We are not a ‘credit’ to our people.
It implies that the rest of us aren’t.
- That others get to define what success looks like for us.
- That those of us lined up at Work and Income are all there as a product of our own choices.
- That the cards dealt to us were fair - we just didn’t play them right.
- That the reason our people are disproportionately disadvantaged is because we just don’t work hard enough.
But like asking a fish to notice water, asking New Zealand to recognise racism is difficult, because it operates on an inherent invisibility. They don’t have to see it if they don’t want to.
We don’t have that luxury.
The verbal avalanche of racism never ends too. We’re called ‘savages’, ‘not real New Zealanders’, ‘fat lazy beggars’ and told we should be grateful for being colonised. We’re told by popular politicians that our ‘uncivilised’ ancestors were ‘ethnic cleansers’ and the British came to ‘save us from ourselves’. Just like we are ‘privileged’ to get government ‘handouts' and a ‘gravy train’ of Treaty settlements. We are so ‘privileged’ they say, to have scholarships ‘thrown’ at us. And that our ‘cranky scheme’ of a language is sucking tax payer dollars away from hard working mums and dads. All the while we’ve been paying tax longer than anyone else. Our land, language, culture - all taxed. And not at the usual rate, mind you. The going tax rate for us was 100%. And we definitely don’t live off the dividends now. We have to fight just to get a small slice of everything. And when we do, they call us ‘protestors’ - or as Helen said, ‘haters and wreckers’. “Why should people today pay for the sins of their ancestors?”, we’re always asked. Well when will we get to ask the same question?
But not to worry. New Zealand is exemplary in their treatment of Indigenous peoples. We lead the way. That’s why they fill over half of their prisons with us. And we walk around seemingly comfortable with it. We lead the way they said when Taika Waititi called New Zealand “racist”. Duncan Garner called his comments ‘sabotage’. How dare Taika not promote New Zealand! But behind his words, what Duncan was really saying was that the New Zealander of the Year should only represent one side of New Zealand - the white privileged one.
We were given no ‘handout’. Our families fought hard to get what we could. And those who worked hard were not the ‘exception’. Try telling that to our aunties and uncles working hours in the marae kitchen to feed people - for free. See what type of reception you get. Tell that to our parents who spent weekends with us rolling wheelbarrows full of apples down the street. We had to sell something to fund our schools - all the while the school down the road was fully resourced. While parents tucked their children into bed and read to them at night, ours were busy rustling together enough A4 paper to staple together to create books so we could at least have something. While most schools were funded, our families took out second mortgages to pay salaries so we could at least have teachers. While we are quick to celebrate Māori success (which is great), we are also slow to recognise the damage that was done and continues to be done. Nothing was given. Sure we have our issues. Just like everyone else. But keep your stereotypes to yourself - We know what it means to be Māori. We are Māori. We work hard.
And we are not a ‘credit’ to our people.