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Seeing red over exclusive event

Several weeks ago, RNZ posted a story on its website about what was framed as a fun bit of unity on the part of a minority community.

A gathering of 100 people at a bar in Hastings at the start of this month served as a celebration of a group that makes up just one to 2 per cent of New Zealand’s population.

The assembly appears to have catered for a wide range of ages – from babies to those of more advanced years – who were all united by the one obviously immutable characteristic they share.

Much was made of how frequently the attendees find themselves the odd one out in a throng, and how they’ve often been a magnet for abuse from other, less enlightened citizens as a consequence.

As such, “the event was about joy, connection and solidarity – and being proud of the names that, for many, were thrown as slurs around the playground”, it was reported.

“We’re reclaiming tonight all those names” one of the organisers was quoted as saying, as was his description of this meeting of his people as “beautiful, nothing short of beautiful”.

According to the story, their commonality was of great comfort to those who attended – “It just, like, makes you feel special,” said one, while another was buzzed “just to feel you fit in”, and the aforementioned organiser mentioned having been approached by “an emotional 13-year-old” who “was in tears [because] she’d never felt so affirmed … in her life”.

All of which no doubt sounds like a wonderful and much-needed exercise in self-empowerment on the part of a tiny, unfairly put-upon group.

This writer, however, must beg to differ.

Because the minority that came out ‘to represent’ that night in Hastings were redheads.

Yup, it was a bunch of gingas, bloodnuts, carrot tops, copperheads, rangas, and/or ginger mingers.

So let’s call the occasion for what it was – the saddest, most mewling example of self-defeating ‘identity politics’ one could ever have the misfortune to come across.

And I say that as a pipe-hitting member of the redhead tribe – even if my once bright orange locks began turning into what I’m told is a shade of ‘strawberry blond’ at around the same time the majority of my follicles began migrating south.

Yes, I am more than familiar with the slings and arrows of taunting descriptions that not especially imaginative children – of all ages – have a tendency to fling in the direction of those with the ‘wrong’ hair colour. Indeed, I vividly recall the sinking feeling I experienced while sitting in my Form One class at Masterton Intermediate when Miss Anderson was reading the passage in Maurice Gee’s Under the Mountain that ‘helpfully’ enumerated the veritable cornucopia of insults the book’s twin redheaded protagonists had to endure as a result of the hue of their tresses.

But as subsequent experience suggested, it’s a mug’s game to become overly attached to – or affected by others’ attitudes to – a personal characteristic that one can’t change. Especially if it simply serves to obscure from yourself all those uniquely individual ways in which you’re actually an arsehole.

To paraphrase the good Dr Martin Luther King, I have a dream of one day living in a nation where people will be judged by the content of their character, and not the colour of their hair – however resplendent or receding it may be.

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