Yeah, so, New Zealand is not doing a fantastic job. We’re miles ahead of Australia, for example – make no mistake – but our micro-aggressions towards ngā tāngata whenua are all too real, sometimes subtle and sometimes more like actual aggression. I will never ever know what it feels like to live in the skin of a Māori person, of an African-American, American Indian, of an Aboriginal Australian, but I’d like to think I can relate to their pain on some level, being part of multiple oppressed groups myself.
The odds seem stacked against ngā tāngata whenua. Almost everything that sucks in Aotearoa’s society today, I feel could be related back to New Zealand’s colonialism as a whole, if one tried hard enough to link it all together. Look at statistics regarding suicide, sexual violence, education at primary, secondary and tertiary levels.
This is one of the most heartbreaking articles I have read: the gaps are wide, and we cannot ignore them any longer.
Your biggest question at this point might be, but what can we do? I ask myself the same pātai, and often I am unsure of how to go about this. Ultimately, change needs to be made on a generational level. Can racists (I hate to say it, but in my experience, it is often the older generations who have preconceived ideas about Māori people that are completely off the planet and far from the truth) please not be racist? Can we all just look at the situation our country is in from a curious and thoughtful perspective, rather than believing senseless rhetoric and having closed-minded attitudes that are incredibly 1. boring, and 2. misguided.
One fairly straightforward thing we could start doing is to listen to ngā tāngata whenua, value their voices, and let them share their stories. The last thing I want to be is ignorant. Knowledge is power. At the end of the day, we are all people of te ao; we each want to be understood, respected, and treated with kindness. That is our common ground, and it is empowering and beautiful.
I am lucky to know various intelligent people who identify as Māori, and I am aware of just how grossly distorted media representation can be. This haka was a particularly captivating wake up call for this Pākehā/white-as-they-come wahine.
The culture of ngā tāngata whenua is such a rich and welcoming one. Furthermore, I have found a lot of rangimarie in the little I have learned about Māori spirituality, both through my primary school experience, friends I have made, and conversations I have had. I don’t pretend to know anything; I’ll only ever see things from the perception of a white girl living in post-colonial Aotearoa, but I hope to come to understand more as I move forward in my journey. As tangata tiriti myself, I know the impact my ancestors have had on Aotearoa has caused major issues that are still evident today, yet I hope that with my voice and my passion, I can be a small part of the solution.