Brown girl in the ring

MP Meka Whaitiri Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Meka Whaitiri had an opportunity to learn from the loss of her ministerial warrant. She abused and assaulted a staff member, which is behaviour that is simply not acceptable in any shape or form these days and certainly not from a minister of the crown. Had she taken the opportunity to learn from the loss of her warrant she would have achieved two things. Firstly, she would have put herself up for reconsideration in a future cabinet reshuffle, and secondly, she would have set a very good example to other members of the Maori community who, sadly as we know, all too often use brute force to resolve their grievances.

She did neither of these things. She blamed white people instead.

Newstalk ZB reports: quote.

Speaking to Hawke’s Bay Today, Whaitiri says she “doesn’t shy away from the incident” but believes there are underlying issues with the way it spiralled.

“I think the whole process in terms of how it was managed was a bit disappointing with the leaks.”

On August 30, in front of a media stand-up, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced she no longer had confidence in Whaitiri as a minister.

Whaitiri was stood down from her portfolios, including Customs.

Three days earlier it was alleged her actions had left bruising to the upper right arm of the staffer, who had been in the role for six days.

The report into the incident found it was “probable” that the employee’s version of events was more likely than the Minister’s.

Whaitiri says there are certain parts of the report she agrees with, but others she “actively continues to challenge”.

“In this country, we have a hierarchy; white men, white women, brown men, brown women, and sometimes brown women have to talk extra loud to be heard,” the MP said.

As soon as news of the incident broke, Whaitiri decided to “ride it out”, withdrawing from social media, and interviews with mainstream media.

“I knew as soon it came out I was going to get scrutinised worse than anyone else. No matter what I said, it was going to be painted that I’m a bully, an assaulter – all this crap.

“I’m trying not to make excuses or water down the allegations, all I am trying to say is there are often things that we want to say, that no-one gives us time to say.” end quote.

If you were not trying to make excuses, Meka, you would have said you had learned from the experience, that you understand that your behaviour was unacceptable and that you are moving forward, determined to do better in the future.

Instead, you said that ?brown women have to talk extra loud to be heard?.

It sounds as if shouting down people and being abusive is still your favoured way of resolving conflict. It appears above all that you have not learned from your mistakes and that you would very happily do it again if the occasion arose.

The most stupid thing about Whaitiri’s self-indulgent statement is that, in politics anyway, Maori have never been so well represented. The main reason I disagree with quotas for Maori in local and national politics is that they clearly do not need them.  There have always been Maori MPs, but these days there are lots of them. To imply that Maori men or women have no power and no voice is garbage. They are heavily represented in the one institution in the land that really can make a change, for Maori and for everyone else.

Until Maori stop blaming white people and colonisation for everything that happens to them, and start to realise they are responsible for their own lives and their own outcomes, Maori will still be represented in all the wrong statistics and nothing will change. It is not as if blaming the white man has ever done them much good. Sure, a lot of money has been thrown at Maori issues and grievances, but has it really made a difference? Not much, and certainly not enough.

Meka Whaitiri had an opportunity to own her mistakes but chose not to. Her choice of words, however, is prophetic. In saying that ?brown women have to talk extra loud to be heard?, she invokes a tendency towards aggressive behaviour that we often see in Maori. Dame Whina Cooper, Georgina te Heuheu and Tariana Turia did not need to screech to be heard. They achieved things in their lives by being respectful and respected.  Whaitiri could learn from that.

The example that Whaitiri could have set for her own people might have begun the change that is so sorely needed, in which Maori begin to understand that they cannot improve their own lives if they keep blaming others for their own shortcomings. The fact that she chose not to do that shows that the cycle of violence and blaming of others among our indigenous people is very much alive and well, and we still have a way to go before we can see positive changes that will benefit everyone – Maori in particular.

Photoshopped image credit: Luke