Te Reo Māori champion counters racist ignorance with intelligence

By Te Ao - Māori News

Racist backlash targeting a Māori business in Christchurch which chose to boycott Watties products hasn’t had the affect abusers may have hoped it would.

Business owner and proud advocate of te reo Māori, Anton Matthews (Te Rārawa)  is standing by his decision to can Watties products in his restaurant after a botched marketing campaign the company used disrespected Māori place names.

While the racist reactions didn't surprise him,  he is frustrated at the blind hatred spread by ignorant people and the impact it had on one of his staff.

“Inapō I ringi mai  tetahi tangata i whakautu ai tetahi o a matou kaimahi kaua mo te whakaingoa i te kaimahi kia mohio tatou he pia o te ahomatua o te kura kaupapa i kia ora atu ia katahi ka maringi ka paetere mai nga korero kaikiri a te tangata nei mea rawa ake ka tangi te kotiro nei.”

Matthews says a staff member he didn’t want to name answered a call last night and after answering the phone saying ‘Kia ora’ she was met with an abusive and racist rant from an unknown caller which left her in tears.

He and his team chose to combat the intolerance and ignorance with intelligence and dignity.

Instead of feeding into the hatred they held a team hui and established an action plan and strategy for possible encounters with racist individuals online or in person.

“Kua noho tahi mātou kua āta whiriwhiri kua āta wānanga kua āta matapaki i tētahi rautaki, i ētahi rautaki rainei pēnā ka tūtaki atu koe ki tētahi tangata pēnei, ka aha koe?  Me te whakamōhio atu ki a rātou ko te ao hurihuri tēnei e noho nei tātou, hei aha mā mātou ngā korero a te kaikiri, waiho i te kaikiri ki a rātou ano ki reira tangiweto, tangimeme ai.”

Matthews says his team was aware this is the world we live in and situations like this are to be expected.  He advised his team not to let the rants of ignorant people bring  them down and leave them to whinge, squeal and wail amongst themselves.

While he has faced criticism, Matthews says the positive messages of support and empowerment from Māori and non-Māori alike have outweighed the bad.

He also took the time to thank every single person that had sent messages of support and understanding to him and his whānau.

“E hia kē nei ngā pānui me ngā kōrero tautoko kua tae mai nei ki a  hau mai I te hunga e kōrero Māori, mai i te hunga,  ko ētahi he pākeha e tautoko ana i a mātou. Kāre ano pea kia whakahoki kōrero atu ki a koutou katoa engari kei te kite I te aroha, kā tika me mihi ki a koutou katoa he tānga manawa, he tānga manawa mē mihi kā tika no reira e mihi ana.”