Garth George
Garth George is a Herald columnist

Garth George: Inbox lifts lid on how Maori see 'victim' label

Dr Pita Sharples. Photo / APN
Dr Pita Sharples. Photo / APN

Nearly 100 emails flooded into my inbox last week commenting on my column about the plight of many Maori and the pronouncements of Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples. And the astonishing thing is that not one accused me of being racist.

The other surprise is that so many Maori wrote that they agreed that too many of their people suffered from a victim mentality, which they found abhorrent.

Wrote Scott: "I am a Maori and grew up in Maketu, where we had little and struggled for some years. However, my mother and father worked very hard, always provided for us and were able to send me and my two brothers to boarding school where we gained a good education and life skills.

"Your article is something that needed to be said and reflects not only my own but the thoughts of many Maori who have left behind this victim mentality. Maori will never get ahead as long as this continues."

And Wiki: "I am a 31-year-old proud Maori woman, raised my babies, and am now in a fulfilling career and happily married ...

We experience hardships of one kind or another at various times, like millions of other people, but that's not society's fault or the Government's or the police's fault. If you're not willing to help yourself, why should others?"

And Tamara: "Your column articulated for me how I feel about the situation. I am Maori, but like you am tired of the 'entitlement' mentality. So thank you for putting it out there. I hope more Maori sit up and take notice and, more importantly, start taking responsibility for themselves."

Most of the emails can be summed up by John, who wrote: "It is about time someone spoke up and said what we're ALL thinking!"; and Dave who said, "I could not agree more. Maori problems are for Maori to solve."

Others, however, were of a different view. Rasheed, for instance, wrote: "Your analysis of Maori problems is the same boring tripe that middle-class New Zealanders have been churning out for years. You don't do our country any favours by simplifying complex problems and painting Maori as whingers. You are the whinger."

And Huia wrote from Australia: "Tarring all Maori with the same brush is bullshit and typical stereotype claptrap as dumb as Sharples' pathetic comments. He is a clown and so are you. I helped put my kids through varsity and they worked to keep afloat. No one helped us and we never expected anything from anyone including the so-called tribal money.

"New Zealand is awash with victim mentality and it's not just confined to Maori ... I don't live in New Zealand because it's going nowhere fast and is a paradise for drug dealers and moaners . I have worked hard and got ahead, so when I read crap like yours it offends me because we are not all the same."

A number of the emails put forward the proposition, some at great length, that the disadvantage suffered by so many Maori was not a result of them being Maori, but of being poor.

Wrote Ross, from Scotland: "We are all well aware of the very poor statistics within Maoridom for many things, but these stats are not an indication of the people being Maori, but of their being poor.

"There are parts of Scotland where the statistics for health, criminality and so on are at least as bad as they are for Maori. For instance, one area in Glasgow has a male life expectancy around 54 - less than the average for India ...

"The real question is not why Maori feel aggrieved at their treatment in, say, the court system; the real question is why Maori are much more likely to be poor than the predominant Pakeha population. If we understand this, our public policy interventions to assist Maori would work a lot better."

And Bobby: "As a young Maori small business owner I find it sad that your newspaper continually stirs when it comes to Maori and never presents the full picture. Maori are not held back by a victim mentality but by our lower socio-economic status that we're trying to improve. This isn't a Maori issue, it's a poverty issue."

Leadership, too, was an issue for many. Wrote Mike: "It would be wonderful to see true Maori leadership emerge ... I have long looked for a Maori leader who will echo Sir Apirana Ngata's sentiments about Maori melding into society rather than staying on the sporting/entertainment/criminal fringes."

And Ian: "Maori need young, vibrant leaders with a modern-day outlook on life to drive their people forward and stop looking back." Finally, a few words from Bob: "The Maori mafia at the top of most tribes needs to start spreading the wealth."

It seems to me it is long past time for a full and open national debate on these issues.

- NZ Herald

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