Since I blogged on it weekend before last, there has been a lot of comment and criticism on Rachel Smalley of The Nation asking Hekia Parata if she is a bitch to work for, and “How Maori are you?”. Rachel herself has said she didn’t write the questions, and felt a bit uncomfortable with them. Of course she could have refused and said I’m not going to ask any guest if they are a bitch, unless I can ask male guests if they are a prick.
I dont believe that the question Rachel Smalley asked of Hekia Parata: “How Maori are you”? was in anyway appropriate. I have a huge amount of respect for Brian Edwards and have read his blog which justifies Rachel’s question on the basis that was relevant to “Parata’s childhood and upbringing in a Maori family and Maori community”; that it produced a revealing and relevant response; that she handled it well and hasn’t complained.
The last three justifications are meaningless. It makes no difference to the appropriateness of the question whether she answered well or not, whether she complained or not. As to whether it was relevant to Parata’s childhood, that issue was canvassed earlier in the interview and could have been discussed more without forcing Hekia to justify her identity.
Thats what I have a problem with: Hekia was required by the question to justify her identity. The criteria Hekia then applied to herself is the criteria Maori have been forced to use to justify ourselves for decades: blood (whakapapa), language and whanau. It is a question based on New Zealand’s assimilationist history, when the degree of a persons “Maoriness” led to more or less entitlement, when being judged as having abandoned our cultural practices and language, we were therefore more like Pakeha and so more acceptable.
It is a grotesque irony that these days Maori are asked that question so that their right to speak on Maori issues can be judged, mostly by Pakeha, as legitimate or not.
I don’t agree with most of the policies Metiria puts forward, but I do respect her for criticising TV3 for the interview, despite the fact the question was to a political rival. It’s nice to put principle ahead of politics.