What Do Allies Look Like? The Four S’s of Ally Success.

2 Comments

This post isn’t going to be a long one – it’s not an area that I like to spend too much energy or time on, merely because I’m busy looking after a multitude of other kaupapa – and this kaupapa is one that is really best cared for by others anyway.

I’m talking about White Fragility.

How do I know it’s best handled by others? Well experts in the field like Judith Katz carried out the research for all of us quite some time ago through years of anti-racism training and wrote about it in her book. She’s not alone – many others contest that the best people to educate white people about racism is white people. This is exampled really well by the Andrew Judd phenomenon.

1466197000360

Andrew Judd didn’t say anything new. He didn’t say anything that Maori haven’t been saying in a myriad of ways – through calm reasoning, through protest, through song, through lobbying, through civil disobedience and peaceful but resolute resistance, through education and publishing… Maori have been repeating the SAME message since forever and have achieved much through holding that space. They also got ignored by the mainstream media, but that’s because the mainstream media is racist too and tends to under-report Maori voices or characterise them as radical and dissident.

Not so with Andrew Judd. Because he’s white – and a mayor at that. He looks like the older white man who sits up from you in the boardroom – who better to listen to? If he’s calling NZ racist… it’s GOTTA be, right?

Andrew didn’t say this in a different way, he didn’t bring a different light to it, and the peace walk was NOT Andrew Judd’s peace walk. It was the Tū Tama Wāhine Peace Walk that Andrew took part in. The mere fact that people characterise his discussion as somehow more peaceful and reasonable than Māori – even as Andrew himself was raising awareness about the epitome of peaceful resistance that is the Parihaka story… says a LOT about the wilful blindness of some. He didn’t say anything new – he just got attention because he’s a white man in power.

What Andrew did do though – was incredibly valuable. He examined and acknowledged his own role in this biased system. He correctly deduced that being a white male in a position of authority accorded him extraordinary privileges – and most importantly he used that fact to cast a light on racism in New Zealand, he used it to recruit attention to the lessons of Parihaka and most importantly he used it to advocate for POWER SHARING.

Subsequently – the Andrew Judd Fan Club facebook page has rocketed in popularity but even that is not immune to the ravages of white fragility – and much time seems to be taken up with roughly the same discussions being had elsewhere online, where white people problematize Maori frustration and project their hypersensitivity on to Maori. The discussion is not “Those damn Maori who think they have rights” but rather “Those damn Maori who are angry and won’t let me give them their rights”. Time and time again the catch-cry “Andrew wouldn’t do it this way” is thrown up in defence. Apart from the very obvious point that Andrew Judd isn’t the messiah and isn’t actually THERE to deliver his sermon and instructions in the first place – the very POINT that is being missed here, the very POINT of what Andrew did, was to highlight systemic racism and the insidious nature within which it infects the social psyche. That INCLUDES the entitlement that white people assume to being gently led through the process of self-critique, that INCLUDES the privileging of the white voice over a brown one, and it includes the insidious nature in which white voices wind up coming out of brown mouths (like when Maori start criticising their own for not being nice enough, or projecting the common white trope of the angry Maori onto their own).

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not now, nor am I ever, going to advocate for abuse. You use cusswords to call someone a name at any point – you’ve lost all credibility.

But let’s be clear about abuse. Let’s be clear about anger, and about what it looks like to ‘get ugly’. Because recounting the brutal facts of history is NOT rage, and blunt statements about the ubiquitous nature of colonialism and our racist society is NOT abuse.

Hypersensitivity is a PART of the crime of racism. It means that we’ve been ignored so long we have to shout to be heard. It means I have so many fires to put out by now that I don’t have TIME to break it down into gentle whispers for you. And it means that even if I did, you’re so unused to my voice that even a whisper still sounds like a shout, to you.

