From one brown girl to another: Reflections on Aaradhna’s rejection of her VNZMA award

Last week Aaradhna took a bold stand in protest against her award for the ‘brown people’ category.

I just remember hearing her speech and thinking ‘wow’.

And then I listened to her song for the billionth time and was even more inspired.

Firstly, for Aaradhna to refuse an award of such a high calibre shows she is someone who practices what she preaches. She blatantly said that she wouldn’t be doing her song any justice if she were to accept the award.

This is exactly what young brown people in New Zealand need to see and hear. Her song talks about the struggle young people of colour face in a Pākehā-centric education system and how that affects us for the rest of our lives. It shows mainstream New Zealand the internal conflict we face between wanting to fit in and wanting to stay true to our culture and heritage. Often one is nurtured at the expense of another. We’re taught we can’t have both; so don’t bother challenging the status quo.

New Zealand is not good at dealing with racism. We look at racism abroad, from Brexit to Trump, and conclude that we should be thankful that we’re not as bad as those countries. And that is when it stops. We don’t look at our own doorstep to challenge the racial issues we have right here at home because we’re satisfied with being ‘not as bad as Australia’.

Aaradhna forced everyone to listen. She wasn’t just going to sing about racism; she was going to act on it. She wasn’t going to accept an award from the ‘brown people’ category and refused to be boxed in.

I love it when brown girls in New Zealand call bullshit because it shows that we can, and Aaradhna used her fame to remind us of something we knew all along. We don’t need to be timid.

Next time a white person says something racist and then tries to tell you they’re not racist because they went to the Diwali Festival – call them out! I understand that perhaps her fame gives her safety in her ability to be outspoken on these issues, but she used her fame, influence and platform to inspire young brown people like myself, and that is a conversation we need to continue. We don’t need to be quiet anymore and it’s the only way things can get done around here.

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