Dividing a nation – or healing the past?

by the Editorial Team
Sun 17 Jan 2016
5 min read
2
  • e-tangata's Tapu Misa, Gary Wilson, Moana Maniapoto, Dale Husband and Nadine Millar.

Just over a year ago, the Mana Trust set this e-Tangata website in motion. Three of us are trustees: Stacey Morrison, Gary Wilson and Tapu Misa. That’s a Māori-Pākehā-Samoan combo. It’s also a mix of the recently youthful, the seriously ancient, and the damn near elderly.

But the project hasn’t been just the work of this heroic trio. We’ve had many allies and kindred spirits who’ve been pitching in on this kaupapa for years – and who continue to lend their support.

And what is that kaupapa? It’s making sure that Māori and Pasifika people and concerns are given the attention they deserve in the media – and pressing for change where it’s clearly warranted. That’s the aim anyway.

Actually, it goes beyond Māori and Pasifika interests. That’s the starting point, not the end game.

Our goal is to help shape a New Zealand society that’s more than the sum of its parts, where all of us who are now in this part of the world can be at ease with one another, whatever our whakapapa. We want a New Zealand that’s more inclusive. More connected. And a good deal more clued-up about one another.

This has never been more critical. As inequality has deepened, our society has become more segregated and divided. We’re less likely to attend the same schools, to work alongside each other, to be neighbours.

We need more than ever to break down the ignorance that divides us. To connect our divided worlds.

At e-Tangata, we think that begins with sharing our stories. Yes, Māori and Pacific stories, because that’s the imbalance that needs to be addressed. We all know Pākehā culture and history. We’ve all been brought up on it, and schooled in it. We live in it, swim in it, breathe it.

It’s hardly surprising then that so many of us are blind to it. That’s the nature of white supremacy. It’s the invisible “norm” that e-Tangata, along with other Māori and Pacific media, must constantly draw attention to, and challenge, although we understand that this is an uncomfortable truth for many.

The e-Tangata team has journalists who’ve been on this wavelength for 20 or 30 or more years, or who’ve joined the fray much more recently. Doesn’t matter which. They’re all welcome, if they write well – and think well, too.

One of the pleasures of our work has been the warm response from our readers. Occasionally, though, there’s a comment from someone critical of our focus on Māori and Pasifika personalities and concerns – as if that deliberate imbalance is helping, according to one complaint, to “divide the nation”.

Naturally, given New Zealand’s history, there’ll be stories which don’t reflect well on how the mainstream Palagi establishment has behaved towards Māori and migrants from the Pacific Islands. It would be nonsensical if it were any other way.

There’s been unforgivable racism at times ever since 1840. There were the war years of the 1840s and 1860s and the land confiscations. The injustices and unfairness have carried on throughout much of Kiwi society – in education, health, justice, housing, and Treaty settlements. All the way through to the Dawn Raids and to next month’s TPPA signing.

We believe that discussing some of those issues and their consequences – and looking for ways to heal – is a worthwhile pursuit.

And it’s one in which Pākehā can and must play a significant part. e-Tangata is not about Māori and Pasifika people talking only among ourselves. We can’t build connections if we’re not having conversations with all New Zealanders.

One of the intriguing aspects, in fact, of our Pathways stories so far is how often a Palagi mum has been a fearless, committed advocate for her Māori or Pacific child – and for that child’s non-Palagi rights.

You may have noticed, too, how readers have warmed to the story of Joan Metge, one of many Pākehā repelled by New Zealand’s racism which she first saw in Pukekohe, as a schoolgirl, in the 1940s.

So there’s no brown/white divide in our e-Tangata operation.

Those readers who are uncomfortable with any references to old (and modern-day) sins should, we think, recognise that truth has to come before reconciliation can arrive.

No doubt there’ll be lessons for us as we proceed. One we’ve already learned is that we’re not much good at predicting what stories will be most popular. There’ve been some, like Moana Maniapoto’s column on tangihanga, which we felt would strike a chord with many readers. As it did.

So, too, with what Nadine Millar, as the daughter of a Māori dad and a Pākehā mum, has been writing about identity and the rewards from recovering her reo. Or when Victor Rodger told us about the passing of his absent father.

But we didn’t realise there’d be such a rush to read Dale Husband’s Q & A with Kingi Taurua who, on his first day at school, had been sent home to find a Pākehā name. And we had no inkling, in advance, of the appreciation for Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu’s angry criticisms of the history he was taught at Auckland Grammar. That appetite has already prompted nearly 100,000 visits to his story.

So 2015 wasn’t a bad year for our website venture. What now though? More of the same? Well, yes. But there’ll be new voices and fresh topics too. And, pretty soon, we hope to provide a stronger flow of Sunday postings.

Any developments like that, however, will depend on the response we get over the next few months. That may include suggestions from you, Dear Readers, about what you’d like to see on the site. We can’t promise to deliver what you want, but we’re keen to be guided by your preferences. Our email is editor@e-tangata.co.nz

But another crucial element in building an entertaining and influential website is for there to be financial support from individuals or organisations who value the stories and the views we’re presenting.

The Mana Trust has been fortunate in having the Tindall Foundation provide the start-up dollars for the site. We’ve been fortunate, too, to have had support from a number of individuals who’ve believed in our kaupapa and its importance to the health of our country. A few have given financially. Others have gifted their time and expertise, without any expectation of payment.

So we’re in pretty good shape. And morale is upbeat because of the quality of the contributions and the response from readers.

Thank you for your support, for sharing stories with others and for your comments. We look forward to bigger and better things for us all in 2016.

 

© e-tangata, 2016

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