Tauira Māori in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter. 4 Cities. 4 Perspectives.
Te Pararē reached out to tauira Māori who attended Black Lives Matter protests or events on Monday June 1. We asked them to share their experience attending the protests, why they believe the Black Lives Matter movement resonates with Māori and their aspirations for Aotearoa demolishing racism in our own backyard.
Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāpuhi, Kāi Tahu.
She / Her
Attending the BLM protest wasn’t a decision that I had to ponder on, I knew that I needed to go because not only is it my job to be an advocating voice for Māori students who everyday face inequities because of the colour of their skin, but because I believe that if we allow racism to go forth in another country we are giving it the silence it needs to grow in ours.
The BLM movement resonates with us here in Dunedin. Often we see Pākeha publicly making racial comments online, through news articles and radio broadcasts. Māori Tauira have even been subjects to institutionalised racism where the privilege of white people just radiates through. Although I have no intention on making this issue all about us as Māori because it’s not just about us and it never was, but instead if we look at it from a perspective that racism is and continues to be the original pandemic. This is a pandemic that often is spread by the colonised minds that use it to systematically oppress all of us. It's global and it's been that way. The difference between this pandemic and “Miss Rona” is that it seems to only affect the minorities. Go figure!
This movement goes hand in hand with what we continue to fight for and it's perfectly okay to fight for Black people in America while still advocating for Māori and indigenous rights.
The turnout in Dunedin was great, and the wairua was positive. I did feel as though it needed more "ihi" and that we could've allowed our voices to be heard more by making more of a disturbance like we did with the Ihumātao protest.
Making it the social norm to shut down racism and being vocal in calling it out especially in our friend groups is one way we can contribute to stomp it out. If we’re able to hold our mates accountable and call them out in a way where we educate them on why something is racist we can allow them to understand and grow.
Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Whakatōhea, Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Ngāi Tahu.
He / Him
I attended the protest because of the factor that we as a city, and as a country, need to address that there isn’t just racism in America, but also here. The wairua of this protest felt similar to the Ihumātao protest in Ōtepoti last year. One word that stands out is united. I felt like we as a people were there sharing a common goal. It didn’t matter what race or culture you were from, we all came together to make sure our voices were heard.
Aotearoa, in my point of view, needs to stop treating us as separate people because of the colour of our skin. Protests and marches like this that addresses racism are necessary, because people are starting to learn and realise exactly why Taika called this country “racist as f**k”. I want Aotearoa to recognise that we might all be different, but we are one race, the human race.
Ngāti Porou me Ngāti Kahu
They / Them
There are a number of reasons I felt it was important to attend the Christchurch protest. Firstly, to show support to our black friends and family who are being murdered in cold blood in America. Secondly, as a reminder that New Zealand’s justice system is also corrupt and racist, I’m half Māori myself but am white skinned, but many of my Māori family are brown skinned and are treated much differently to me just because of their skin colour. And with the armed police trial I grow more and more worried for my whanau. I worry that New Zealand will become like America, our police are just as racist, but if we militarise them we put our people of colour at extreme risk.
I was happy that despite the bad weather here, there were so many people. I was somewhere in the middle and I couldn’t see the end of the crowd from where I was, it was just a sea of support and signs and solidarity. People were somber but strong. That was how the mood really felt, we were all upset and tired of the decades of racism, but all stood strong together saying that we were done with it. Everyone was there to support and uplift the black community while calling for the government to do something about it. The mood there felt particularly influenced by being in the same city where the racist attack occurred only last year. Though I don’t live here, I could feel pāhunu (in both senses of the word) of those around me burning up and really pushing for a change.
The Black Lives Matter movement resonates here so much I think largely due to the way that young Māori and Pasifika people grew up drawing a lot of culture from African American culture (thinking hip hop, rap etc), and the way that Māori and Pasifika people are also so mistreated by their government and by the police, with much higher rates of incarceration and police shootings. When we call for it to end there, we also call for it to end here.
Much of the work that needs to be done in Aotearoa in regards to anti racism is unlearning colonial mindsets and dismantling colonialist structures in every aspect from governing bodies, to education, to poverty, to land ownership. Reparations need to be given and given with respect. Māori need to be involved in every conversation when it comes to politics, especially in ones that will affect our communities the most.
Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Tangoio me Rangitāne
She / Her
As a rangatahi Māori, I stand on the shoulders of my tūpuna. Those in my direct lineage passed down an intrinsic intertwinement between myself and the moana, a nurturing ahua, an iwi settlement that will create a fruitful future for my Tangoio whanaunga - all of which and more, I am eternally grateful for.
I mustn’t ever forget my non-kin community kaumatua and elders who’ve paved a way for me to live unapologetically. Storme DeLarverié, an African-American lesbian who was the first to resist arrest during the Stonewall riots in 1969. Kimberlé Crenshaw who coined the term intersectionality, making space for black women and women of colour in both anti-racist movements AND feminism. Maya Angelou, Audre Lorde, Alice Walker and countless other black female poets for creating poetry and other art that represents diverse and intimate struggles.
