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23 June 2017


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Yes Papua New Guineans are not only racist but we are regionalist. Because of the diverse cultures of PNG, each region has something negative about the other region.

The country may say its united but there's a lot of friction from each region against each other, especially in the urban centres.

You can see that in the news. Fights between Highlanders and Morobeans, for example, and its only getting worse. Soon PNG will be separated.

It makes you think that racism might be a natural trait of all people Peter. From the dumbest redneck to the smartest and best educated.

In that sense it comes across as a form of defence, possibly engendered by that 'fear of the other'.

A lot seems to depend on its delivery. Those old aunties were either calling you 'masta' because of their age or because of their wicked sense of humour.

We had an Assistant District Commissioner in Hagen who referred to all of the Cadet Patrol Officers as 'masta'. It was a way of putting us in our place, I think. Another one used to refer to us as 'taubada'.

Taken as a word to simply describe a white male it's pretty harmless but if you attach a sense of superiority to it then it becomes offensive.

So, racist nomenclature cuts both ways.

What I think is true racism and the worst kind is racist action. This is the fact of doing something physical to people because they are of different appearance.

This can range from disallowing entry to the Royal Papuan Yacht Club for not wearing a tie or shoes (in a country where ties and shoes are not exactly normal de rigueur) to the activities of the Ku Klux Clan burning people's houses and lynching people.

That's the really dangerous stuff that must be stamped out.

Another form of racism is exciting others to take racist action. This is Pauline Hanson's trademark but other more subtle racists use the same but less raw version.

This might be where racism in PNG really lies. In the activities of people like Kaputin in the 1960s through to the anti-Asian rhetoric of the present.

I think you run a danger in presenting anecdotal evidence of racism without really defining and categorising it.

Finally, while I like to think of myself as non-racist I must admit that there are moments when I act like a racist. Often it is when I am trying to be helpful in explaining someone's attitude to someone else. It is only when I pull myself up that I realise how deeply embedded it is in all of us.

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