Dear Stuff

A poem about systemic and institutional racism against Māori in the media by Tina Ngata.

Posted on
16.12.20

Dear Stuff,

I want to let you know, I get it. I get how hard it is to not print racist Sam from Linden and bigoted Barrie from Island Bay.

And what’s a little racial supremacy premised on blatant falsehoods between treaty partners, anyway?

So let’s not call it a mistake (even though it was not just morally but patently factually wrong).

I mean, I don’t want to create intense tension, and I get your great intentions, so let’s bite back any mention of the racist misinformation dripping from your publication …

I get it, oh do I get how hard it will be for you to make good on your apology.

Not the kind of world splitting hard that comes with having your child taken for the crime of being a taken child.

No, not that kind of hard.

But it will be frustrating for you.

Not 180 years of saying the same thing over and over and over and over again and being expected to play along with a perverse charade of any interest in justice kind of frustrating.

Not the watching everyone around you die early from fatigue-related illnesses because they have spent every last breath pointing the obvious out to you kind of frustration.

No.

But you will click your heavy tongue and sigh a lot and gaze out the window of your seventh floor Willis Street office and wonder just how long this will take.

Which won’t be the same kind of waiting for, like, a home for you and your children because your landlord hiked the rent beyond minimum wage which was never a living wage anyway but that’s not the first or only way you’ll get told to not-live, today.

It’s not, like, waiting for Pharmac to approve life-saving medication and wondering if you will outlive the process of them discussing whether to approve a cure for something that doesn’t quite affect enough White people yet.

Not that kind of waiting.

But you will definitely flick those heavily lacquered, impossibly shiny nails and there will be many tsktsks.

It’s going to be hard work, you know … facing up to racism is not easy.

Not working two jobs to keep that roof over your head and buy another short life pair of school shoes because you can never quite reach the flash long-lasting investment pair for Bub, only to open the paper to see a cartoon of you portrayed as a dole bludging bad parent.

Not that kind of hard work, no.

But there will be many hui.

Not really the same as when you have to meet twenty different times with twenty different faces of the Crown in a never-ending Groundhog Day that essentially boils down to you saying another version of please, for the love of all that’s sacred … stop. Finding new ways. To kill us.

It’s not really comparable to that, but it will take a lot of time, and you will have to figure a lot out for yourself, you know. Not like, how to feed your family this week, and not like, how to stop your son from killing himself like his best friend did.

But it will challenge you.

Not like a university professor challenging your right to be there, and not like a police officer stopping you for no good reason.

More like, challenge you to really think about who you are and how you got here. Except without the cultural shame of having your language stripped from you and being a third-generation manufactured outcome of assimilation, not knowing your pepeha let alone your whakapapa and staring red-faced at your boss who insists you lead the room in karakia.

It won’t be like that, and it will be thankless.

Not having your entire economic base ripped away from you to form the basis of the national economy but being called a freeloader for even pointing that out kind of thankless – but you get my drift.

It’s tiring my dear.

Not bone-tired, thousand-yard stare tired, battle-weary, heart-sore and, soul bruised tired from seeing your people kicked while they’re down, yet again. Not the gut-sigh kinda tired of the Māori journalist having to read the same racist rant again for the thousandth time even though it’s been disproven even though it dehumanises her in a way that you will never have to go through even though you just said sorry for this shit last week, not that tired. Not the kind of tired that robs your children of a parent because you have to choose between giving them today or fighting for their tomorrow. Not that kind of tired.

But I promise you will be ok, in fact, you will be better for this, in the end.

Which will, most likely, be about 12 years later than mine.

This poem responds to the Stuff apology to Māori on their racist portrayal and representation of Māori in the media.