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Tauiwi Solidarity in Aotearoa

By Vivien Whyte (she/her)

When it comes to race relations in Aotearoa, it’s easy to forget the relationship between tauiwi and tangata whenua. How often do we think about how tauiwi fit into the ongoing colonisation of Aotearoa? And what, if any, responsibilities do we have in order to be allies to Māori?

A key turning point in my own whakaaro was listening to someone else describe Te Tiriti as our immigration document. It allows us to be here and, therefore, by simply being here you become a partner to that treaty. More importantly, this gives us a mandate to take action.

The perceived binary of Pākehā and Māori relations is something I’ve considered at length when it comes to my cultural identity in Aotearoa. The relationship between colonised and coloniser, and what that means when you are the daughter of a Chinese/ Indonesian migrant mother and a third-generation Sāmoan/ fifth-generation Scottish father. This is a family of people who immigrated to Aotearoa never realising Te Tiriti o Waitangi was, essentially, their immigration document - all of whom assimilated into a very Pākehā New Zealand.

Partnership Throwing it back to 2020, diasporic Asian communities around the world mobilised to act in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. During the height of this, my Instagram feed was filled with little powerpoints about the model minority myth, racism within our Asian communities, and “How to talk to your parents about BLM and why they should care”.

Around this time, I tried having more conversations with migrant adults and 1.5/2nd generation peers in my life, trying to get them to consider the colonial histories and racial politics specific to us in Aotearoa. I was confronted, face to face, with the things we as migrants/children of migrants might not think about when it comes to living here.

Our families immigrated to a very Pākehā New Zealand. That in and of itself is an infringement on Māori sovereignty. By assimilating into the very same systems that alienate Indigenous peoples, we are investing in settler colonialism.

The volatility of swinging between pesky excess labour and welcome model-immigrants is done on Pākehā terms. As we desperately try to establish ourselves in Pākehā New Zealand, we risk establishing a new multicultural New Zealand which fails to recognise that we’re trying to lay our roots in stolen land. Ahistorical multiculturalism threatens to describe Māori as one of the many minorities living in New Zealand, which may further undermine their status as tangata whenua of Aotearoa enough to allow society to further downplay their claims for justice.

Bouncing off the late Moana Jackson’s likening of colonisation to replacing one house with another, the way I see it, we’re living in someone’s house and they’re getting abused.

Most prevalent was the model minority mindset and how this manifests itself into racism within our own communities. Although many could understand the systematic persecution of Black people in the U.S., there was a massive preconception that colonisation was a thing of the past. Even those who accepted that colonisation continues to this day saw tauiwi as more gatecrashers than partners to the colonised-coloniser relationship. So, as a consequence, many didn’t know where they fit when it comes to supporting tino rangatiratanga.

The foundations of their house are being attacked and muddyshoes are trampling over the beds. Wouldn’t any normal personstand up for them?

History 102: Tauiwi in Aotearoa Another turning point in my whakaaro was learning about the tauiwi history our schools never talked about. This is where a history of racism and discrimination ties tauiwi to the consequences of colonialism. As an Asian woman, learning about the history of injustice between Asians and New Zealand society helped me cement my ideas around inequitable societies and, by extension, allyship and solidarity.

Just over a decade after the signing of the Treaty (and thus the start of masses of Treaty breaches), the people of Nelson set up an anti-Chinese committee despite the fact that there wasn’t a single Chinese person in the district. In the 1880s they were joined by other groups such as the White Race League and the Anti- Asiatic League.

The legendary Chinese Poll Tax, under the Chinese Immigrants Act of 1881, aimed to tax and restrict migration from China. It wasn’t waived until 1934, nor repealed until 1944. Since then, time and time again, the New Zealand government passed bills that actively discriminated against tauiwi.

Among them are the Undesirable Hawkers Prevention Bill,Immigration Restriction Act 1920, and Undesirable ImmigrantsExclusion Act 1919.

Our grandparents’ lifetimes saw government-sanctioned racism in the form of the Dawn Raids. Our parents’ generation saw Winston Peters campaigns against growing immigration which echoed yellow peril and Asian invasion rhetoric. Even small events in our lifetimes are perfect illustrations of how no one benefits from a society where inequity and racism exist. I remember my mum complaining about the Labour Party insinuating that the housing crisis was caused by Chinese people based on how many Chinese-sounding last names were buying Auckland houses. And if you’re the child of a migrant, you probably grew up with the feeling that to be a Kiwi is to leave your own culture and language at the school gate.

Although New Zealand’s biggest problem with racism isn’t towards immigrants, delving into our shared history can also help us find where we fit into society in Aotearoa. In doing so, we can explore what supporting tino rangatiratanga and honouring Te Tiriti means to us. It sets the stage for how we can work together to fight colonialism and racism, and all benefit from the pursuit of decolonisation.

I’d like to end with an acknowledgement of the people I’ve met, talked with, and learnt from in the activist group ‘Asians Supporting Tino Rangatiratanga’. Thank you. Their unknowing influence on this article, let alone my life, cannot be understated


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