Me and my NZ Greek best mate. It’s ok, you’re allowed to think we’re handsome. Coz we are.

In Sept 2015 a councillor said during the public council meeting that if ‘you give Māori an inch then they’ll take a mile’. Ironic, given that’s exactly how Māori lost our land but I digress. Imagine the uproar if I had said that about women? Or about pakeha? As a councillor. In a council meeting! That nasty statement even made it into a Gisborne Herald headline at the time if I do recall correctly. Imagine reprinting that filth? Myself and others took issue with it but it never went anywhere.

At the time I wrote a blog post in response to that incident called ‘Heritage’.

This is Heritage 2.0

I am proud to be a councillor for the Gisborne District Council. I like to serve my region. I feel like I am built to do this. Te Tairāwhiti is lucky we have a very diverse council in terms of age, gender and ethnicity; and I am honoured to be a part of it.

We have moved past so many progressive barriers. Gender inclusivity, Iwi engagement, two female CE’s back to back. We’ve been making moves! However, receiving the latest Māori bashing email was a wake up call. It was a stark reminder that despite our diversity I have only EVER heard one race disparaged in council. Māori. Granted, that was during my previous term however the fact remains true.

Receiving race based messages regarding Māori is nothing new for me. Whether it’s the One-Ring-To-Rule-Them-All group, or the Treaty-Is-A-Fraud group or the Your-Race-Is-Deficit group, I can unequivocally say I have ONLY received race based emails in my capacity as a Councillor about Māori.

Despite all of our diversity; a Chinese mayor, a South African deputy mayor, almost 40% women, almost half Māori heritage, an age range of 30 year olds to 60ish year olds, I only ever receive emails about one thing inside all of that diversity; race. And only about one race Māori.

And it’s always straight up racism.

‘But people on both sides say racist things. Māori can be racist too, ya know?’

Well, yeah. But people on only one side ever try to engage me politically about only one race. That’s probably an indicator that one side is far outweighed by the other. I have NEVER received an email from someone saying:

Dear Councillor,

This election year we really need the District Council’s support for one law for all. This two system approach is elitist and border lining on apartheid. We MUST make everyone adopt Tikanga Māori.

Tikanga based practice was the founding system of this good nation and the colonial over riding system that is now established favours the colonial white people. Which is race based favouritism. Furthermore, we would like your support, in principle, as we propose high level legislative change to the court system to evolve all court processes to follow the protocols of a marae based court, similar to the Rangatahi court but more tikanga-ified.

We’re not saying that white people can’t practice their culture. They can. In their places of cultural practice because that’s appropriate. We love pakeha culture. We support it all the way. It’s what’s afforded to them under the Treaty and I think it’s only right that we support that.

But this race based colonial system needs to end.

One law for all.

Yours sincerely,

Te Kooti’s Pledge

Never in my life have I received something even remotely like this, yet, I’ve received this kind of message on multiple occasions regarding Māori. It’s then reinforced on the AM show and then I have to read about that shit online and even in the Gisborne Herald.

Just so we’re clear, I don’t think like that above pretend email regarding that last paragraph about pakeha culture. I literally just paraphrased and bastardised that part from Hobson’s pledge.  I do think our system needs restructuring and I do think tikanga based practice is actually the most inclusive and progressive way forward but that’s a topic for another blog post. If you know me, then that would be obvious but I thought I better be clear. Let’s be one, guys. Hold my hand. Kumbaya.

After racism occurs I hear a lot of people say ‘We are one’. I am a rose-tinted-glasses kind of guy, so I interpret this as ‘We are one nation made up of many different and diverse people, with differences that make our nation unique and therefore need to be treated uniquely according to our uniqueness.’ But I know some people say it to mean ‘We are one people. Be like the rest of us or your not one of us.’ That’s not one-ness, that’s same-ness. No one likes same-ness. Except Don Brash running those same old tiresome lines.

It’s interesting when people run that same-ness angle too because no one ever applies that logic to anything else other than race, particularly a race that is not theirs! ‘Mrs Immigrant/Mr Pacific/Madam Māori you need to be the same as us…’ Oh gummon. If you really think that then do something for me ay, tell anyone South of the Bombays that they need to be the same as an Aucklander. Even better, tell someone out West Aucks that they need to be the same as the Ponsonby lot. Look them in the eye and tell them ‘it’s coz we’re one.’ We all know that won’t float, so why are there people out there that think it will float regarding race? Even inside Māoridom that doesn’t work. We ALL roll our eyes when our Iwi are mixed up. I see the eyerolls when manuhiri visit Gizzy and they only mihi to Ngāti Porou! I see you rolling your eyes aunty! I see you!

And rightly you should, coz we are not the same. We share some of the same heritage but we are not the same. Our differing heritage can totally be complimentary though. And in that case, we can be one.

We all have different views as to what the ideal “one” is. I think part of being one is shutting up and listening to others voices, truly trying to understand each other, being ok hearing uncomfortable things and not feeling the need to respond or feel personally attacked. Others will disagree with that, and that’s ok, coz that what makes us different. I think part of being “one” is a no holds barred history curriculum about the waka voyages, Cook, colonisation, the land wars etc, all of it, a warts and all approach to our shared heritage. Others will disagree and use a line like ‘is it really the best use of teaching time?’ and you being different about that is ok. (FYI, I think the answer is ‘yes, it is the best use of teaching time.’) I think part of being “one” is truly recognising that there’s still redress needing to be settled regarding Treaty settlements. Some may disagree, and your difference on that is ok.

Recognising our differences is important, but there are things we can agree upon that we share across our heritage. I think we can all agree that we love our country. We share that heritage. Whether it’s outright comments, or something in jest or racism masquerading as a political point of view, I hope calling out racism is part of our shared heritage too.