Editor's note: Two years ago the New Zealand Herald published a timely series about how Pākehā New Zealanders could learn to acknowledge the injustice of colonisation and do something practical about it. It was called Land of the Long White Cloud and timed to coincide with the 250th anniversary of Captain James Cook's arrival in this country. Many of our audience applauded the series; a few objected. Since then we have seen a growing worldwide awareness of racial injustice, sparked by the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and a re-evaluation of colonisation's legacy around the world - from statues and street names to fundamental questions about political power. Like many media organisations, the Herald has had to confront its role in this process, which has led to several changes, including a renewed commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi principles in our journalism and the creation of our Kāhu section for Māori content. As a result, we are pleased to relaunch an updated version of this series under its original title Beyond White Guilt. It includes an introductory commentary by two of the featured interviewees, Jen Margaret and Alex Hotere-Barnes, who reflect on how much progress Aotearoa has made.
- Murray Kirkness
Editor, New Zealand Herald
Don't let Pākehā paralysis make you too scared to try te reo and tikanga Māori - but do think about why you're doing it.
That's the message from te reo Māori advocate Alex Hotere-Barnes in episode 4 of the NZ On Air-funded documentary series Beyond White Guilt.
Hotere-Barnes shares his unique perspective as a Pākehā New Zealander who grew up in a primarily Māori environment.
WATCH THE WHOLE SERIES
• Episode 1: Cook's Legacy
• Episode 2: Recognising Racism
• Episode 3: Inheriting Privilege
• Episode 4: Pākehā Paralysis
• Episode 5: Confronting Colonialism
• Episode 6: Connecting to Aotearoa
• Episode 7: Cook Thinks Again
• Commentary: Time for Pākehā to 'stand up' against racism
Old school photos show him as the only white face in an otherwise all-Māori class. He remembers feeling awkward for a while and complaining to his father.
His dad assured the young Alex he'd be grateful for the opportunity one day - and he was right.
Hotere-Barnes says Pākehā don't have to become experts in te reo and tikanga Māori but "do need to understand that there are people and stories here that have been here a lot longer than you have and there's a wealth there".
The Government has set a target to have one million New Zealanders able to have a basic conversation in te reo Māori by 2040 but Hotere-Barnes warns that if Pākehā don't ask themselves why they are doing it, there is a risk of it losing meaning.
For instance, he says, there's no point in starting any formal occasion with a karakia (prayer) for the sake of it. You have to understand why such tikanga (customs) are important.
Hotere-Barnes attended kohanga reo and kura kaupapa as a child and had a bilingual education at high school. He is now a researcher and advocate working with Ngā Pōtiki hapū in Tauranga and the local school to help facilitate healthy relationships with the local whānau and community.
Hotere-Barnes says that he has witnessed first hand his privilege as a Pākehā man in New Zealand: "When I go out to dinner with Māori friends, I'm treated first," he says.
He wants there to be more understanding between Māori and Pākehā. That Pākehā sometimes hold back from using te reo Māori or tikanga practices out of fear of getting it wrong is understandable, he says, and he believes that sometimes that's warranted. But he wants Pākehā to learn from that fear and seek to move past it.
There has been a huge increase in the number of te reo speakers over the past few years from 149,000 in the 2013 census to more than 185,000 in 2018. However, it could be difficult for the Government to reach its target with the nationwide shortage of te reo teachers and not enough teachers in training to keep up with the demand.
Director Kathleen Winter says she found Hotere-Barnes' story a particularly engaging one.
"He has an incredibly unique perspective on bicultural relationships in Aotearoa. 'Pākehā Paralysis' is something I struggle with. Feelings like fear and paralysis can stop us from engaging with te ao Māori and we have to name and overcome them."
Hotere-Barnes believes racism is also a factor, evidenced by the fact that "you can grow up here in Tauranga and have nothing to do with anything Māori and until that changes, we live in a racist society".
There is also the fact that compulsory te reo in schools continues to be a topic of national debate. A 2017 survey by Vote Compass for TVNZ found that 47 per cent of New Zealanders did not support compulsory te reo in schools.
In 2016, MP Willie Jackson wrote that "the strangest point about this compulsion debate is how come it's okay for all Kiwi kids to compulsorily learn English at school but Māori is seen as one step too far? It's always been my view that the language can only survive if our kids, Māori and Pākehā, grow up speaking te reo together."
Watch all the episodes at nzherald.co.nz/beyondwhiteguilt