While the histories of institutional racism are different to each person of colour, the parallels between people of African descent in the U.S. and Māori in Aotearoa New Zealand are paramount, especially in the ways they are manifested in the current day. As a person who benefits from Black history and a consumer of modern-day Black culture, the lives of Black people have impacted me profoundly. This is one of many reasons I will continue to chant Black Lives Matter until systemic change is made – in the U.S. and everywhere else, worldwide.
On Monday June 1st 2020, approximately 2,500 people gathered on the lawns of parliament in the pouring rain, to pay tribute to Black lives taken by the hands of police in the U.S. A group of young African-American women residing in Aotearoa shared their grief with us for the community members murdered – the hurt in their hearts and the ever-present fear in their minds for the lives of their Black brothers, sisters, parents and other whānau currently in the U.S. This vigil was supported by a kaikōrero Māori who acknowledged the proposed Americanisation of our own police force in Aotearoa through the Armed Response Team “trials”, as well as a Tongan wahine offering song in this troubling time.
We held rain tainted pieces of paper that had tens, hundreds of names of people whose lives had been lost due to police brutality in the U.S. There are no words to describe what it’s like standing in the pouring rain on the cold, first night of Wellington winter, yet feeling only pain from spending 15 minutes hearing a broken hearted girl cry her way through reading out the names of people from her community who should still be alive. A list of names that could have been so much longer. The reality of this situation is that, just the way this courageous wahine did on the steps of parliament, black people in the U.S. and all around the globe are asking for their lives to matter. To our whānau who descend from the greatness that is your motherland, Africa: Black. Lives. Matter. Never a question, never a plea. An assertion of the truth.
In regard to the organisation of the vigil, though… it was sloppy, it was inconsiderate and, in my opinion, lacked the mana that an issue such as Black Lives Matter deserves. The event was organised without consultation of the Black community, calling for a “POC leader” for the event after its creation, and misused reo Māori in the facebook page. @luhama.taualupe, the Tongan wahine who spoke and sang volumes in tautoko of our Black whānau took to Instagram the morning after, saying “that event did not involve the inclusion of Black, Brown or indigenous voices in the foundation or any part of the event. The few black voices there weren’t invited but genuinely had to interject themselves in a BLM event run by and centred around white activism, how genuinely ironic. Last night I showed up not because I stood behind the event but because I knew for a fact that it would be a disservice to the Black names being read by Black speakers.” Truly says it all.
At the end of the vigil, one wahine said the Black community will be creating an actionable event in the capital – an event that I’m sure people will turn up to in their thousands.
Te Rarawa me Ngā Puhi
She / Her
My attending the protest was essential, as a white passing Māori, and Samoan. As well as someone who has sought higher education. I have spent years of my life learning the realities of social injustice. I spent years learning about racism and the fight for civil rights in American and across the globe because it's all interconnected. My best friend of 21 years is African American and currently in the streets protesting and I feel scared knowing that. She has called and made me listen to the pipe bombs going off around the corner in downtown LA. And I feel so helpless.
I'm white passing and even that is something that causes a lot of inner turmoil and confusion for me because I get that - well I don't get it. I get to walk around every day in like this white armour while my brother doesn't. And that's why I feel the need to be out there. Actively. I have cousins who are incarcerated, I have cousins addicted to drugs, and I have cousins involved with gangs like many of us, and it's hard to not be angry when you've learnt in an academic sense just how that happened. I have had my family use me as a kind of racist buffer as a means of survival.
I'm terrified what the reality of having armed police would do to our POC here in New Zealand. I'm terrified of the racial profiling while an individual holds a gun. And I'm even more terrified of white silence in a time like this.
The protest itself honestly felt like coming home. I hit Queen Street and familiar faces were welcoming me, it's like we were finally with our people again. Many of those there were the same individuals fighting alongside mana whenua at Ihumātao. I think the reason BLM means so much to us in Aotearoa is because we have so many minorities here, our indigenous Māori, our Pasifica family who were shipped in to work for white betterment, our refugee family who fled their own whenua; we have so many beautiful brown/black/asian people calling this land home.
But the reality is that many deal with racism and injustices daily because of the colour of their skin. People are still constantly having to perform in order to not be judged by people around them, they smile, they don't speak their native tongues and they often denounce their own cultures in the hopes of being seen as 'not black/brown/asian'. As a nation we want to be seen as so progressive and diverse but so many don't live diverse lives and that truth breeds racism. It thrives.
BLM means so much to POC especially due to our relationship with Black Culture. It's such a huge part of Māori and PI identity. And the injustices against POC everywhere mirrors the faces of those we love in our own homes and communities. It's important because if black lives don't matter; then our lives don't matter. In order for Aotearoa to improve racism in its own backyard people need a re-education. People need to listen and learn about its own past and present injustices. People need to learn about the loss of whenua for Māori, the gentrification of black and brown neighbours, people need to stop picking and choosing the parts of black and brown culture that appeals to them.
If they want to love our cultures - then love our people. Understand that you're not ahead cause you're 'doing more' or 'working harder'. You've achieved what you have at the expense of POC. We can't deal with the issue without addressing the root of it.