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May 7, 2018 | by  | in Ngāi Tauira Opinion | [ssba]

Racial Imposter Syndrome

We’ve all heard the joke about that white girl; the one who thinks she can say and do whatever offensive shit she wants to just because she’s “1/16th native”. People shouldn’t get away with that. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t white/white-passing and mixed race indigenous people out there. I’m one of them. And it gives me pretty bad racial imposter syndrome.

Blood-quantum, where one’s indigeneity is determined by the percentage of indigenous blood that one has, is a concept that most Māori are fairly familiar with. Fortunately, it’s not really something that we are expected to define ourselves by on an institutional level, like it can be for a lot of other indigenous peoples, and most of the Māori people I’ve talked to about my insecurities about being a very white Māori person have insisted that blood quantum is bullshit. But I still feel guilt over calling myself Māori while receiving all the benefits of being white. Identity shouldn’t be based on oppression, but since I don’t experience that oppression in the same way, and at a much lower level, do I get to take part in the measures created to counter that oppression?

The fact of the matter is, if these measures aren’t used, they go away. The more they are used, the more likely they are to continue and improve. If we start to get into the identity politics of who “deserves” to take part, the more we question how we define who is and isn’t Māori. How do people perform indigeneity in the “right way” when there isn’t one? If somebody isn’t raised with their tikanga they’re still Māori. If somebody doesn’t look like what we want Māori to look like they’re still Māori. There is no one right way to be Māori, and despite what all the mean girls in kapa haka and the nasty voices in the back of my head try to tell me, I’m still Māori.


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