[Tui's Newest Ad] In Aotearoa it is easy to define the perpetators of racism. Yeah right.
Another day, another opinion piece. Given this is not strictly related to New Zealand politics, while penning this I thought maybe I should keep my opinions to myself. But then a fellow LinkedInite reminded me just yesterday, "be brave and voice your opinion, it's only when this happens that people can 'think outside the box'."
There has been wide reporting of acclaimed New Zealand film director, Taika Waititi's comments from an interview last week, in which he said "I think New Zealand is the best place on the planet, but it's a racist place". On both accounts I do not disagree. In fact, I emphatically agree on the former.
One strong opinion piece I came across on this discussion was from one of the hosts of Three's The Project, Kanoa Lloyd. It was her sign off that spurred me to put digits to keyboard. At the conclusion of her opinion piece, Ms Lloyd stated “And if, reading this, you find yourself getting angry at me, feeling like jumping up to start a fight or make a comment - ask yourself where that anger comes from.”
So I did. I asked myself why I was feeling all kind of ways about her piece and here is what I came up with.
It is important to remind ourselves that racism is the belief that a particular race is superior or inferior to another, that a person’s social and moral traits are predetermined by his or her inborn biological characteristics. In that regard, racism is generally thought of as existing between whites and non-whites. As a half-caste I have the ability (or advantage?) to shift seamlessly between various cultural identities. This is not unique: many half-castes I know can and do, do this.
With this ability, it means my experiences of racism have largely come through interactions with fellow Māori: Māori that see me as white/plastic/not Māori enough. You know, not a “real Māori” - inferior - because I grew up urban and don’t speak Te Reo et al. I find this pretty 'racist'.
I use the term 'racist' in quotations, because I can acknowledge that for people engaged in perpetuating this kind of rhetoric, this is their genuine belief. But one of the benefits of being a human is that I am capable of critical thinking and logical reasoning. Therefore I cannot tell those that think like this they are wrong. If I disagree with them (which I do - because there is no blood quantum when it comes to being Maori) my role is to help them understand what they are doing by perpetuating the idea that we can measure how Maori we are.
So back to the question that Ms Lloyd posed: "ask yourself where that anger comes from?" When my fellow Maori marginalise me, tear me down for not being enough, pidgeon hole and label me, I get angry because there is no cookie-cutter situation when trying to define perpetrators of racism in Aotearoa.
In such a short blog post, I cannot articulate the hurt that comes from having your own people see you as not enough. It’s no wonder I meet many Māori that choose to identify as just a New Zealander. As Maori, we are a proud culture: the very nature of delivering your mihi pays homage to your tipuna and those who have walked before, to lead you to right now. But this proudness can work to our detriment: Māori can be blindingly intolerant to one another. We owe it to the next generation of multi-ethnic New Zealanders (like my Maori, Russian, English, Irish niece) to do a good inspection through our own backyards before we start trying to ferret in somebody else's.
And it is not lost on me, in writing this, there will be Māori and non-Māori alike who will be intolerant of this post because I’ve offered a genuine held belief which is an opposing view to a strong wahine toa. But it’s water off a ducks back to me. There is an age old saying which is especially true in politics: don't ask a question you don’t know the answer to. It's never been truer.