'Give nothing to racism.'
Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon has spoken out in support of a Havelock North mother asked to cover her moko kauae in a playground because she was scaring children.
Foon told Hawke's Bay Today that since 2019 his office had received three complaints about wahine being verbally abused for wearing the traditional facial tattoo moko kauae.
Moko kauae on a woman's lips and chin represents her culture, her whanau and her leadership within her community.
Jay Scott, 31, was approached by two strangers at Havelock North Village Green playground last Wednesday afternoon. They asked where she was from and asked her to cover her facial tattoo because it was scaring children.
They also asked Scott and her 6-month-old to leave. She did not.
Foon said he was saddened "that this particular type of racism is still active".
"We've had about three [complaints] in my time: 'why have you got that barcode on your face?' sort of thing.''
Meng said the complaints had been unresolved without mediation, often because complainants could not identify the persons making the inappropriate comments.
Meng is fluent in te reo and familiar with Maori cultural practices.
Introducing New Zealand history into the country's education curriculum would help educate people about tikanga Maori, he believes.
"Hopefully children will educate their parents.
"Everyone has the right to their culture. Thousands of wahine Maori proudly have moko kauae.
"I believe that the children were not frightened at all. I think the person held a racist thought."
"Kia kaha wahine ma whakamanahia to koutou taonga tuku- be proud of being a wahine Māori.
'Give nothing to racism'
The women had asked Scott questions that suggested they did not think she belonged in the playground.
"They started asking 'do I live in the area? Do I come from here? What is my address?' - it was quite confronting,'' she said.
"I picked up on the energy - that they do not like me here or want me here. I just had to ignore them. With my mana, I had to withhold."
The abuse only got worse as she continued to ignore the rude women, while sitting under a canopy with her 6-month-old.
She said they even told her to cover her chin "because I was scaring the children".
"They said if I don't cover it can I please leave."
She did not leave and allowed her children to continue to play.