An Open Letter to Manukau Christian School

I've emailed you, but you won't reply. So I'm making it an open letter.

Dear Manukau Christian School,

I am a journalist and filmmaker based in Auckland, New Zealand.

I am contacting you in regards to a teacher at your school.

As you no doubt know, your teacher attended the Black Lives Matter protest in Auckland over the long weekend. While doing so, he chose to wear a MAGA hat, which has come to symbolise hate and bigotry the world over.

He was there filming, and people were filming him back.

People asked him multiple times to take it off, and tried to tell him why. He didn’t listen.

He claimed he was there to promote free speech — but his intent was clear. He was there to antagonise. And of course, someone snatched the hat off his head, and set it on fire (the hat, not his head).

Your teacher — who teaches the kids at your school — got home, and he posted a video on his Facebook.

He acted shocked that his hat had caused so much drama. “Just because we were wearing MAGA hats!” he blubbered, as if it was all a great surprise.

He called the Black Lives Matter movement “toxic and dangerous”.

His face was smug.

His face said so much more than anything he typed, or spoke.

From there, people shared and commented on his video. It hit the mainstream news in New Zealand — and I imagine it was about then that New Zealanders started writing letters to your school, using your contact information on your website.

I did, but I haven’t heard back.

So I’m writing again.

I imagine lots of people got in touch with you, because today he posted an apology on his Facebook page. It was a public post, but in case it disappears like some of his other posts, I’ve taken a screenshot.

He uses words like “sincere” and “deeply sorry”.

But I’m not really sure he was sorry at all — for his thinking, or for his actions.

No, he did that classic apology cop-out. He was sorry for how his message was interpreted and received. The onus was flung back on those that had taken offence.

This smug boy wasn’t wrong oh no. This smug boy was smarter, better, harder, faster. This smug boy knows all the tricks. This smug boy is actually a teacher whose job it is to teach kids. Kids with fresh new brains, excited at the wonder and promise of it all. Ready for their brains — full of potential, full of magic — to be filled with new information so they can go out into the world and change things, change things, change things.

Another thing bugged me. One part of your teacher’s disingenuous apology stood out to me:

“The hat does not mean to me what it means to many others, as many prominent black figures and celebrities such as Kanye West and Candace Owens regularly wear the same hat.”

He never said what the MAGA hat actually meant to him.

He just said what it meant to Kanye West and Candace Owens — the latter a Trump apologist who recently downplayed the lynching and murder of unarmed jogger Ahmaud Arbery.

During all this, I was thinking to myself: This man’s a teacher. He’s teaching our kids.

So I went to look on your website again, and found myself flicking through your old newsletters. I didn’t have to look far — he’d penned a piece in March 2020, writing about how “West is Best.”

He also went on to rally against the “LGBT revolution” — something I guess I’m a part of, according to your teacher.

Subtext: I’m gonna turn all ur kids gay, sissy, ninny, deviant.

I am here, plotting my bisexual revolution.

And then I got to wondering about the commentator he quoted, and what he’d substituted “New Zealand” in for.

A quick Google (something you’d be able to do yourself, Manukau Christian School) shows that it was Ben Shapiro who wrote that piece, and your teacher has simply replaced “America” with “New Zealand”.

Who is Ben Shapiro?

Well, you can Google that, too — but as the Economist writes, Ben Shapiro “suggests that transgender people suffer a “mental disorder”; he opposes same-sex couples raising children; he has said (and sort of retracted) that “Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewage.”

And he kinda writes in the Manukau Christian School’s newsletter too, I guess. And he’s not named, so the kids and the parents have no idea who they’re reading.

I’m writing this letter, because I wonder where you stand on your teacher.

I wonder where you stand on who’s educating the kids in your care.

I know you’re a Christian school — and that kinda pains me, too — because it’s so expected. It’s so boring. It’s so dumb.

The reason I walked away on Christianity as it exists today is because of stuff like this. It was getting embarrassing. I couldn’t be a part of a thing that increasingly seemed to be turning its back on some of the most vulnerable people in society.

It’s annoying because I know Jesus would look at this stuff and hurl motherfucking chunks.

If I had kids, I wouldn't let them be educated by this man. Or at your school, judging by your silence.

Say something, say something, say something.



PS I’m not naming the man, because this isn’t just about the man. It’s bigger than that. And he knows who he is, but he’s stuck, and the people around him need to let him know this is not okay.

If you’re new here - Webworm is a newsletter I send out once or twice a week, highlighting something I’m interested in. From my weird internet investigations to thing I’ve stumbled across in real life, they’re all part of Webworm. It’s kind of like if Tickled and Dark Tourist had a baby. You can subscribe here, and receive it direct to your inbox. Oh - and welcome!

5 June update:

There's been spirited discussion under this post, but it's beginning to look like a YouTube comments section in here! So... I'm turning off comments for this thread as the grossness has sort of maxed out.

I know it's been an incredibly rough time for many financially, just in normal life -- let alone this Covid-19 reality -- but if you want to help, give if you are able.

I chose to donate to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, which is currently on pause as it handles the $20 million or so that's come in.

So... this link provides a bunch of other places you can donate to.

I know all eyes are on America right now -- at least in my lil' world at the moment - but there are problems of inequality everywhere. And you should choose to give to what you connect with: Hong Kong is going through some shit right now.

Close to home, I am a fan of Just Speak - a youth-movement for change in the criminal justice system, towards a more compassionate Aotearoa.

And as this particular teacher in my column reminded me - as he rallied against the "LGBT" (his words) community - RainbowYOUTH are in need of help.

They work with queer, gender diverse, takatāpui & intersex youth, their friends & whānau in order to ensure that New Zealand is a place where all young people can thrive. You can donate here.

Please stay healthy, keep speaking up for injustice and those that have less of voice than you do.

And just be kind. We're all in this together.