Dr Michael Bassett's column referred to below has been removed from the Northland Age website. Upon review, its unacceptable views did not meet our standards. We apologise for its publication.
I write in response to the article 'Racism on a grand scale,' by Dr Michael Bassett (March 2).
It is curious to me that the author, who laments the apparent demise of Pākehā culture in Aotearoa New Zealand as racism on a grand scale, appears entirely ignorant of the racist views peddled throughout his article.
To begin with, Dr Bassett takes issue with the new Aotearoa New Zealand history curriculum, in particular that only one serious Pākeha academic has been involved in its design. Which begs the question, are Māori academics not serious? Is it only Pākehā who are knowledgeable enough to design teaching and learning? Dr Bassett's implication is that Pākehā knowledge is of most value, and it is Pākehā who should hold the power and authority over what our children and young people learn.
Look no further than the educational outcomes of Māori and Pacific children and young people today for insights into how the whitewashed education system has failed to serve them to this point.
The skewed version of history that Dr Bassett is so concerned about has in fact been in our schools all along. It is the version that positions Pākehā as the developed culture that civilised Māori, that our collective history began only with the sighting of Aotearoa New Zealand by a Dutch explorer, and therefore that land should forever bear his name. It is in the perpetuation of negative Māori stereotypes, positioning them as savages who were responsible for the demise of their own people. This is Dr Bassett's view of Aotearoa New Zealand history he is advocating for.
The author also justifies the exclusion of te reo me ngā tikanga Māori based on rates of population, particularly in Tāmaki Makaurau. Pākehā might outnumber Māori, but this is entirely irrelevant. More pertinent is that Māori are 50 per cent partners to te Tiriti o Waitangi, our founding document, and this should be evident in all areas of our society.
Notwithstanding that for much of our history (that is the hundreds of years prior to colonisation) Māori well outnumbered Pākehā. Of course, according to Dr Bassett's
view, anything that happened prior to European arrival in Aotearoa New Zealand doesn't actually count.
Dismissing the revitalisation of te reo Māori and the inclusion of Māori culture as woke is an attempt at maintaining the status quo and one's own position of power. Never mind how deeply disrespectful it must be to mana whenua to have the long overdue recognition of their language and culture labelled as "cultural cringe."
According to the author, it will be deeply disrespectful to Pākehā for street names to be changed – those street names have family and historical significance. One must assume then that names do not carry equal significance to Māori? The author fails to recognise how the historical absence and deliberate exclusion of Māori names in every area of our society might have impacted on Māori.
Unlike the author, I applaud RNZ and its presenters for the normalisation of te reo Māori and for their commitment to its revitalisation. Contrary to Dr Bassett's view, I don't see them falling over themselves trying to conform to a ruling from on high. Rather they are doing what we all should in our roles as Treaty partners.
Regardless, if Dr Bassett inquired into the ongoing ratio of English to te Reo Māori use across mainstream media platforms, this might serve to placate his misplaced rage.
It is a predictable reflex that when individuals with prevailing outdated views are challenged on them, their response is to minimise that challenge as "being woke." Not only is this deeply disrespectful to Māori, to declare the inclusion of their language and culture across their turangawaewae as woke, it is a meagre attempt at maintaining their position of power and the legitimacy of their worldview.
I can't say I am surprised by Dr Bassett's view. When yours has been the dominant culture for so long, and normalised to the point where you see yourself, your language and your identity everywhere, even the slightest affront (such as the expectation that we are to be inclusive of the language of indigenous peoples) will seem like a personal attack and the loss of your culture. This is white fragility in action.
Dr Bassett is correct on one point, that we are expected to embrace all things Māori – absolutely we should. Te Tiriti o Waitangi enables all of us our place to stand in Aotearoa New Zealand, and we should honour that every day.