‘Racism is not going away’

‘Neither are we’, rally organiser tells councillors.

‘Neither are we’, rally organiser tells councillors.

There was a point of order, and loud support from the public gallery during an unscheduled speech from Tina Ngata at a Future Tairawhiti council meeting yesterday.

Her presentation to district councillors followed a “stop protecting racism” rally outside Gisborne District Council’s building that morning, which she had organised.

Ms Ngata told councillors she wanted to carry on the brave conversation about racism, and wanted Gisborne to be a national leader in the discussion.

“We all know it is a very important issue to all of us.

“This is an opportunity to discuss a problem that is everywhere in society.

The incident that prompted the speech was in July when councillor Meredith Akuhata-Brown wrote an opinion piece in The Gisborne Herald.

She claimed she overheard a councillor say to another councillor “not enough were killed”, referring to when local Maori were killed by crew of the Endeavour in October 1769.

Malcolm MacLean, the councillor accused by her, says he said, “Lucky no more were killed with what confronted them”.

An internal code of conduct process followed.

Ms Ngata said it was “very clear” GDC found the whole situation regrettable.

“Councillors have not appreciated being challenged and would like the whole issue to go away so they can get back to business.

“Racism is not going to go away and neither are we.

“The code of conduct process will go further.

“A number of us in the community disagree with it and we will take it to the Ombudsman because we think it can be improved.”

Ms Ngata wanted to acknowledge everyone was passionate about their community.

“We all want the best for the future for our mokopuna and the best leadership for our community.”

“This is not about what Mr MacLean did or didn’t say.

“This is about facing an important issue.

“Nobody gets a free pass here.

“Everyone in this community holds racial bias, myself included.

“It’s real, it’s in our community and has dire consequences for us.”

Sociologists who spent their lives studying racism knew it permeated, saturated and influenced our society, she said.

Crown and other independent studies had also found a racist education system produced racist populations, she said.

“Most of us have come through a racist school system.

“My mother is pakeha and I have inherited a whole lot of privilege through whakapapa.”

Ms Ngata listed statistics.

A Maori living in Tairawhiti was likely to die earlier, likely to die an avoidable death, more likely to be poorer, more likely to be unemployed and 30 percent less likely to own or partially own their own home, she said.

“Maori on average earn $100 less per week and $5 less per hour than Pakeha in the same job.

“Are Maori genetically inclined to live less, earn less, and not own their own home?

“I don’t think anybody believes we are genetically less able than anybody else.

“It’s a system built out of an experience out of colonisation.”

Councillor Bill Burdett stood up and raised a “point of order”.

“These are good people who do not have to be lectured like this,” he said.

There was a tendency for members of the dominant group in any system to take this personally, said Ms Ngata.

“I am talking about how racism is everywhere.

“It doesn’t mean you are a bad person, it means you are part of a society built on it.”

Claps and calls of kia ora were heard from supporters seated in the public area of the council meeting.

“This is about being brave and having the conversation together in an open way.

“We deserve a conversation that is brave about institutional racism.

“All we are asking is that we admit it.”

To admit it would be a strength, which would make our community healthier, happier and aligned, she said.

Ms Ngata said they encouraged councillor Akuhata-Brown to keep raising these issues.

There was a point of order, and loud support from the public gallery during an unscheduled speech from Tina Ngata at a Future Tairawhiti council meeting yesterday.

Her presentation to district councillors followed a “stop protecting racism” rally outside Gisborne District Council’s building that morning, which she had organised.

Ms Ngata told councillors she wanted to carry on the brave conversation about racism, and wanted Gisborne to be a national leader in the discussion.

“We all know it is a very important issue to all of us.

“This is an opportunity to discuss a problem that is everywhere in society.

The incident that prompted the speech was in July when councillor Meredith Akuhata-Brown wrote an opinion piece in The Gisborne Herald.

She claimed she overheard a councillor say to another councillor “not enough were killed”, referring to when local Maori were killed by crew of the Endeavour in October 1769.

Malcolm MacLean, the councillor accused by her, says he said, “Lucky no more were killed with what confronted them”.

An internal code of conduct process followed.

Ms Ngata said it was “very clear” GDC found the whole situation regrettable.

“Councillors have not appreciated being challenged and would like the whole issue to go away so they can get back to business.

“Racism is not going to go away and neither are we.

“The code of conduct process will go further.

“A number of us in the community disagree with it and we will take it to the Ombudsman because we think it can be improved.”

Ms Ngata wanted to acknowledge everyone was passionate about their community.

“We all want the best for the future for our mokopuna and the best leadership for our community.”

“This is not about what Mr MacLean did or didn’t say.

“This is about facing an important issue.

“Nobody gets a free pass here.

“Everyone in this community holds racial bias, myself included.

“It’s real, it’s in our community and has dire consequences for us.”

Sociologists who spent their lives studying racism knew it permeated, saturated and influenced our society, she said.

Crown and other independent studies had also found a racist education system produced racist populations, she said.

“Most of us have come through a racist school system.

“My mother is pakeha and I have inherited a whole lot of privilege through whakapapa.”

Ms Ngata listed statistics.

A Maori living in Tairawhiti was likely to die earlier, likely to die an avoidable death, more likely to be poorer, more likely to be unemployed and 30 percent less likely to own or partially own their own home, she said.

“Maori on average earn $100 less per week and $5 less per hour than Pakeha in the same job.

“Are Maori genetically inclined to live less, earn less, and not own their own home?

“I don’t think anybody believes we are genetically less able than anybody else.

“It’s a system built out of an experience out of colonisation.”

Councillor Bill Burdett stood up and raised a “point of order”.

“These are good people who do not have to be lectured like this,” he said.

There was a tendency for members of the dominant group in any system to take this personally, said Ms Ngata.

“I am talking about how racism is everywhere.

“It doesn’t mean you are a bad person, it means you are part of a society built on it.”

Claps and calls of kia ora were heard from supporters seated in the public area of the council meeting.

“This is about being brave and having the conversation together in an open way.

“We deserve a conversation that is brave about institutional racism.

“All we are asking is that we admit it.”

To admit it would be a strength, which would make our community healthier, happier and aligned, she said.

Ms Ngata said they encouraged councillor Akuhata-Brown to keep raising these issues.

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