Wrangling with Racism

Although many Pakeha people in Aotearoa have become more aware of the racism we’ve inherited and continue to perpetuate, and more inclined to call it out, we still have a long way to go.

A few recent examples- and the reactions to them:

  1. Racism in Parliament:

Trevor Mallard, speaker of the House, made a blunder in ordering MP Rawiri Waititi out of the Debating Chamber because he wasn’t wearing a tie.  Rawiri and many others see men’s ties as a symbol of white racist male oppression, and on that day Rawiri was wearing instead a most elegant and precious pounamu taonga- greenstone treasure. 

Ironically, the Speaker had given permission earlier to another Member of Parliament to wear a culturally significant Spanish string-and-bead tie…



Reaction: A general growl of outrage in the media as well as in Parliament at the Speaker’s decision..

Trevor Mallard  announced the next day that he had withdrawn his objection to Rawiri’s neck adornment…

2. Racism in Local Government:

For many years, Māori have sought representation at Local Government level through Māori wards, to ensure that  in areas where Māori are a minority they have at least one voice at the table through the electoral process.  However, an earlier racist government passed a law, under pressure from Pakeha objecting to this,  which said that if 5% of citizens demanded a referendum on the establishing of a Māori ward it had to be held.

The consequence was that all but two of the Councils which established Māori wards had their decisions overturned by public referendum in white majority areas.


Cabinet Member the Honourable Nanaia Mahuta has introduced a bill to Parliament to remove the referendum ruling and allow Local Government bodies to create Māori wards if they choose to.  Because the current government, with its allies, has a majority, this bill will pass within a few months, removing one more obstacle to adequate Māori representation.

(Some of those who will object need to remember that our ancestors signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi, which acknowledges  a partnership between English settlers and Māori, and specifically acknowledges Māori entitlement to their own governance structures, land and so on.)

3. Racism in Schools…

A very brave and moving story by an 8-year-old girl (who is a New Zealand citizen, originally from Zimbabwe) was published in the NZ Herald, and on online:





Here are some extracts from Maimai’s writing:








Congratulations to Principal and staff for stepping in and educating the class….

Most of the students eventually learnt that children should not be judged by their skin colour.  In Maimai’s words:

I think many girls are just like me.

Even if we look different on the outside,

we are the same on the inside





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