'Why does the media give these voices so much air'

9:35 pm on 3 December 2017

When I first started as a journalist at the age of 20 I was told by a Pākehā man that I was mispronouncing my own iwi.

150714. Photo Diego Opatowski / RNZ. Generic radio studio. Microphone, Onair, console

RNZ's use of te reo was the subject of a controversial column in the Otago Daily Times which has sparked much reaction. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Early in my internship I signed off a piece as "… in Tāmaki Makaurau," a complaint was made internally, by a Pākehā man, and I was handed a warning.

Recently, I was asked about my Master's thesis on the reclamation of mana wāhine identity within my whānau. I was told it was a waste of time by, you guessed it, a Pākehā man.

Amid the recent rhetoric about how horrid our reo is to listen to and how it is rammed down the ears of people who don't understand it, it didn't surprise me who was leading the xenophobic - and brace yourself, I am going to use the R word - racist narrative.

How I love how Pākehā men tell me how and when our reo should be used! Thanks for reaffirming the colonised reality that I live in!

This is not to disrespect all Pākehā men and put them all in the same category (god forbid. That NEVER happens to Māori). We have Guyon Espiner and Jack Tame jumping on the reo waka and mihi to them for sure, but this shouldn't be making headlines.

The argument that always comes out is "freedom of speech" - everyone has their right to freedom of expression under the Human Rights Act, with limitations of course.

But why does the media give these voices so much air, and why should we take any notice of these archaic, racist and offensive views. All it does is encourage and incite these views to flow in the comment sections online and also those in real world interactions that make my blood boil. This rhetoric vindicates racism - which needs to stop.

And seriously Don Brash, if you need some book recommendations for the summer break, hit me up. Your bookshelf obviously needs an overhaul.

I can only speak from my perspective, I am not a fluent speaker. I went to kura kaupapa for a short time in my primary schooling and have tried my best to keep what I do have and it is a lifelong goal to continue my reo journey.

My mum didn't have the opportunity to learn the reo - she wasn't given a choice - my nana like many others of that generation, was strapped for speaking her language. She had English forced upon her and was taught that it was of no value.

By the time I was born my parents saw the value in having the reo and took steps to help me make this happen, for that I am forever grateful. I have stopped saying that having reo is a "privilege", it is a right that our ancestors fought to maintain and when these views rear their horrible head I am reminded that we continue that fight.

RNZ has come a long way in a short time - those Pākehā men said those things to me five years ago - and that is to the credit of amazing journalists who have pushed for this and persisted to have some reo on our national broadcaster.

There have also been other journalists who have been doing this for much longer and to them I mihi as well.

In reading so much on this kaupapa, I am always drawn back to my kōpū. I am due to give birth to my first child early next year. These racist views and attacks on our reo, have made me more defiant in ensuring baby comes into a world where speaking te reo isn't even a question.

* Māni Dunlop is Ngāpuhi, a former RNZ reporter, Masters fellow and freelance journalist.

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