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6.2.1 Regional Environment

Regional demographics create different environments with respect to the percentage of Maori enrolled at particular schools:

i) …It’s a lot easier back home [Rotorua], I’d hate to be a Maori kid growing up down here; it would be very much more isolated, its very much “spot the black” down here still. (Watson).

ii) The first time I encountered racism was when I came to live in Christchurch eight years ago, [until then] I never really understood what racism was. As kids we were called “blackies” and we called them Pakeha “maggots”…. I was a taxi driver, picking up this Pakeha guy and he turned around and says to me: “I don’t want no black nigger picking me up”. I was really shocked - it really blew me away…I went out[side], collected myself and went back in and dealt to him…. Everyone up North said “why are you going down there? They’re all prejudice down there, they don’t like Maoris, especially North Island Maoris” …I think the reason for that is because most North Island Maori are dark skinned…. We’ve lived in Aranui for six years, Aranui was sort of like living in the Bronx, and it’s who you know that keeps you safe. We’ve learnt how to look after ourselves, racist remarks don’t worry us anymore, it’s just like “sticks and stones”… unless they [Pakeha] get physical with us…we just ignore them. (Hana).

Watson (i) and Hana (ii) are bicultural, familiar with both Te Ao Maori and Te Ao Pakeha (Reid and Cram, 2004:34-35). Their experiences of cultural and social isolation can in part be attributed to local demographics, as Maori in Christchurch represent only seven percent of the general population of 344,100, eighty-three percent of which are of European descent as of June 2004.50 Moreover, Maori are relatively invisible, tending to inhabit the margins, living primarily within the Eastern section of the city, in areas generally associated with lower socio-economic status. Cultural isolation is exacerbated in a largely monocultural city where great emphasis and pride is placed on its British heritage. While the stature of Ngai Tahu has increased

considerably since they achieved political and economic prominence, they remain an exotic “other” on the local (and national) landscape. The incident involving Hana’s (ii) refusal to be subordinated by overt manifestations of interpersonal racism

demonstrates the potential of liminal experiences that are fraught with danger to provide “invaluable opportunities for change and insights” (Hall et al., 1994:33).

6.2.2 Schools

Notwithstanding that participants who had not left school prematurely experienced numerical isolation irrespective of geographical location, perceptions of cultural isolation were underpinned by the stigmatization of being Maori in mainstream educational settings:


i) …by the time I got into the seventh form [at a Central North Island College]…there was one other Maori there…his mum was the Maori teacher at school…. The ratio of Maori/Pakeha in the Third Form was half and half, possibly even more [Maori]…but once you hit 15, everyone was expelled or gone. (Watson).

ii) Halfway through my third year of [a Taranaki] secondary school, of the 60 plus Maori that I personally knew, less than 10 were still in attendance and for the first time in my life I felt alone. (Whetu).

iii) There were only two Maori seventh formers in [my Girls’ College in Marlborough] (Aroha). iv) My [Pakeha] teacher, he had been in the Maori Battalion during the war, so he knew a bit of [te

reo] Maori and he used to call me “eh hoa” and I thought he was being bloody rude and it was quite embarrassing because you know you were “singled out”…. [a South Canterbury city] is the most European town on the face of the planet I reckon, and “being Maori” … wasn’t really the thing to be and when people were singling me out as being one, it was a bit

uncomfortable…. He actually had a lot of respect for Maori and knew my grandfather…there was the odd teacher you knew would rather not have a Maori in their class. (Rakau).

v) …at [a South Canterbury] Primary School in standard IV…a teacher…got everybody in the class to say what they were going to do when they grew up. I said I either wanted to be a lawyer or a diplomat. And she thought it was a great joke…. At that stage I was the only Maori in the class …and her explanation for it being a great joke was because “Maori are only good at the end of a shovel”. …I reacted to the kids, because the rest of the kids thought it was a great joke too and I was really embarrassed about even having said or dared to say that I wanted to be more than a labourer. (Tom).

vi) [A Christchurch] Intermediate - that was hell…there was some sort of racism there because there were only limited Maori students and even the coloured kids were “white” you know, they had sort of been turned. That’s probably because they went to [a middle-class] Primary or whatever…I went back to [another Intermediate in a working class suburb] which was fine because it was predominantly Maori. (John).

The lack of educational persistence by Maori pupils at the North Island high schools attended by Watson (i) and Whetu (ii) is indicative of the way state and institutional racism operates, through institutional policies and practices, to exclude the majority of Maori from achieving educational qualifications, and ensures that participants like Aroha (iii) are isolated by the absence of ethnic peer support during their years as senior students. However, the stigmatization experienced by Rakau (iv) and Tom (v) in South Island schools demonstrates how isolation is intensified by expressions of overt interpersonal racism in schools with minimal numbers of Maori pupils. In contrast the sense of isolation John (iv) experienced within a Maori school community

is indicative of inter-group differentiation amongst marginalized individuals vis-à-vis their integration and acculturation into mainstream settings (Hall et al., 1994:27).