Political Roundup: Who gets to decide if Simon Bridges is ‘Māori enough?’ Seeing this headline in the NZ Herald grinded my bones. With the appointment of new National Party Leader Simon Bridges, some have questioned his Māori-ness and just how Māori he is. As someone who doesn’t support National, in this case, I took pity on Simon because who gets to question how Indigenous or Māori someone is – I would say, no one! Both of my parents are Māori, I happily identify as Māori yet there are times where I feel that I’m not Māori enough and what an uncomfortable feeling that can be. It made me wonder, if I feel like this, how does Simon feel about these very public criticisms? What does a Māori actually do anyway… we are all so different (see Greaves, Houkamau & Sibley, 2015 for more). I’m not fluent in te reo Māori and this influences my perceptions of my own Māoriness, the operative word being MY. Yes it is uncomfortable but I live with what I ascribe to myself in terms of MY Māori identity.
Growing up as an Indigenous person entering mainstream institutions is like walking on a tightrope – assimilate too much, you’ll fall and lose your Indigenous identity. Don’t assimilate enough – you’ll fall because of the weight of all the negative stereotypes that society places on you. If you’re resilient enough though, maybe you won’t fall. Becoming educated has helped me develop my resilience but its not easy! I’d be a rich girl if I received a dollar for every negative stereotype that was ascribed to me – ‘Oh can you afford this place’, ‘You’re well-spoken for a Māori’, ‘You don’t have a Māori nose’, ‘Your kids have the same dad?’, ‘Wait, you’re actually a PhD candidate’, ‘Oh I thought you were on the DPB’… And when you explain your research focus to non-Māori – ‘Why are Māori any different?’, ‘Why should they get special treatment?’, ‘Can’t the problem be solved with the same initiatives given to non-Māori?’ Which leads me to the point, should we be questioning someone’s Māori identity? I think not because chances are, they’re having their own internal battle and are battling with others on a daily basis.