And let’s also be clear that when you set up a situation that is intended to address racial injustice but then wind up perpetuating injustice through enabling passive racism – that’s going to frustrate Maori – some will be able to identify and articulate it well. Others will not. The crime is then compounded when they are singled out as angry and crazy. Again – I’m not advocating for the raging abuse that comes out of them – I’m just pointing out that passive racism contributes to that rage and incites it.

So no, potential ally who wants to examine your role in this state of affairs – I don’t want you to victimise yourself and crumble under your perceived weight of blame. That’s of no help to me or to us as a nation trying to progress.

It’s not an easy process – it’s traumatising, it’s laden with self-analysis and you have to avoid the pitfalls of self-loathing because the system is set up to benefit you. You have to be strong, and come through it… just as we have had to be strong with our load, just as we have had to bear much over the years, and still do – so, too, must you be strong. You can. And you must. You have to be strong in your space and hold that up, so we can continue in the business of being strong in ours.

And what does that look like? What does it look like to be a good ally, to be a helpful ally?
Well first of all – stay white. You can be white and learn te reo. You can be white and learn tikanga. You can be white and support and celebrate Te Ao Maori. Please, god please don’t abandon who you are in shame and try to “become” indigenous. New Agers do it all the time and it evokes something like this from us.

rhoa-reunion-facial-expressions

Seriously – I’ve seen ALL those expressions in response to Dolezal-ism (it’s a word).

dolezal

In fact it’s vitally important that you stay white (not least because it will cost you a bundle in expensive fake tan solutions and failed hair do’s) – but also because your whiteness gives you access into spaces and discussions that we are shut out of. Just like so many white NZers did with Andrew Judd – white people will listen to you more then they will I.

So stay white… and speak up. That’s going to be the next level of discomfort for you. Your white friends and colleagues may not appreciate you dropping the truth bomb into what was previously a safe-zone for racist dialogue and decision-making. Rest assured that at least you will get more mileage from their ears than if it were me saying exactly the same thing. Jane Elliott is living proof that you can be incredibly blunt and confrontational with your own and get marvellous results (and of course she has had to deal with her fair share of resistance as well, including physical assaults).

Stay white – speak up – and stay strong. Stay in the conversation even when it’s uncomfortable. We didn’t get a free pass from trauma for the past 200 years, so no point in you expecting one.

Let’s be clear on this: Your participation in this conversation is not a gift to anyone else but yourself. It is not a service to Maori – it is a service to yourself, and a duty to your community. If you check out on this conversation you are checking out on your own self-improvement, you are checking out on your OWN duty to your community. It WILL get messy. You WILL encounter rage. And you have the capability to acknowledge that for what it is, understand it’s underpinnings, and use that as further justification for your commitment to work towards a more just community. You don’t need to be pulled down by it, you don’t need to subject yourself to abuse – you just need to stay true to the course. What does the language look like?

“I understand your rage, I’d be pissed too if I were subjected to the injustice you’ve been subjected to – I wish to god I could change what happened, it was shameful, and unjust – but I can’t – all I can do is commit to making a change here, and now, and support the call for your rights to be restored, which is what I intend to do.”

Understand that even THAT might not be enough for some of us – but still… bless them on their way, hope for them that they find peace, and continue on your own path of self improvement and supporting the cause for better justice. Understand that if you choose to check out on dealing with colonisation, based on their behaviour – that is still your choice, and it’s one that we don’t have.

And there are so many spaces to do educate yourself in this manner, if you choose to.

Which brings me to the final point. Self help.

We’re busy. This blog is already longer than it should have been. I’ve got dinner to put on, I’ve got assignments to mark, and assignments to write, and a class to plan for, and funding apps to write and soap and shampoo to make and juicing to do and well the list could go on but please don’t add to that list by expecting me to educate you. Where we do make time for that – it’s great. But it’s not an entitlement and don’t WAIT for us. Learn from each other. Seek information out – the internet is full of wonderful resources. Watch a Jane Elliot clip. Read some Linda Alcoff. Get busy, because the sooner we tackle this beast the better, and it’s going to require ALL of us on the frontline.
That’s it really. Stay white. Speak up. Stay strong. Self help.
Good luck on your journey.

