Joan Didion, speaking on her husband’s shock death in 2003, said she was afraid for the next year to begin. Once the next year began, her husband’s death would be something that happened ‘in another year’.
We are now approaching one month since the Christchurch terror attack. It is something that happened in another month. The ‘They Are Us’ frames are coming down. Perhaps, in a few months, it will stop dominating the news cycle. In a few years, it will become a ‘remember where you were’ event – like the moon-landing, Princess Diana’s death, or 9/11.
Eventually, we'll become removed from the immediacy of the attack. Our grief, for those of us on the periphery of the tragedy, will fade. It will pack up and leave – though it won’t pack tidily, and we’ll find remnants of it inside our chests forever.
When I opened my phone on Friday, March 15, it was mid-afternoon. Reports at the time spoke of a shooting at a Christchurch mosque. Six were speculated dead.
“White supremacists”, I said aloud. I told my mother, “It’s got to be white supremacists.”
I’d heard about Christchurch and its underbelly of racism.
More relevant, I lived on the internet. White supremacists weren’t a far-flung idea to me.
Thanks to the year of my birth, I’m technically a ‘digital native’. It takes as few as four taps on my phone to get to a white supremacist. I can chat to one in real time, whenever I want. I don’t often want to talk to a white supremacist, but often they want to talk to me. Usually, they’ll catch a block.
But I also have a personal, flesh-world history with white supremacy. Reflecting on this history, I was reminded of this thread of tweets about Nazis infiltrating punk spaces. They begin thus: “If you were part of any punk/hardcore scene in the 80s/90s, you probably laid hands on a Nazi skinhead at least once.”
Born in 1993, I wasn’t part of said ‘punk/hardcore’ scene, but I was part of the emo scene of the mid-2000s. Peripherally, I was also part of the ‘metal’ scene. By which I mean, I hung out with ‘metalheads’.
I’ve written before about my love of ‘emodom’, and I stand by that love. But during my ‘emo’ years, I also hung out in garages with boys who carved swastikas into tables.
Not constantly, but they were there.
As a teenager, I sat in the passenger seat of a rusty Honda with the words ‘Rum and Racism’ scrawled on the ceiling.
This was part of the scenery in the so-called ‘rough’ areas of Pākehā West Auckland. My family, comprising a lawyer, a builder, and us kids, would be categorized as middle class. Upper-middle class, if you’re looking closely. I’m also, unquestionably, white.
One of the many privileges of this position in life is the ability to drift. I’m the kind of person who can hang out in a ‘rough’ crowd when they’re young. I’m the kind of person who is able to move on from that.
When I got older, I ceased all contact with the racists I knew as a teen. I wished I had the moral fortitude to banish them earlier. As the aforementioned thread of tweets surmises, the only action that prevents Nazis from taking over punk spaces is “…not letting them in.”
I didn’t know how to respond to those boys when I was 15. But they were there. They are everywhere. If you’re in a similar situation, here are some resources.Support Villainesse