I opened the app today to talk about Kai’s trip to A&E during the lockdown. But first – I don’t know, is it okay for me to talking about things that aren’t about racism/#blacklivesmatter?
Perhaps it’s that we’ve been on a break, but our feed is full of demands and action requests and righteous outrage and my instinct is to pause. It’s not that we disagree with the movement, because we support it whole heartedly. But more – should we be shutting up, and making room for others who are more knowledgeable? Who have more important, movement making, educating and enlightening things to say? Whose voices, so long ignored, should be amplified?
The other thing is, I don’t identify as white, but as a person of colour. I’m Māori, and in NZ that comes with its own, very distinct level of racism. The history of Māori oppression is still very real, and I grew up hearing about how my grandparents actively lived it. Even in the present day it exists, being followed around in stores to make sure you don’t steal anything, being told you’re unlikely to ever graduate university, and that you should just join a gang and get it over with as you’re going to end up either in jail or on the benefit anyway (all true stories, all mine). Ironically, I’m on the carers benefit now, thanks a genetic mutation that is common in the Maori/Polynesian population so I guess they weren’t 100% wrong. Their malice was out of line, though.
In the UK, I’m not seen as Māori. I’m seen as white, even though I don’t identify that way. And the world of privilege I experience here is striking in its differences. I hadn’t realised how systemic and ingrained the racism is in NZ until I didn’t have to live it. Our visits back have been enlightening.
I’m very proud to be Māori. I gave my baby a te reo name (even if most people here can’t pronounce it and call him ‘food’ (Kai) instead), and I sing to him in te reo, and have interchanged some English words for te reo words in our daily life. Passing on a little, tiny bit of my heritage and culture.
I feel like there is definitely a global movement happening, and as Māori it resonates in a way I can’t explain. So while I don’t want add to the noise, I do want to be clear about our stance.
We stand with our black friends, family, colleagues and community. We’re trying to learn, to educate ourselves and how to listen. We’re thinking on how to positively contribute to long, overdue change. But most of all, we’re willing, and we’re here, and we lend our voices in solidarity for the need for change against racism.
#blacklivesmatter #wearewithyou #sayhisname