I wish my friends knew that when they try on that accent associated with Māori from a lower socio-economic background they become responsible for why the stereotype still exists. I wish my friends knew that just because I’m Christian doesn’t mean I’m okay with subtle racist comments, regardless of whether they’re aimed at me or not. Your words hurt as much as everyone else’s.
I don’t feel like this one needs too much explaining. Be responsible for what you say and consider the impact it’ll have on others if you do choose to speak. Some people may think something along the lines, “if they say it themselves, then it’s okay for me to say as well.” So I want to stamp that one out from the get go. No, no it is not. Do you think Māori called each other “n****” or any other offensive word before colonisation? Why would anyone feel the need to address themselves or their friends using a painfully racial term associated with slavery, mass genocide, and countless other atrocities? Well, because if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. If they can’t stop you from calling them derogatory names or mocking their accent, they may as well recycle it as a form of in-group expression. At least that way it’s used to create solidarity rather than distance and segregation. That’s my take on it anyway. So, again, be responsible for what you say and be a part of the answer, not the problem. If you’re Pākehā, don’t use derogatory terms when referring to your Māori friends, and Māori peeps, try not using them too. You’re the one that teaches people how they can and can’t treat you. So, if you’re not okay with it, set the boundary and stick with it (easier said than done I know, but you’ll thank yourself for it).
The Bible itself says: “The plain moral fact is that words kill” (Matthew 5:22 MSG). So please don’t assume that our mutual love for Jesus can compensate for any form of racism. It doesn’t. Our sole job as Christians is to love God and love others. To walk into a church and hear “hey blackie” or some other unbelievably racist remark is dumbfounding. Please, friend, you are responsible for your words, use them with care.
I wish my friends knew that saying Māori words properly really makes a difference to me. It makes me feel like my culture and language is valued. I wish my friends knew that I learn about other languages and cultures to compensate for not completely knowing what it means to be Māori. While I love my language and culture, it’s nice to delve into a culture that knows who they are and who they aren’t, and who have reclaimed that which colonisation stole and be themselves proudly. Just being honest. A lot of Māori are still in the process of figuring this out, myself included, and even writing this article has helped me massively. As you read this I hope it empowers you to look at some of the big identity questions we all face as Māori. 28
I’m a big fan of anyone who says Māori words correctly, especially if you’re Pākehā—go you! You’re a total legend! Keep doing it because, believe me, people notice and it’s so nice to hear the commonly mispronounced ones said properly. Also totally not bagging anyone that doesn’t, and it’s never too late to learn! Just ask any Māori friend how to say it and they’ll most likely be stoked you’re making the effort.