I am white. I grew, and will continue to grow, up with the privilege of being white. People will learn my name no matter how I write it or how many unnecessary vowels I add, simply because my skin tone is a few shades lighter and my family came from Europe. I grew up learning simple te reo in class as a means of communication. Around year 4/5 it stopped. And now I struggle with something that I wish I knew so easily, a language that belongs in the tongues of those that live here. If you move to France you are expected to learn French, if you move to Spain you are expected to learn Spanish. Why is it different for New Zealand? Canada does it so easily, no second guessing no questions. French and English. Simple. It would be so easy to have followed in Canada’s footsteps, but no, we had to remove Maori from every day life.
One debate is that “it’s an outdated language” and I have two counterpoints. 1) so is latin but schools continue to quote that sh*t relentlessly. 2) there’s a reason it’s outdated and it’s you. Funny how Spanish isn’t outdated in Spain, and French is still in effect in France. Why aren’t they outdated languages? We know that answer – because they’re still “european” languages….
If white people can name their child “T9c” and “KVIIIlyn”, then you can damn well learn someone’s name. It’s not even a race thing, it’s a respect thing. You know who’s names I don’t learn? The people I don’t care for. If you care enough and respect them enough you will learn their name. But we know that’s the issue. You don’t respect them or care for them – that’s when it becomes a race issue.
I want my kids to learn Maori. I want them to be more fluent than I ever was. I want them to be able to say the colours in both English and Maori, then I want them to be able to hold a simple conversation in Maori. As an ‘NZ/European’ I want these things for my children because I owe it to them. If I’m going to raise them in New Zealand, it is my duty to teach them about the land they live on and among. It’s my job as their mother to teach them about how language is a beautiful thing. Because it’s so much more than just a language. It’s another reason to shun someone from the prestigious seats we claim are hard earned but are really just pure luck for being born the ‘right’ colour. We say it’s New Zealand so they should speak English, but that’s not true. It’s New Zealand/Aotearoa so we should learn to speak foundation Maori. It’s our duty to preserve the culture we so rudely stole and exploited. That was our promise and we have severely broken it.
It’s not that hard to get your head out of your ass and learn. I’m not even going to lie, it makes me mad. It makes me so upset to think these people believe that this is their land. But as Kanoa Lloyd said “I know this is not gonna be some big wake up call moment for people that think this way. The Brash’s and Witherow’s and Gallagher’s of the world are not gonna wake up tomorrow and go “Oh I’ve been a bit bigoty” and then go and sign up for a te reo Maori class next week.” – They’re not. But what she does mention is that we don’t need to create a movement because there already is one. And it’s true. I see it in the early childcare centres, the curriculum incorporates te reo. You have these young children ready to take on the world and they have no internalised thoughts and prejudices to the language. And these are the kids that are going to lead us into the next generation. These kids will fight for te reo in primary schools, and in high schools – these kids will move mountains and remind us that it’s okay to celebrate that land on which we live. They will prove that there is nothing wrong with learning a language that belongs to this nation and it’s people.
In all honesty, I’m vowing that if I ever hear someone tell me they aren’t going to pronounce someone’s name correctly because it’s Maori, I’ll butcher their name in the most ridiculous way and refuse to stop until they realise how idiotic their understanding is. Some final words from Kanoa, “I actually felt a bit sorry for these guys. Like sorry the world is moving too fast for you my bros.”