“You’re whiter than I am!” He/she/they say as they hold their tanned arm up to my pale limb. “What are you anyway, a 64th or something?” It’s why it took so long for me to see that it’s your whakapapa that makes you Māori, not a fraction or the colour of your skin. But unfortunately in this relatively young colonised country this genocidal tool of blood quantum is still rife in the minds of everyone. Not just Pākehā. Although they definitely uphold it. Māori, too. Especially the closet Māori who haven’t yet acknowledged who they are.
When I say “I am Māori” I feel eyes starring at me, quizzing my facial features, my eye colour, my hair, my skin. ‘Yeah, I can see you’re something.’ Gee, thanks. This in-between place is a strange space to hold. The privilege that I’ve spent my whole life in a Pākehā world, with my Pākehā ways, never to be stereotyped or felt the harshness of the views around me. That it’s only now in 2017 that it’s hitting me. The flip side is that I’ve heard what is said at a friendly neighborhood BBQ or the way people respond to Stuff articles on Facebook. The way you use my culture as a tool for appearing enlightened and inclusive. And now you’re asking me questions so you can get the Māori green light or an education. How plastic it makes me feel that I’m only seeing this truth NOW.
Jealousy. Jealousy that of all the siblings, I’m from the one that died young. That our names weren’t passed on. That our stories weren’t told and that I’m having to dredge through layers to reconnect to 1885. Being treated with suspicion at our marae because Pākehā have been turning up wanting something for nothing so what makes me any different? What makes me think I even belong here? WHO AM I?!
So as I see a plastic tiki that comes free when you buy a Kiwiana bag at Briscoes, suddenly this world is full of shit that undermines everything I am. Suddenly whitesplaining is something that is done to me. Suddenly the posts on introducing compulsory Te Reo in schools are definitely not the comment section I want to see. The next time someone asks how Māori I am or laughs at my white skin, I’ll set it straight. I’ll look them in the eye and say “I AM MĀORI. I am not a fraction, I carry my whakapapa and that is enough.”
I am enough.
You are enough.