"An absolute disgrace" to publish racist cartoon on Samoa measles epidemic

Ryan Bridge 04/12/2019

International award-winning filmmaker, journalist and director Tuki Laumea penned a scathing opinion piece in response to the Otago Daily Times publishing an insensitive cartoon regarding the ongoing measles epidemic in Samoa.

In the piece he describes the paper’s editor and the cartoonists involved as “rednecks” and racist.

Laumea joins Magic Talk Drive with Ryan Bridge to give voice to his frustrations.
Ryan begins the interview by criticising the decision to publish the cartoon as “dumb” and insensitive but asks Tuki to explain how it is racist.

Tuki says the cartoon needs to be seen in context with New Zealand “having a lot of complex ties with Samoa.” 

It’s something that New Zealanders should understand and know about but don’t.

Laumea explains, “about a hundred years ago [a New Zealander] knowingly allowed Spanish Influenza into Samoa, that wiped out up to a third of the population.”

“I know for a fact that is the worst population decimation in the history of the world in percentage numbers,” he says.

“Right now we have echoes of the past happening all over again, and the fact that a couple people sitting down in their very white little town in the southern end of New Zealand… think that it’s alright to make light of children dying here in Samoa, I think that’s an absolute disgrace.”

"I think the fact that we even have to talk about whether or not it’s racist talks about the level of white privilege."

Ryan questioned whether the cartoon published was indicative of a racist agenda, but Tuki clarifies he never accused the paper of a racist agenda rather that the cartoon is inherently racist itself.

It’s racist because they’re laughing about brown children dying.

Ryan drives the point to Tuki that it is important not to dilute the power behind decrying racism in using it in situations that might not apply, Tuki disagrees saying, “when you ask Samoans this means something to us.”

“The fact that white people are trying to discuss whether or not it’s racist and discuss whether they think it can be racist , again it just reinforces the fact that it is.”

Ryan then moves the interview to ask for Tuki’s response to the apology published by the Otago Daily Times, with Laumea saying it’s not good enough.

“Because they have a track record of publishing racist cartoons.”

He goes on to criticise the cartoonist for refusing to apologise until his position with the paper came under review.

You can watch the full interview above.