Sorry … Not sorry.

While waiting in the queue for the checkout, doing my final scan of the food items in my shopping trolley, I was distracted by a palagi middle-aged man and what looked like his partner 2 trolleys in front of me.

The man had grabbed a copy of the Dom Post and as the woman was loading food on the moving conveyor belt, the man let out a ‘argh’ shaking his head.

Maybe he had forgotten something? I thought.

But then he turned to his wife saying, ‘I’m so sick of seeing all this’, pointing to the newspaper and an article which obviously upset him. The asian woman holding her shopping basket in front of me started to look awkwardly around her, trying to be distracted by something else. Anything else.

I pick up on her vibe and the faikakala in me gets more interested in what’s happening at the checkout. Then I see the article the man was not happy about. The Black Lives Matter march held in Wellington recently.

He then says, ‘How many times do we have to say sorry … they should just get over it, it’s not even our problem.’ The woman nods in agreement.

Now I know why the asian woman is feeling uncomfortable and why the Maori lady checkout operator is not smiling avoiding eye contact with them.

Automatically, I go into connect-the-dot mode.

The man’s, ‘we’, is obviously palagi people and, ‘they’, I assume are people of colour or non-palagi people or supporters of the protest and the, ‘our’, I guess he is talking about are New Zealanders.

Then I go back to his words – already said SORRY for what?

Standing in the line, I start rattling off a list of recent events in my head …

  1. Death of George Floyd at the hands of police brutality in the US.
  2. Westlake Girls High School ‘Blackface’ and racist slur via instagram. Followed by her friend’s defence, stating that “black face has nothing to do with Polynesians so go back to your state housing”.
  3. Judith Collins “sick of being persecuted for being white’.
  4. NRL presenter Erin Molan’s mocking of Manly forward Haumole Olakau’atu name.
  5. Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, claiming there was ‘no slavery in Australia’.
  6. Student complaints from Christchurch Girls’ High, St Andrew’s College and Marist College about staff removing Black Lives Matter posters.

    Kind of stunned at the quick fire list I could think of on the spot – I ask myself, so how is, ‘sorry’, suppose to help people ‘just get over’ all this again? … Remembering these above events have all basically happened in the last month or two.

    Then my thoughts take me back to a Restorative Practices (RP) Training, where we discussed how we are brought up and taught that the word, ‘sorry’, fixes everything – i.e. ‘What should you say?’ or ‘Make sure you say sorry’or ‘Did you say sorry?’ But sorry cannot fix everything unfortunately. And it clearly doesn’t, especially with the events above. #NotEvenClose
Restorative Practice: A move away from punitive punishment.

But what would ‘sorry look like if it grew legs?’ I remember the RP facilitator asking us, as we explored how much more effective it would be to acknowledge and understand our parts in causing the harm then working towards healing the harm for all parties involved in the incident. Then most importantly, taking actions and steps towards showing that we were in fact sorry – instead of just saying sorry.

So I definitely see the word, sorry, in a different light since RP training as a classroom teacher. I also still do believe, sorry, has its place, like for really minor and truly accidental things like bumping into someone for instance. But in many cases, with an event we have either experienced or witnessed where it just seems like history is repeating itself – sorry seems to translate to, sorry … not sorry.

I think about our histories and personal experiences of, sorry, which show that it is so easily used as a ‘band aid word’, put on a sore created by people’s words and actions – but after repeatedly being hurt again and again, event after event, the sore and hurt grows into a wound so deep that the word ‘sorry’ will never be able to heal the scars that remain.

This is why we all need to develop some real understanding around why we can’t or shouldn’t ‘just get over it’, that we all need to be accountable in accepting that this is in fact OUR problem and that we need to see what sorry looks like with legs, in action, in order for any real healing to start for all of us.

#FoodShoppingLessons #RipTheSorryBandaidOffAlready #SorryNotSorryWillNeverBeGoodEnough #WalkTheTalk

“The Restorative Practices approach to problem solving recognises that misconduct harms people and relationships and that those involved in the problem also need to be involved in finding a solution.”
(Restorative Practices Book 1) #RPneeded4TheWorld

Author: Dahlia Malaeulu

dah·li·a (dah-lee-ya) / noun: a flower that is widely cultivated for its impact and coloured personality / adj: abundant, bright, bold, fresh, ready-to-bloom / human form: daughter, mother, wife, educator, problem solver, creative, teine Sāmoa / working on: creating more brown spaces in the world / currently: moving in the write direction.

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