Following the dastardly attack in two mosques in Christchurch that killed 50 innocent people, a new comic has got New Zealanders thinking and reflecting on the country's race relations and its history of racism.
After the attack, New Zealand's first response was to say, "This is not New Zealand". However, artist Toby Morris decided to question this. In the comic titled "This isn't us... or is it?", the cartoonist outlines how New Zealand too has had a complicated racial history and that white supremacist opinions and Islamophobia were slowly growing in the country.
The comic, which was released in New Zealand based magazine, The Spinoff and has since gone viral.
In the panels, Morris talks about how white supremacist and racist personalities, politicians and influencers were often given a chance to air their opinions, despite the known history of racism against Maoris in New Zealand. He says that people though aware of the hate, often choose to look away.
While most people reacted to the Christchurch attack in disbelief due to New Zealand's peaceful international profile, Morris wrote that the attack itself was not a bolt in the blue but rather a culminations of small acts of racial aggression and hate that have been on the rise in the past few years.
He said that this was reflected in voting in a political party that chose to field and provide a platform to an Islamophobic MP from 2011-17. It was seen in the fact that Maoris are more likely to be arrested and given stricter sentences in white New Zealanders. It was also evident in the fact that women, people with disabilities and queer community still faced discrimination and persecution at various levels.
The message of the comic is simple — people must unite in their fight against hate and not try to shrug off responsibility or their own racist or oppressive history. Stating that "we are not them" creates "us" and them", divides that need to be torn down for the world to really find fruitful solutions to the problem of communal and racist hate and violence.
Morris, who usually creates cartoons on social issues, told BBC that when the attacks happened, he knew he had to draw something on that. He also said that in recent years, New Zealand had followed some of the global trends of a rise in Islamophobic politicians and communal/race politics.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday said that she would not name the accused in the attack as she did not want him to make a name for himself. she said that the names of the victims should instead be the ones that need to be memorialized.
Ardern took a stern stance on the white supremacist attack that took place on Friday, announcing changes in the nation's gun laws and also addressing the event as a terror attack immediately after it happened. Images and footage of the PM meeting families of victims in a hijab as well as her national address following the attack became talking points the world over.
The first funerals of some of the victims were underway on Wednesday, five days after the shooting.
Find the full comic on The Spinoff.