Does NZ have a problem with anti-Māori racism? This question was asked at the time that New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd has said he will not seek re-election after receiving abuse for campaigning for greater Māori representation in Taranaki. How sad.
What do I think? Yes we definitely have a problem. A complex problem that doesn’t have any easy answers. Like Andrew Judd although to a lesser extent I have experienced quite a bit of racist comments when I have spoken to people about my learning Te Reo. The most common comment I get is “why would you want to learn Te Reo? Some from people genuinely interested in what motivates me – but many with a kind of derogatory tone.
My experience in NZ is that racist attitudes are common, not only towards Māori but to Pacific peoples, Asians, Muslims, people with disabilities to name few. People are scared of the unknown, scared of difference. Anything not like me is somehow wrong. The majority of people will band together in their own groups where they feel safe. Is it a tribal thing that groups are formed of your “own people” and then the aim is to convert, have power over or even go to war with the other tribe? The fear that somehow they (the other tribes) will jeopardize your way of living, take something from you, kill you..
The answer is definitely to have conversations. But people need to be ready for that and we in NZ are not quite ready. Māori are still fighting for their identity, for their rights to their language, their land. Many are still angry from the wounds of colonization. This wounding and anger can be intimidating for Pākehā/Tauiwi and can result in some of the negative attitudes. People who have chosen not to look more deeply into the devastating consequences of colonization can have the popular in NZ attitude ” just get over it!” UNHELPFUL. Anyone with any serious problem will know that someone telling them to “just get over it” will only make them feel misunderstood and more defensive.
So, my answer has been to learn Te reo Māori and to experience tikanga in an immersion setting. I believe it is the only way to really have that conversation. I acknowledge that Māori have had to learn the ways of Pākehā and to make the relationship more equal and to deepen my understanding I chose to do this learning. What I was not expecting was that what I received back was infinitely more than what I put in. I have learnt so much (see some of my earlier posts) , not only about Te Ao Māori but about myself and my attitudes and I have also delved deeper into trying to work out my own complicated whakapapa and who I am…. not there yet.