Hunt for the racist people

 

I really like and admire Taika Waititi. He has enormous talent. His particular brand of humour has a unique Kiwi twist and is second to none. It was even apparent in his excellent blockbuster movie, Thor – Ragnarok. I have loved all his movies. Boy, What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Thor… he really is an enormously talented New Zealander. I am not alone, as he was New Zealander of the Year in 2017. I voted for him, and he thoroughly deserved it.

And, no. There is no ‘but’ to this. I subscribe to the belief that everything you say before the ‘but’ is garbage. I meant every word I said about Taika. No compromises.

He has said that he believes that New Zealand is a very racist place. Many of us disagree with the former New Zealander of the Year about this. I certainly disagree with him on this one.

This from The Herald: Quote.

I think New Zealand is the best place on the planet, but it’s a racist place. People just flat-out refuse to pronounce Maori names properly. End of quote.

Now come on Taika. There is nothing essentially racist about that. Many of us were not born here, so the Maori pronunciation does not come naturally. To say that people don’t try, though, is probably unfair. Maori pronunciation is not all that easy, and the rules keep changing. To be honest, I am a little scared of pronouncing Maori names these days because I do not want to offend. I don’t think that is being racist. That is the opposite of racism, surely?

Taika has a Maori father, of Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, so he probably speaks Maori quite well. I would be afraid to try to pronounce Maori words in front of him because, as he has just proved, he sets the standard, and I would fail it. Quote:

Waititi also called Aucklanders “very patronising”.

“They’re like, ‘Oh, you’ve done so well, haven’t you? For how you grew up. For one of your people’.” End of quote

But Taika. You have done well. Really well! How many people from anywhere, let alone little old New Zealand, get to direct a Hollywood blockbuster? And what is more, you received critical acclaim for it. Only one person a year gets voted as New Zealander of the Year, and last year, Taika, it was you! I think you have done very well. Not for one of ‘your people’. For absolutely anyone. I think it should be taken as a compliment. Why are you offended by it?

Taika also made comments about the fact that he experienced racism when he was growing up. Taika is 42. He grew up mainly in the 1980s. Things really were a bit different back then. I don’t have too much trouble believing that he encountered some racism when he was growing up. He makes comments about having a job in a dairy and never being allowed to work the till, but always being in the back, washing vegetables. He took this as a racist thing. Was it? Only he would know. But don’t you always employ schoolkids to do the menial jobs? I’ve certainly done that, and I don’t believe it was racist. I wouldn’t have let them near the coffee machine, let alone the till. They were all white kids anyway.

I just took a quick look around my office here in Lower Hutt. We have about 40 people. There are three Maori, two from India, two Chinese, one Korean, one Malaysian, two South Africans (both white), one Cambodian and one lady who looks like she might be Tahitian or similar. I don’t know because I have never asked. Why not? Because I don’t care.

That is over 25% of the workforce being non-European. Nobody thinks about it. It is just normal. They are all nice people, and they get along with everyone else just fine. If any kind of racial slur was detected, we would be on to it like a ton of bricks. But I honestly don’t think it will happen, Taika, because the country has moved on from the way it was when you were growing up.

I am not saying we are perfect when it comes to racism, but honestly, Taika, I think we do much better nowadays. We also do a lot better than many other countries. We have spent the last thirty years trying to settle Treaty claims. Most New Zealanders agree with these claims in principle, although we do feel as if it all should come to an end sometime soon. If we were all racists, why did we vote for you as New Zealander of the Year? We did that because we are proud of you, Taika. It is a shame you don’t see it that way.

Taika has a Maori father and a Jewish mother. You have to admit, it is an interesting mix. His mother’s maiden name was Cohen, and he has used this name for some of his writing and film work. I guess Cohen is easier to pronounce than Waititi.

I don’t go to the movies that much anymore. Most of the Hollywood movies bore me to tears. But in the last few years, I have seen Boy, What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Thor, all at the cinema. It is not just because Taika is a New Zealander. It is because his movies are absolutely brilliant. Maybe it is the New Zealand flavour that makes them so appealing. I don’t really know. Actually, I’ve just realised that we went to see Eagle v Shark as well. I’m a true Taika groupie. It isn’t deliberate. I just think he has enormous talent and great appeal.

Needless to say, everyone is agreeing with Taika, saying that New Zealand is a very racist place, particularly Susan Devoy, our great Human Rights Commissioner. It is like feminism. Great strides have been taken for women in the last hundred years or so, and now they have greater equality than ever before. But, still we bang on about it. You end up feeling as if no one will be satisfied until all men have been driven out of the workplace altogether. And this is true of racism. Even though enormous strides have been made, we still are constantly accused of racism. And yet, when Julie Ann Genter, a Minister of the Crown, made racist statements, the HRC decided that there was no case to answer because old white men are… what? Too white? In other words, it is completely OK to discriminate against white people.

But isn’t that racism too? Or do you have to be brown to experience racism? What do you reckon, Taika?

 


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Accountant. Boring. Loves tax. Needs to get out more. Loves the environment, but hates the Greens. Has been called a dinosaur. Wears it with pride.

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