(ps will post my soap and shampoo recipes up next)

Plastic, Indigenous Rights, and Warfare in the Pacific

4 Comments

the_pacific_wp_1280x1024_4

So for those of you who have not been following NZ politics this week – there’s been a bit of a kerfuffle about Helen Clark’s bid for UNSG. Here is a link to a great summary from Jeremy Rose on mediawatch, Radio NZ.

http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/remote-player?id=201810992

I have to say, I’m glad someone else also noticed the irony that I was on mainstream news one week being celebrated for plastic resistance and the next week I was being associated with treachery and treason. The feedback has been interesting to say the least. I’ve been private messaged with accusations of letting womanhood down. I’ve been told I should get over it and get into line (not sure why anyone would think that would all of a sudden work when we’ve been getting told to do that for 180 years now). And interestingly, I’ve been told to “stick with the plastic stuff”… I’m guessing the inference here is that plastic consumption and indigenous rights are separate issues? I was hoping to be able to clear that up in this morning’s Radio New Zealand interview and though I was grateful for the opportunity to be able to create some connections there – we didn’t quite get to fully explore the genealogy that sits between these issues. Thank goodness for blogs.

When I visualise these issues in my mind – Indigenous rights, Sustainable Development, Plastic reduction, Sovereignty, Economic oppression, Hero worship, Colonialism, Social and Environmental Justice – what I see looks rather like the spiderwebbed whakapapa (genealogical charts) that my grandmother used to draw out. They are all linked in complex ways, and, just like when you’re studying your whakapapa, as you look closer, further, very interesting relationships reveal themselves – and one of my very favourite pass-times is to sit with my close cousin Rhonda analysing issues and whakapapa at micro levels, then macro levels, triangulating points of commonality to understand the various facets of what sits before us.  When I do that with the list above – what comes forth at the nexus of these points is another very pertinent issue. I’ll get to that issue in a moment but first I want to just discuss the relationships between these other issues.

Let me first just point out that engaging in a plastic reduction journey is an act of resistance. The plastics industry lobbies aggressively to maintain a level of market saturation. The vast majority of plastics are made from petroleum, and so they are all associated with a raft of issues that accompany fossil fuel economies, including:

• Climate change
• Rising sea levels
• Pollution
• Species and Habitat loss
• Wealth/Poverty Gaps

Some of these are able to be monitored at a national level, but many of these issues are global issues, and the best approach so far is to get United Nations member states to ratify agreements where they commit to proactive measures in reducing emissions. Except in some cases, like New Zealand, our targets are less than inspiring, and our trade relationships actually account for more offshore emissions than onshore. Being offshore, of course, makes them very difficult to monitor let alone reduce. Probably the most problematic region is Factory Asia, who is responsible for producing over half of all the world’s goods. That’s all goods. Everything. In this sense, Asia is really emitting greenhouse gases and creating production waste on our behalf (and of course there are the added issues of labour exploitation and workers rights abuses). Of course the remedy to this is to buy local, but arrangements like the 2008 free trade agreement between China and New Zealand (set up by the Labour govt) flood our market with more affordable merchandise which – when we are suffering some of the highest living costs in the world – works against conscious consumption.

And in fact as many of us may already know – Global Corporatocracy – where borders are gradually being blurred and redefined through bilateral and multilateral trade arrangements that privilege transnational corporations and allow them to directly influence the governance of nations – really is the largest threat to human and environmental rights. Unsurprisingly the World Trade Organisation, tasked with regulating international trade, has administered it’s duty in a flawed, biased fashion and consequently been unsuccessful in providing a fair trade economy – resulting in large-scale conflict and political instability, environmental degradation and globalfood and water crises.

SO in light of such powerful, well established, ubiquitous economic and political odds – reducing your consumption, consuming consciously, sourcing your own food and minimising plastic consumption are very much acts of political and economic resistance – playing out at the most influential sphere you have – yourself, and your investment choices.

