“Outraged” and “disappointed” is only the least of Kia Tanuka's feelings he recalled when asked to describehis reaction to a tweet that accused him of having affiliations to the Mongrel Mob.
"It was a whole new type of racism that I hadn't experienced before, to have my image doing something solid [marching in the Black Lives Matter protest], to be torn down like that.
The comment itself didn't actually offend me as much as the 'diseased bug' statement and that we don't belong in society - we do belong in society!"
Kia's family and friends took to social media to defend him and remind people that he was a loving father and a hard-working man. "I actually feel sorry for this fella, I don't think he or anyone else in between who was involved will ever experience something like that - to have a thousand people stand for you on a platform that you don't even use. It was mana-uplifting, to say the least."
The tweet also resurfaced on other social media platforms, which started another thread of abusive comments about Kia and others who attended the protest. Tanuka says while some people may find the humour in some of the comments, "It's my face attached to it."
"It's a really funny position I find myself in - to be the one whose image is being used and it's my face that they are using to generalise our beautiful people and culture."
Tanuka says last week's tweet was just one of many examples he's experienced of racism in New Zealand.
“When I was a kid and I went to the museum with my mum on a school trip there were a few friends of ours and we were all in a group together. My mum was from Scotland and so we were at the museum - there were me and my three mates and we were being a bit rowdy and playing up in the Māori exhibit and my mum was telling us to be quiet. A lady who worked at the museum came up and asked if we were bothering my mum and was trying to get us away from her, and when my mother realised what this lady was doing she actually hit the roof and I felt embarrassed at the time that she was causing a scene because as a kid I didn’t understand the severity of what was going on.”
Tanuka has not yet received an apology but is hopeful people will be more aware of what they say before they say it.