'Wipe the Māori out' - racist messages and threats towards Māori need to stop

By Rukuwai Tipene-Allen

Māori Authority chairman Matthew Tukaki is no stranger to the sting of social media and other forms of racism and says it needs to stop. 
Tukaki showed Te Ao Mārama a letter that was sent to his home address in which the writer didn't hold back from sharing his opinion. One part of the three-page letter said, "I won't mention that Russell was known as the South Pacific's biggest whorehouse. Māori men let it happen to their wahine .. .now they're angry that Fonterra has used kirimi. They didn't know what cream was before Europeans arrived."

Tukaki says the use of his personal address was "pretty freaky". 

"There was one that came to the letterbox here at home with a photo of me, with my eyes stabbed out," Tukaki says.

As a result he doesn't post things about his whānau or pictures of what they're up to.

He says he intentionally keeps whānau and work separate. "That's me trying to do everything I can to protect my whānau. And it's pretty confronting because my partner is a school teacher and so sometimes things end up in the staffroom or classroom or whatever the case might be."

Backlash continues

By 9.30 on the day he was interviewed there were a lready over a dozen new messages in his inbox, and Tukaki says it's nothing new. 

While backlash may be seen as something that goes hand in hand with a public profile Tukaki believes that shouldn't be the case. "There's a pill you've got to swallow. This is part of being in the public. I guess you've got to roll with the punches. Is that fair though? Is that racism?"

"All those comments, aren't just being directed at me. They've been directed at our young people as well."

"It's alive and well for all to seek. And it's not just in the old traditional letters to the editor where people would write in or ring in the talkback radio show."

He says now people are emboldened and are using their real names and faces with their posts. 

"The message has to be well, if you're so mortified, stand up, call it out. Don't put up with it." It's advice that he has taken on himself by reporting the incidents to the police. He says both the police and human rights have been helpful and supportive.

But how can racism bestopped in Aotearoa? Tukaki has some blunt advice on that. "Somebody said to me the other day, 'Matt, how do we stop racism in the workplace?' It's pretty easy. Don't employ racists." He says workplaces need to do a background check on people to make sure they are not racist before employing them. 

He also says that 2021 saw political leaders challenge Māori in a discriminatory way and used things like He Puapua and the Māori Health Authority. "These politicians, no matter which side of politics they come from need to take some responsibility."

Festering wound

"I'm quite thankful that this is emerging as a big issue, that, you know, we've ripped off the bandaid of this festering wound for all to see. Because I think probably the vast majority of New Zealand no matter their ethnic background would look at some of the stuff that gets said in public and be mortified."

The police came under fire last year because of their slow response to Māori Party co-leaders complaints about a youtube video that featured a masked man who at various times said Māori would be slaughtered in a "civil war," bragged about his killing skills and of training white supremacists, and said he had a plan by "white, brave, patriot men" to "hit" 150 marae, and his wish to take as many Māori out as he could before he "goes."

'Now I know where you live, you black bastard'

Earlier this month Māori researcher and Covid-19 modeller Dr Rawiri Taonui took to Twitter sharing an article about abuse received by two of New Zealand's public figures, which he reshared with the caption, "I know what this feels like."

He continued, saying, "Lots of doxing, fake friend requests, toxic emails, phone calls." He shared with his followers an incident that left readers concerned for his safety, "Just b4 Christmas a Pākehā guy followed me home, did a u-turn as I was checking the mailbox, saying "It's good, now I know where you live, you black bastard."

Twitter commenters called the experience, "horrendous" "appalling" and "disgusting".