'Go back to where you came from'

The following is Elise’s speech delivered at the Baha’i Faith Race Unity Speech Awards’ regional competition.

The following is Elise’s speech delivered at the Baha’i Faith Race Unity Speech Awards’ regional competition.

IF I was bright yellow, what would you think?

You might be blue or green, but wait. As far as I’m concerned you’re not a Smurf or the Hulk. Instead we are all rich shades from honey to ochre to copper and porcelain.

I am coffee, a divine blend of cream and dark roast beans grown from the volcanic soil of Aotearoa.

The land of the long white cloud; with stunning peaks that kiss Rangi; rigid land carved by Maui’s brothers; shrouded in a korowai of emerald and peridot; the shire of middle earth.

New Zealand; where those of a darker tone run barefoot through streets flanked by state houses, where those men with skin like milk play the game of countries at the pinnacle.

New Zealand, the most beautiful and free country in the world, a slave to alcohol and drug abuse, the shards of a once proud people lay on the roads alongside broken bottles.

New Zealand, where I hear Maori and Pacific Islander girls at school feeling undermined and unintelligent by those they label as white, the same darker girls trickling in and out of the Guidance centre looking for solace from too early broken lives; New Zealand, where those who read the Koran or worship krishna are stripped of their humanity.

New Zealand, a land of heroes and chiefs and mana, where people who have lived on this sacred Eden for generations still pronounce the name of my people as “Mowri”, New Zealand.

My father is fire, Ahi. His name a homage to his culture, his ancestors are those who worshipped the sun, skin baked from years of sowing and reaping beneath it, to his father and his father, and his father.

The pride I feel knowing that this fire burns like gasoline in my veins, a furnace in my irises, the blood of chiefs and kings, I have never been ashamed.

My father has mapped the world across my face. He is Spanish, English, Irish, Portuguese, Peruvian, Brazilian, French, Maori.

But to you, he is brown.

My mother is water, pure. She is the seed of those who built the Endeavour, those who carried James Cook across the waters, the daughter of a fisherman who cries salt water tears.

She is English, Irish, Welsh, Scottish, Romany Gypsy. But to you, she is just white.

And I’m almost ashamed of that.

Ashamed of the white men who came across the ocean like dragons breathing fire and devouring the people and their ways. Those who came to claim this land and that land and every other as their own. Ashamed at that side of me as though I can cut myself in half . . . but no.

I cannot change the actions of the old world, I cannot break the chains that were forged around ankles and wrists thousands of years ago, cannot wear the twisted remains around my neck, cannot restore the language to its mother tongue, cannot rebuild the temples that were torn down, cannot rebirth the temples of those who were ripped end to end by the barbed wire of war and prejudice.

We turn our backs only to find them scarred, we close eyes and seal them blind and people say racism is dead; laid to rest within us, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

But it has never ceased to wash against the shores of those whose lives and culture and pride were obliterated.

Our prejudice rots away at our sanity, it devours our compassion, our beauty our hearts that are designed to brim over with love that instead bubble on the stove and evaporate into dirty sideways glances, and quiet racist sentences unwilling to fight.

I remember hearing of those whose language was washed out of their mouths with soap.

Those decreased to a flesh-toned label in the blink of an eye, the flick of a tongue.

A disdainful ignorant “our new neighbours are Mowri”.

Discriminating against those with almond eyes and Hindu dots that were once badges of honour to their people, reduced to that of shame.

“Go back to where you came from” — shall we return to our mother’s womb?

I even remember being proud of my God when I was young and being told that there was no such thing as a Maori Christian, as though such a thing was paradoxical, even though my God and Atua are one in the same.

Our race is irrelevant.

Race runs through my veins and pigments my skin but culture embodies me with the power of a thousand voices that came before me.

It is my cultures that I can never let decompose in a dimly lit corner of my mind. We must embrace and celebrate what differentiates us rather than let it carve us out piece by piece.

We must open up the doors of our hearts and let people of every shade pass through our lives or choose to roost.

It is our job as fellow humans to accept the charges laid before us, to say “I choose”, rather than “I am”.

When we say I am we say things we cannot change, but we can all change the way we view others, to realise we are better than those before us.

Kiss the cheek of your neighbour, look into their eyes and see their raw soul.

Tell your children and your children’s children, express your love of each other, celebrate your diversity in any way you can; with your fingertips, with your eyes, with the power of your words -— let everything you create, everything you form, every idea you give birth to, be powdered completely in lucid unadulterated love.

This is the dance, the haka, the waiata we must perform through our lives for our children, as one people of New Zealand.

This is our legacy; aroha mai, aroha atu.

Imagine a world where we saw humans as elaborate works of art rather than colour codes.

If we saw fractured nebula in each other?s bones, the gold of our skin, the champagne that is in our bloodstream. Every blink of an eye the flit of a butterfly’s wing.

Every movement crackling with electricity, every heart beat a singular note in the song that stretches back to the beginning of time — knitted together in our mother’s womb.

I am every bit as human as you.

I am within and without this land.

I am English, Irish, Spanish, Portuguese, Romany Gypsy, Welsh, Maori — I am proud.

