WTH Do You Mean, Bicultural?

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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.

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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.

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