I’ve always felt, as a Pakeha, that just below the surface of the civility of New Zealand culture, there bubbles something pretty bitter in the soul of many white Kiwis.
I believe that there is a deep settler guilt at the way the Treaty didn’t live up to its promises and when many Pakeha hear Māori grievance, they respond aggressively defensive the way a domestic abusing partner responds when their actions get called out.
Add to this guilt a crippling level of poverty because of neoliberalism and many poor white NZers look at anything Māori receive in terms of reparation for past wrongs with the jealously the working poor eye welfare cheques to solo mothers.
Jealousy and guilt are an ugly combination of cultural emotions that when combined can become maliciously toxic very quickly.
I think we’ve seen those tensions erupt recently at the most innocuous of cultural events, the Santa parade.
There were gender arguments over whether Santa could be a woman, there was black face at Hawera, there was red neck santa floats complete with confederate flags, and then there was splendid looking Māori Santa at the Nelson parade that sparked a social media backlash that would make your average member of the KKK blush.
The funniest thing about the whole reason there was a Māori Santa at the Nelson parade at all was because the usual Santa had to pull out because the week earlier he had been a ‘red neck’ Santa and had received so much negative social media attention he didn’t want to do the Nelson Santa.
So a Māori Santa had to step into replace a redneck Santa and it’s the Māori Santa that people decided to have a problem with?
What this entire fiasco and dreadful tsunami of racism on social media shows us is just how incredibly far we still have to go in trying to learn and live together as one people on these shaky isles.