factories) now villainised as overstayers and criminals when their services were no longer needed.
I'm gonna keep calling shit out on social media however I see fit. It's not all 'anti-white' rhetoric, though those are the most fun. And in case you were wondering what my politics are, I believe in the following (in no particular order:) - Equality - Living Wage
- Capital Gains Tax - Taxing the wealthy - Legalise marijuana - Pro-choice - Sex Worker rights - Indigenous rights - Anti-domestic violence - Renewable energy - Universal healthcare So I am definitely a 'leftie' who believes in helping others who need it. If these politics don't align with yours, you're in for a treat. Some people would prefer their artists to keep politics out of their work or socmed but you cannot separate the art from the artist. I am more than just some art monkey who is gonna shuck and jive at the behest of the pālagi organ grinder. I am not here to mollycoddle your white guilt and fragility. Interestingly enough, I haven't even touched on the shit I've had to deal with as a Sāmoan comic book artist in Aotearoa and the industry, I feel like I'll leave that story for another blog. At the end of the day, my life experience is very different from that of my pālagi friends & acquaintances. There are privileges never afforded to people like me and there are advantages at being underestimated by the majority. I am proud to be a Bloody Sāmoan and I wouldn't change my life experience because it has tempered me to be resilient and resourceful. A word of advice for my pālagi people: Sometimes the best thing you can do is listen to non-pālagi voices and experiences, be an advocate and...