Cultural Sustainability

How are the ideas that I learned connected to what I already knew?

I have understood for a very long time now that dominant cultures are hegemonic. People and groups outside the dominant culture struggle to sustain their values and thrive. I immediately connected to the ideas presented in this course and they were not new.  I have been privileged to have a very good grounding in history, particularly the oppression of indigenous groups and in particular the devastating effects of colonisation on indigenous Maori.

I believe that sustaining cultural identities are a basic human right and that all societies need to ensure this. I have studied the negative effects of Maori in NZ education and society. I was fortunate to have been a student in Auckland University’s Department of Education when influential Maori academic Linda Tuhiwai Smith and others were lecturing and completing their own graduate studies. I enrolled at the end of the 1980s while the New Zealand state was on the cusp of restructuring. The Tomorrow’s School’s- systems that were predicted to increase inequality, and 30 years later predictions confirmed and some of these structures are being removed (i.e. decile funding of schools). My academic education was deeply enriched because the issues we were exploring and critiquing were directly related to what was happening.

As an educational sociologist, I understand the education system is deeply implicated in reproducing cultural oppression- in subtle and overt ways. The cultural sustainability of Maori in New Zealand can and must be addressed in part through ongoing change to the structures of our mainstream education system.

How did my learning extend your thinking?

In a big picture sense, everything we have been exposed to in the course was not new with regard to the systemic racism suffered by Maori, and other marginalised ethnic groups.  I’m pretty quiet about my understanding of Te Ao Maori but it’s fair to say that but I have an above average understanding compared to the average Pakeha NZ bear- I mention this primarily as people often assume that because I have a US accent I am not aware of NZ history (note: there are also lots of parallels because I was raised in a Pacific state- Hawaii).

l am glad that the course touched on ‘Pakeha Paralysis’, as the course referred to it. I have for a long time understood this as ‘liberal white guilt’,  feeling ashamed as a white person for the wrongs of the past (and present!). I too carry shame about this but I am not as paralysed as I was when I was younger. I have learned to know that Maori welcome allies and that Pakeha do have rights to speak- not for Maori, but as allies who interrupt racism and who lead our own people to take charge of our racism. They didn’t create racism and its not their job to solve it!

What do I still find challenging or puzzling?

I have not been able to explore the great literature that the course has provided. so I would say that I am challenged to keep up to speed with the wealth of information.

Some questions I often wonder about:

  • Why are Pakeha waiting for Maori to show us the way?
  • How much longer will it take for more NZ’ers to realise that we (Pakeha) will be enriched by building respectful relationships with Maori?
  • Why can’t racist Pakeha or those who are otherwise steeped and wedded to wester discourses not able to see how much we can benefit from