The debate over how Maori is Simon Bridges

Stacey Kirk writes:

Is it a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t, for Simon Bridges?

He’s the first Māori leader of the National Party, and that is no small thing.  …

But Māori is still an incredibly intimidating culture to dive into, as proven by the at-times rabid response of some commentators and opponents in relation to Bridges’ “Māoriness”. 

I say that as a Māori of Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi descent. And one, like many in New Zealand, who had a very average Kiwi-European upbringing.

Some people claim you are not Maori if you were not brought up in a Maori household, interacting with the local Marae etc. But that definition disenfranchises almost all urban Maori.

I’m very fair skinned, whereas my sister is very dark. We look alike, it’s just that one of us has mum’s (German/Scottish) colouring and one of us has dad’s (Māori). And no one ever questions her Māori heritage – in fact, it’s assumed. 

I am proud of my Māori heritage but I’m sad to admit, I’ve given up talking about it unless I’m standing next to my sister. I’m a New Zealander.

And of course the two are not mutually exclusive.

Bridges has never tried to trade off his Māori heritage. It’s others who have made it a controversy, though if asked about it he has to provide a response. 

He can earnestly say that he hopes it would inspire more Māori to reach for higher education, higher office, to vote National, or to simply think that whatever it is they want to do, they can achieve it.

Some commentators have effectively already said: “Why would they? Are you even that Māori.” 

Or Bridges could say ‘look, I’ve never grown up on or near a marae so I’m not going to be pushing it’. 

To which those same pundits would respond: “You’re not proud of your heritage, you’re just pulling the ladder up behind you.” 

Yep, either way some condemn him.

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