Of course this alone will not solve the problem but nonetheless a strong core is the basis of structural integrity, and if you can explore the challenges at a personal level it undoubtedly assists your approach to this at a public and political level. Other spheres of influence are your family, your community, your workplace, local government, national government and of course the global sphere of influence, like the UN.

So we’re clear – I’m NOT a member of any NZ political party and did not go over there as one (the media have largely not helped in making that clear). My duty in that space was to the global indigenous community first and foremost – and to those with valid, but suppressed voices in Aotearoa, who also wished (and had a right) to be heard in this process.

Appointment processes are not popularity contests. They involve thorough assessments of past performance. Performance assessment is based on the candidate’s success in a particular field. Any statement that “well that was the past, get over it” or even “she’s learnt since then” is really irrelevant because that’s not how performance evaluation works. You don’t hire a bus driver based on what he learnt from the many crashes he’s been in, nor do you simply say “well those crashes were all in the past now”. If the past didn’t matter then credentials and demonstrated strengths also do not matter.

So – UNDRIP matters (especially when it’s the theme of the meeting). Other key themes that arose at that meeting were the loss of indigenous land (also a core theme of the declaration) and the state persecution of indigenous defenders of land and waterways. Both of these are perfectly exampled by the F&S legislation and the police militarisation against indigenous families during the anti-terror raids.

In fact, the state use of police and armed forces to clear indigenous people away from the natural resources in order to facilitate natural resource exploitation and corporate expansion is not at all new. Sourcing resources and colonial expansion were the very causes that brought Captain James Cook to our shores. His assumed right to kill, abuse, and steal is not purely historical for us – it is merely one of the earliest iterations of what was to become, for us, a very common and regular aspect of our lived experience of colonisation – and it continues to this day.

It continues for us as Maori on Rekohu, Te Ika a Maui and Te Waka a Maui. It continues in the most brutal fashion for our relations in West Papua who are experiencing severe human rights abuses every day as the Indonesian Army continues to occupy their lands in order to exploit their natural resources. It continues for our whanau in Hawai’i who are also under illegal occupation by the US have their most sacred sites occupied by the government in the forms of military bases, telescopes, and multinational GM food conglomerates. It’s happening to our relations in Rapa Nui who have their leaders arrested and detained for trying to protect their sacred sites. It’s happened to our relations in the Marshall Islands, the Bikini Atoll, Mururoa Atoll, with nuclear testing.

And the militarisation of the Pacific is exactly the issue that I see sitting at the nexus of plastic consumption (which first boomed due to the second world war in order to reserve metals for weaponry); indigenous rights; and colonisation.

We, as Tagaloa peoples, as a nation of descendants from across this ocean, remain under attack. Our relative governments keep us apart with imagined borders – but our common struggles, our whakapapa, and our shared relationship to Tangaroa and Hinemoana brings us together. This is yet another reason why plastics matter so strongly to me, it is my genealogical link to the ocean that informs my obligation to its care and protection. The exploitation that is happening over land is absolutely happening over water as well.

Even as we speak preparations are under way for a nuclear warship to enter New Zealand waters, for the first time in 35years, in time for the international weapons conference being held in Auckland. That ship will traverse right through our oceanic territory – just as proposed trade agreements traverse right through our oceanic territory – just as the plastic waste of our socially engineered consumption habits traverses right through our oceanic territory.

And of course ALL of these things are driven by corporate greed – it controls the state, it is defended and facilitated by the military, it will push you into survival mode and sell you solutions based on dependency.

So there it is – the whakapapa between plastics, warfare, militarisation, governance and indigenous sovereignty. It crisscrosses back and forth in a myriad of ways – the cultural genocide visited upon indigenous peoples is absolutely a tool of economic oppression to maintain wealth and poverty gaps – to keep one group in servitude and another in power. The trade agreements are tools to maintain military occupation, and vice versa. The hyperconsumption drives resource extraction. All of this requires sites of resistance, from your personal choices – to the global halls of power, and everywhere in between. On sea, on land, and on the airwaves, you’ll find us.