But we all go to the same place, all come from dust and all return to dust.

If I was bright yellow, I would still be just as human as you.

IF I was bright yellow, what would you think?

You might be blue or green, but wait. As far as I’m concerned you’re not a Smurf or the Hulk. Instead we are all rich shades from honey to ochre to copper and porcelain.

I am coffee, a divine blend of cream and dark roast beans grown from the volcanic soil of Aotearoa.

The land of the long white cloud; with stunning peaks that kiss Rangi; rigid land carved by Maui’s brothers; shrouded in a korowai of emerald and peridot; the shire of middle earth.

New Zealand; where those of a darker tone run barefoot through streets flanked by state houses, where those men with skin like milk play the game of countries at the pinnacle.

New Zealand, the most beautiful and free country in the world, a slave to alcohol and drug abuse, the shards of a once proud people lay on the roads alongside broken bottles.

New Zealand, where I hear Maori and Pacific Islander girls at school feeling undermined and unintelligent by those they label as white, the same darker girls trickling in and out of the Guidance centre looking for solace from too early broken lives; New Zealand, where those who read the Koran or worship krishna are stripped of their humanity.

New Zealand, a land of heroes and chiefs and mana, where people who have lived on this sacred Eden for generations still pronounce the name of my people as “Mowri”, New Zealand.

My father is fire, Ahi. His name a homage to his culture, his ancestors are those who worshipped the sun, skin baked from years of sowing and reaping beneath it, to his father and his father, and his father.

The pride I feel knowing that this fire burns like gasoline in my veins, a furnace in my irises, the blood of chiefs and kings, I have never been ashamed.

My father has mapped the world across my face. He is Spanish, English, Irish, Portuguese, Peruvian, Brazilian, French, Maori.

But to you, he is brown.

My mother is water, pure. She is the seed of those who built the Endeavour, those who carried James Cook across the waters, the daughter of a fisherman who cries salt water tears.

She is English, Irish, Welsh, Scottish, Romany Gypsy. But to you, she is just white.

And I’m almost ashamed of that.

Ashamed of the white men who came across the ocean like dragons breathing fire and devouring the people and their ways. Those who came to claim this land and that land and every other as their own. Ashamed at that side of me as though I can cut myself in half . . . but no.

I cannot change the actions of the old world, I cannot break the chains that were forged around ankles and wrists thousands of years ago, cannot wear the twisted remains around my neck, cannot restore the language to its mother tongue, cannot rebuild the temples that were torn down, cannot rebirth the temples of those who were ripped end to end by the barbed wire of war and prejudice.

We turn our backs only to find them scarred, we close eyes and seal them blind and people say racism is dead; laid to rest within us, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

But it has never ceased to wash against the shores of those whose lives and culture and pride were obliterated.

Our prejudice rots away at our sanity, it devours our compassion, our beauty our hearts that are designed to brim over with love that instead bubble on the stove and evaporate into dirty sideways glances, and quiet racist sentences unwilling to fight.

I remember hearing of those whose language was washed out of their mouths with soap.

Those decreased to a flesh-toned label in the blink of an eye, the flick of a tongue.

A disdainful ignorant “our new neighbours are Mowri”.

Discriminating against those with almond eyes and Hindu dots that were once badges of honour to their people, reduced to that of shame.

“Go back to where you came from” — shall we return to our mother’s womb?

I even remember being proud of my God when I was young and being told that there was no such thing as a Maori Christian, as though such a thing was paradoxical, even though my God and Atua are one in the same.

Our race is irrelevant.

Race runs through my veins and pigments my skin but culture embodies me with the power of a thousand voices that came before me.

It is my cultures that I can never let decompose in a dimly lit corner of my mind. We must embrace and celebrate what differentiates us rather than let it carve us out piece by piece.

We must open up the doors of our hearts and let people of every shade pass through our lives or choose to roost.

It is our job as fellow humans to accept the charges laid before us, to say “I choose”, rather than “I am”.

When we say I am we say things we cannot change, but we can all change the way we view others, to realise we are better than those before us.

Kiss the cheek of your neighbour, look into their eyes and see their raw soul.

Tell your children and your children’s children, express your love of each other, celebrate your diversity in any way you can; with your fingertips, with your eyes, with the power of your words -— let everything you create, everything you form, every idea you give birth to, be powdered completely in lucid unadulterated love.

This is the dance, the haka, the waiata we must perform through our lives for our children, as one people of New Zealand.

This is our legacy; aroha mai, aroha atu.

Imagine a world where we saw humans as elaborate works of art rather than colour codes.

If we saw fractured nebula in each other?s bones, the gold of our skin, the champagne that is in our bloodstream. Every blink of an eye the flit of a butterfly’s wing.

Every movement crackling with electricity, every heart beat a singular note in the song that stretches back to the beginning of time — knitted together in our mother’s womb.

I am every bit as human as you.

I am within and without this land.

I am English, Irish, Spanish, Portuguese, Romany Gypsy, Welsh, Maori — I am proud.

But we all go to the same place, all come from dust and all return to dust.

If I was bright yellow, I would still be just as human as you.

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