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Person: “Oh, so you’re from the islands?”
Person: “Wow, you speak really well! No, honestly! Your English is really good!”
I’ve had this conversation ten trillion times — I’ve counted.
I’d like to make it known that I’ve had more conversations like this with islanders than with palagi people I’ve met. The fact is, people of colour can, and do, show overt and subconscious racism and classism to one another all the time!
Pasifika is the broad term under which anyone from the Pacific archipelago, who isn’t Māori, is placed. There is an assumption that since we are all one people whose ancestors sailed and navigated one ocean, we have a homogenous set of experiences and therefore face the same harsh realities of “one” type of prejudice and discrimination. Let me just say, to those who think this — cool story bro. That’s definitely one of the highest forms of fiction I’ve encountered in my three years studying English Literature here at Vic.
As “one” Pasifika community, we’ve done an amazing job addressing the discrimination that we have faced at the hands of “white society.” What we haven’t done well at is confronting and discussing the ways in which we look down on each other. As a non-New Zealand citizen, I have met several New Zealand Pacific Islanders who were condescendingly surprised at the “wonderful” progress that I, and people like me, have made by getting into university.
It could well be that some people see this less-than-subtle, trying-to-compliment brand of discrimination as harmless. “We genuinely meant that you speak English well!” is probably going to get thrown about a lot. Well, I genuinely mean that I am genuinely offended by the revelation that you genuinely thought that I genuinely couldn’t speak a language that has genuinely been forced on us.
This genuinely needs to stop