We’re not going anywhere.

We are Tagaloa Nation.

2000px-morning_star_flag-svg

WTH Do You Mean, Bicultural?

17 Comments

1457513_357394557733777_1481618465_n

There’s been a bit of talk lately about some of the people we label as heroes.

I’ve already spoken out a fair bit about these issues.

From Disney’s Moana, to Helen Clark’s nomination for Secretary General, to Captain Cook – our “ethnically harmonious” nation appears to be unwittingly flashing our racist panties by how we choose our heroes. I’m not particularly surprised (nor do I think we should be bothered) by the accusations of treason or treachery  – no system of oppression was overturned without treasonous acts.

What I am tired of is being told what I should be thankful for. This expectation that I should be proud of our “bicultural” nation.

Just don’t.

Don’t talk to me about biculturalism.

Biculturalism only refers to the presence of two cultures it makes no explicit reference to the balance of power in that equation.

In a country where colonialism is as ubiquitous as the air we breathe most would have no  IDEA what it would look like to have an equally Maori and Pakeha world. So don’t throw your meagre brown crumbs at me and tell me to be thankful for biculturalism. What you think is an equitable notion is actually 90% of this reality being shaped by you and yours, with, at BEST, 10% shaped by me and mine.

Look at our “bicultural” health workforce. Shared by Maori who account for less than 7% of that workforce and Non-Maori who account for the remaining 93%  – even though those stats are reversed for patient numbers.

When you have 10 memorials relating to a white man.

And offer to put up one for a Maori leader.

And the white guy murdered, stole from, and kidnapped Maori.

That’s not biculturalism – it’s imperialism.

When you want me to spend a year “celebrating” this painful event while you continually minimise and euphemise the Maori experience of that event – echoing the way in which our trauma is continually minimized and euphemized in the experience of colonization...

That’s not a “celebration of dual heritage”.

My people are not yet free. We are not free to live the lives that our ancestors did – nor are we free to secure the choice of which aspects of their world we carry forward for our descendants. We are not free to live on our tribal lands. We are not in control of our representations. We are not in control of our own wellbeing. We are not in control of our own healing, or our own governance.

So don’t talk to me about biculturalism. Talk to me about equitable power sharing.

Don’t show me your damn Disney representation of a Pasifika girl and tell me that’s empowering for wahine.

mira-el-trailer-de-moana-la-nueva-princesa-disney-inspirada-en-la-cultura-hawaiana-n2

Not when the production and writing crew are still predominantly male, and predominantly non-pasifika (and there are NO wahine pasifika on that crew)

Not when the stories that have held our families together and helped us to understand the mana of our mothers, and grandmothers, and sisters and daughters – not only through the words but through the surroundings, the actions, the inflections, and language – have been ripped out of our hands while we are still in the process of reclamation. DON’T SELL THAT TO ME AS YOUR FEMINIST EMPOWERMENT – ESPECIALLY when you’re doing that to deal with your own history of gender representation rather than supporting our own knowings and perspectives.

NOT when you serve our Atua up for misinterpretation as witches.

Don’t tell me I should be proud to have a woman in a role of power, responsible for the wellbeing of indigenous people the world over.hillary

Not when the children of indigenous mothers are still wetting their beds, and waking screaming with nightmares, and cowering from police, and violently self destructing because of acts inflicted under that woman’s supervision.

Don’t you dare tell me that this would be a step ahead for me, as a Maori woman in this world.

Not when that woman’s idea of a development solution is unfettered trade, even when it results in the abuse of our Mother.

And don’t fool yourself for a second that your idea of treason is relevant to me.

Because you have no idea of who I serve. In actual fact – if the power in our country were truly biculturally shared – then we would never be having this conversation, and this notion of treason would certainly be redundant.

You see, in my world Helen Clark is not one of “our own”. Disney’s Maui is NOT the Maui I descend from. And Captain Cook is anything but a founding father.

Keep your heroes. I have my own.