Race relations: A huge conversation.

Race relations: A huge conversation.

You may be asking why I’m writing about race issues in New Zealand and just what it has to do with family violence.

One thing I have learnt in two years in this role is family violence is not really about alcohol, mental health or anger. It’s about an individual’s pattern of actions used to intentionally control or dominate someone else. It’s about power and control.

Whether anyone wants to admit it, Māori have been the Government’s subordinate partner in a relationship for 250 years. Colonisation systematically dismantled the Maori way of being. The plight of Maori and family violence are irrevocably connected.
One reason for their struggles is the idea that Māori are to blame for their own problems, and if they just put in more effort and tried harder, they could lift themselves out of their economic and social predicaments.

Great advice if we were living in some sort of Utopia, but it’s not relevant in today’s world. To be true we would have to believe every single child born in Aotearoa has the same opportunities. That’s not the case.

We need to look at the world through the relevant lens, breaking down the myths and asking the right questions.
When it comes to family violence, if a woman is in an abusive relationship, the stereotypical response is “If it was that bad, why doesn’t she leave?”

Could it be she has no financial freedom? Or being emotionally broken after years of abuse? Or the fear of being seriously harmed or killed if she does leave? We should be asking “why doesn’t he just stop abusing her?”

We should ignore the question “why don’t they just get a job like the rest of us and stop being lazy?” We should be asking “why do Māori represent 50% of the prison population but only 15% of the population? Why do Māori trail the European population is every social indicator? Are there other factors involved here?

Do I agree with pulling down statues and symbols of yesterday? I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. I do believe however it’s a very important discussion we need to have with open minds, compassion and kindness. We can learn, heal and move forward by looking at the past. It’s not about changing the past, it’s about contextualising it within a moral perspective.

Dane Haskell is the co-ordinator of Taranaki Safe Families Trust.