This week, the racist comments which made it out of their echo chambers obligingly answered each others’ questions.
“Why are we listening to this monkey language?” asked one in a Paraparaumu hui within earshot of our tamariki and mokopuna.
“Can we move Scotty Morrison to the back of the Americas Cup report… there’s far too much Māori,” someone else moaned.
“Why can’t I make fun of the Māori culture and show my mate how to pukana?” thought the party-goers on the yacht after their social-media video went viral and they were held to account.
FYI, you’re listening to the language the government tried to systematically remove from Aotearoa as it ‘smoothed the pillow of a dying race’. Conveniently, that dying/killing freed up land for the benefit of the British empire’s newest colony. Annihilate and assimilate was a well-rehearsed move in the colonisation playbook, so when the dying race lived on, the guns and germs went away, and the governmental policies came out. There’s plenty more context there to understand. Our children might actually start learning some of it at school this year too.
You’re listening because in spite of the attempts to eliminate our language and people to clear the land for the colony, our rangatira stood and fought. Some gave their lives fighting for the right of Māori to exist. Some continue giving their lives today fighting for the same of our language.
You can’t move Scotty to the back because that’s what he’s doing, fighting for our reo to be heard. Same reason it’s being spoken at that hui. Every kōrero is a hand back out from under the boots the crown stomped on it, trying to squash our language on the land it grew from. Asking to push the language back under the boot is colonisation continued.
You’re listening because Aotearoa can’t have it both ways. We can’t use te reo Māori to promote our unique, commercially attractive history to the world, while at the same time complaining about hearing the language in the media, or removing its right to exist independently, claiming “we’re all indigenous New Zealanders now.” (Tēnā koe Trevor Mallard).
You can’t make fun of it because those attempts to assimilate or annihilate our people and culture were nearly successful. Our official and indigenous language is still classified as endangered and entire lifetimes are being spent on it’s revitalisation for all our benefit. When you belittle it, you’re belittling those lives and those that went before.
That’s why you can’t ‘just have a laugh’ now and throw our culture around to show your friend how to perform a pūkana. Because we remember the last time others’ hands were on our language. Their palms on the supplejack Sir James Henare and our grandparents were beaten with. Their fingers wrapped around the pens that wrote the suppression and confiscation policies of annihilation – legalising the taking of our homes to fund eradication of the speakers of that very same language. Those hands wrote the history that forced me to study 27+ hours a week just to re-learn my language and all that comes with it as I work and raise a young whānau. Mine is a small price compared to what others have paid. But if the history of our country has cost you nothing, be aware of your privilege my friend.
We can’t help but be aware of what it cost us. We still carry it.
So we’re careful now about how the mana of our language and culture – our identity – are handled. You would be too.
Maybe you can’t empathise with that hurt. Maybe you don’t want to acknowledge that history. It’s an inconvenient truth and comes with baggage for non-Māori too. But after spending more time researching than you have, the government does recognise this truth and has at least made a start addressing some of their wrongs.
So we speak it because we need to. Because that fight is far from finished.
That’s why you have the opportunity to listen to the indigenous language of the land you choose to live on. To learn more about it’s struggle and avoid carrying on it’s colonisation.
But you don’t have to listen. Kei a koe te tikanga, it’s up to you. You can always leave instead.