OF TWO RACES
The writer of this essay, who belongs to the Arawa tribe, is chief sub-editor of the Taranaki Daily News. He has written widely on Maori subjects and foreign affairs; he is also a practised artist and did the drawing on this page.
How many people in New Zealand come of a union of the country's two races—European and Maori? No one can be sure. Perhaps it is 30,000, perhaps 50,000 or 100,000. The exact numbers do not matter greatly, what does matter is that there is a section of our population by birth so constituted. They are really not Maoris in the full meaning of the word although for practical purposes many regard themselves as such; they are certainly not Europeans in the full meaning of that word either. But beyond doubt they are New Zealanders, and perhaps, without stretching the argument more than its latent logic will allow, truer New Zealanders than those of full blood of either of the other races.
To be of one and yet not of one, to be of the other and yet not of the other is a situation which on the surface would appear to offer to all caught in its grasp little but perplexity, anxiety and confusion. And yet in fact this is not so. Indeed and emphatically it is not so. It is pertinent to ask why.
Let me make it very clear that in examining this question I am not on the outside looking in. Because I am proud of the blood of both races which has been handed down to me from European and Maori ancestors, I am very much on the inside looking out. But before I can look out clearly and speak out coherently, I must look in impartially and look round carefully.
This is what I see.
I see all sorts and conditions of men and women. They vary physically, they vary culturally, they vary by virtue of their educational attainments, they vary by way of their station in life and in society, they vary in their attitudes to this life and to this society.
Physically the differences are striking. On one hand there are men and women who are practically indistinguishable from Maoris of pure blood, on the other there are those who would pass almost anywhere as Europeans. And between them there are as many shades, grades and variations of face, figure, limb and colour as there are mutations of light and shadow in a cloudy sky at sunset.
Depending on their appearance they tend to move towards one pole or the other. Thus those who most appear to be Maori are very often those who are indeed closer to the Maori side of their ancestry than to the European. The converse is equally true. If in appearance the man or woman of part blood is European, the tendency is for him or her to live the life of a European New Zealander rather than that of a Maori New Zealander. This is of course not only understandable, but is no more than would be expected. Like has ever called to like and has ever been listened to, if not always obeyed.
I have said there is a tendency one way or the other according to physical attributes. Let us now consider the position of the man of two races who, while physically closer to one people, is nearer to the other in his mode of life. The principal factors influencing this position—which is not a rare one—are temperament, environment and employment.
By some genetic arrangement quite beyond our control—even if we did wish to control it—the man of mixed blood sometimes comes among
us who is Maori in appearance but European by nature. This inherited bias may not be so apparent if the man's environment is a Maori one and if his employment keeps him in close contact with Maoris. But if he should live his life in a city and choose to work in surroundings typical of modern city life with men and women who are normal, average European New Zealanders, then the chances are that he will be happy and contented and that his personality will develop fully. He is like a plant whose roots are set in fertile soil, whose leaves reach out gratefully for sun, rain and air. Although he may to the outward eye look as out of place as a red cabbage among a row of green ones, yet it is only the colour that makes the difference. Under it all the cabbage is still a cabbage.
If the good Lord arranged such a man's temperamental make-up in this fashion surely we cannot cavil. Let us accept him for what he is—a brown pakeha.
Many of us think that all people of Maori blood should try to weld into their lives, wherever they may be, something of the traditions of their Maori ancestors, should try to bring into this 20th century some part of the old time, the far-off days, the culture of the land before it knew green fields and award wages and Rugby matches. I personally think that this is a worthwhile aim but far be it from me to condemn—as some of my friends do tend to condemn—the man of part blood who accentuates the European side of his character. He usually has little real choice. He is happier that way. We cannot change it. He is usually well adjusted to his environment and a stable citizen. Good luck to him.
The man who really needs our consideration, however, is the man with the European bias who has not moved to the environment of which he is at heart a member. He remains in the Maori one which he dislikes, critical, perverse, even antisocial, looking to the other world for his standards and his examples and modelling his ways on its ways. And because all too often he has not the experience to discern nor the education to distinguish, he will choose standards which are false, examples which are unworthy and models which do not reflect the best aspects of the culture of which at heart he longs to be a part. Let us recognise him when we meet him and let us help him if it is in our power.
Conversely, we have the white Maori, the man who is European in appearance but who is by nature a Maori. There are many such people. Where they live in a Maori or part-Maori environment they are as well adjusted to their surroundings and as happy in them as the brown pakeha in his city. He is a happy man who lives where his heart says he ought, with people he feels are his own, where the ways of life seem fitting, proper and fully attuned to inward, unexpressed and unexpressible standards.
But not everyone is at loggerheads, as it were, with his temperament. Many would like to live in a certain way or in a certain community, find that such a course is impracticable and are able without psychological confusion to adjust themselves to things as they are. This is never better demonstrated than when part Maoris marry, set up their own homes and come to terms with life. Those who choose European wives or husbands find themselves drawn more and more towards the European side. Those whose partners are Maori will more than likely find that they live in an atmosphere far more Maori than that of their brothers or sisters who have not done so. It is right that this should be so for otherwise conflicts could arise in the home and endanger its happiness.
Between the extremes of the brown pakeha and the white Maori the people who are of two races move and vary, graduate and mutate. They do not fit easily into categories, nor, indeed, should they. They are the half-castes, the quarter-castes, the three-quarter Maoris who are an integral part of our New Zealand population and whose contribution to the New Zealand way of life is not an insignificant one.
How best can such a contribution be made? In what sphere of activity today can the talents and characteristics of the Maori race be best applied?
The answer can only be in general terms. It is the answer also to the same question if it be applied to full Maoris as well as to those of part blood. The contribution, however small, will be made best if it is whole-hearted, and it can be made in any sphere of activity.
Maoris, be they of full blood or part, are a minority people who must accept the fact that they live with the spotlight of public opinion blazing down upon them. By our very colour, our names, the shape of our noses even, we are identified as being different. It is all very well to ask for the same treatment as would be accorded an alien of some European race, but who can easily detect the Greek from the Hungarian or the Hungarian from the dark Cornishman? They all merge into the European pattern whereas we are readily identified for what we are. There is nothing wrong with this. We cannot change it. No one blames us for it. But let us clearly recognise it and the difficulties attached to it. And the greatest difficulty of belonging to a class which is, on the surface at least, different from others is that the action of one member brings praise or blame upon the others, regardless of the justice of such a judgment.
Thus when a Maori succeeds in some task or vocation, he becomes a spearhead for the advancement of others of his race. When he fails he erects a barrier against the progress of others of his race.
The task then is clearly and beyond argument to carry out everything, however humble, as well
as it can possibly be done with the sure knowledge that not only will one be judged on the performance, but many.
When a Maori gets into trouble all too often his race is named directly and blamed indirectly for the misdemeanour. But the converse is equally true. We can make the most of our identity for the benefit of all. This is what we want to hear more of:—
“I had a Maori nurse to care for me when I was ill and she was wonderful …”
“The children love their Maori school teacher …”
“I don't know what the council would do without that splendid gang of Maoris …”
We, the heirs of both races, have a special task in this matter. The pakeha will look on us as Maoris and will judge those of full blood on our acts just as much as he will on theirs. But we, with our inherited and acquired knowledge of the European way of life—indeed for many of us it is the only way of life we know—are pro-consuls extraordinary for all the rest.
Thus by our very birth we have inherited that which is both heavy burden and inestimable privilege.