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You want to stamp out racism? Dont give it license

One of the questions I have had, amongst the many, over the weekend on the question of racism is what to do about it. To be frank it comes down to #Leadership. Politicians will have you believe that they are pursuing policies and let’s be frank about it, they are doing that to garner your support. Sadly, many of the policies that are being discussed are around Maori issues such as health.

National reaffirmed this weekend that they would scrap the Maori Health Authority – but not provide any real detail about what would replace it when it comes to what we all agree are bad statistics when it comes to Maori health. The ACT Party have been pursuing a campaign that is against most things Maori and have said they would get rid of both the Office of Maori Crown Relations and the Ministry of Maori Development. Using the same narrative as Hobsons Pledge, they have gone further on everything from co-governance to three waters going so far as to essentially re-write their own modern-day interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi. This all plays off the back of the campaign that was being waged by the former National Party Leader, Judith Collins, and the ongoing side swiping from people such as Don Brach.

It has been sustained and it has been relentless. In doing so they give license to people in our community who basically either hate Maori or prefer we back in some sort of idyllic age in the 50s and 60s when apparently life was better and things were good. The return to the golden weather. But that disdain of Maori and our Kaupapa has surfaced in some of the most hateful ways possible – racism and hate speech with a little white supremacy thrown in. I bared my all last week on national radio when I gave listeners an insight into just how much that sort of narrative has affected me and my family. My point is, and message to all of the politicians out there, you cannot simply throw grenades out there and then take no responsibility for what you have done – because its these politicians that have helped to create the environment through which some of these racists thrive – and in our little country, sadly, they are thriving. That’s the first lesson in leadership – leaders don’t fan the flames of racism to the extent it’s the rest of us that are getting burnt.

The second lesson in leadership is if you want to be the Government that put forward policies that actually mean something. In saying that you are going to get rid of the Maori Health Authority then tell us what you intend to replace it with it that will see you create an environment through which these terrible numbers of health inequity and disadvantage loom so large. What are you going to do to bring down cancer rates amongst Maori, suicide rates, cardiovascular disease rates, renal failure and many others. What are your policies that will prevent crime, prevent homelessness and address the rates of the digital and education divides between Maori and non-Maori. If you want to have that discussion then put your alternative policies up instead of putting Maori down and then creating the operating environment through which the racists feel they have the license to hate.

For such a small country with a rich and vibrant history you would think we have grown up enough to have adult conversations about our shared future. One group, Maori, are wanting to have conversation about that future – another group, vocal and thankfully in the minority, want to have a different conversation returning us all to a time when things were actually not so great. People forget New Zealand's economic prosperity was based on secure access to the British market and high international prices for wool, which garnered more than a third of our export earnings. In late 1967 the export price for wool fell by 30%, triggering rising unemployment and inflation. Sound familiar? Or that women still largely had a role only in the home or that Maori deprivation and poverty was on the rise. We saw an increase in homeless rates for the first time and disadvantage was high. I am not sure what memories of the golden weather some of these people have – because let me tell you; it was a fantasy for many.

Opinion: Matthew Tukaki is Chair of the National Maori Authority


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