It is a question I get a lot of the time when I stand up to advocate for our people: Why?
“Why do you always talk about racism? Why can’t you take a joke?”
This past Monday, Te Atawhai o te Ao Research Institute’s Whakatika: A Survey of Māori Experiences of Racism Report found the vast majority of Māori – 93 per cent – felt racism had an impact on them on a daily basis.
Even more – 96 per cent – said racism was a problem for their wider whānau at least to some extent.
So to answer your question: the corrosive impact racism has on the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical health Māori is no joke.
“Why do you speak out against negative representation and racial stereotyping?”
Recent weeks have seen more incidents of rampant racial profiling of Māori by police, which is further perpetuated by media representation.
Auckland Councillor Efeso Collins has called-out the show Police Ten 7 for its racist portrayal and over representation of “young brown people”.
Calls for the show’s end have also been supported by Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon.
When Māori talk about a need for more representation on screen, this is not what we are talking about.
A former host of the show said police don’t select which ‘law-breakers’ they decide to deal with.
But recent insights into the Operation Tauwhiro project, which targets predominantly Māori gangs (ironically, in response to a white supremacist terror attack), and the invasive photographing of young Māori in the Whanganui region and elsewhere, would tell us the opposite.
“Why are Māori asking for their own ward on local council?”
Amending local government legislation so that Māori wards could be created like every other ward, seemed relatively easy.
The minister leading the change was part of the government who endorsed it, so if anyone knew the intent of the legislation one would imagine they did.
And let’s be honest, it was only removing the ability to poll not making Māori wards mandatory (which by the way, I would’ve wholeheartedly supported).
How astounding that speaking up for a little parity creates such a stoush. Generously funded campaigns by Hobsons Pledge rose, releasing pamphlets effectively demanding status quo remain, challenging any suggestion of change.
Why? What is so wrong with resetting the balance in our nation? What is wrong with change?
“Why do you make this about tamariki? Aren’t they too young to understand racism?”
Last month, a group of rangatahi from Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Rito performed haka and spoke te reo Māori inside Kāpiti Coast District Council Chambers in support of iwi.
They were racially abused for doing so.
One member of the public remarked: “Why do we need to listen to this monkey language?”
Racism is a disease that should not spread to children.
If some children are experiencing the harmful brunt of racism from a young age, then all children should be learning about anti-racism from an even younger age. We as a nation need to own and teach anti-racism.
Time after time Māori call for a desire to control our resources and our futures.
Imagine if we didn’t have to keep fighting to be heard.
Imagine if Māori didn’t have to be contesting to prove inequities, or explain our historical trauma.
Imagine if we had a country and culture that reflected our future not our past – lead by tangata whenua and tangata tiriti.
Imagine if the Government was truly intentional and led a genuine break from the colonial path towards constitutional change.
So why do I stand up for our people you ask:
Why would I remain quiet?
• Debbie Ngarewa-Packer is co-leader of the Māori Party.
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