Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Kiwi Samoan, NZ born Samoan, Hamo, coconut, fob, bunga, Pasifika, Polynesian, native, Pacific Islander, overstayer...

What's in a label?

Labels come in the form of brands or products that you have come to know and trust, brands that you may find a particular affinity with, some brands that are endorsed by celebrities you admire and you may even call some of these labels or brands, your favourites.

It can be challenging to deal with labels as an individual or a collective.  Especially when the labels associated with you or your group are negative, derogatory and sometimes even, completely missing  the mark.

In my relatively short life thus far, I have experienced or have been subject to many different labels attached to my ethnicity.  I haven't included "Pacifica" in the title because for me, it mixes English with reference to the Pacific and I guess it seems incorrect (let's be honest, it's actually completely wrong really!) to my sensibilities as a wordsmith.  Ill semantics at its worst or how Amy Winehouse puts it eloquently as "What kind of f***ery is this?"

+Te Mihinga Komene recently shared a link with me entitled "21 Racial Microaggressions You Hear On A Daily Basis" from buzzfeed.com.  I read through this and chortled to myself as I realised yes, I can relate to that.  The link showed 21 different individuals holding signs of misconceptions or racial stereotypes (at least the most common ones that irritated them).  I reflected on these racial microaggressions and even came up with a top 5 list for myself:

1. You speak really good English!
2. Were you born here?
3. Do you speak fluent Samoan?
4. All Islanders are musical aye?
5. Are you Tongan or Filipino?

Yes these questions have irritated me over the years, these racial microaggressions that can niggle at you and if you let it, can seep into your skin and affect you to your core if you let it sink further enough.

I guess the thing that irks me is that racial microaggressions are commonplace but what about the other types of microaggressions that exist?  Employment microaggressions? Educational microaggressions?  Socio-economic microaggresssions?

It would be nice if we could learn more about each other and appreciate the cultural diversity, ethnic diversity and identity diversity that we bring to the table.  It would just be nice sometimes for people to ask the right questions, hey would it hurt to do a little research or reading before you bombard me with racial microaggressions, know me before you paint me with a broad brush stroke that is probably as thick as my lips or hips or the lucky dips that Pacific Islanders purchase in the hopes of winning the lottery or the hot chips that I eat on the odd occasion.

Kiwi Samoan, NZ born Samoan, Hamo, coconut, fob, Pasifika, Polynesian, Pacific Islander, overstayer.  Kiwis are flightless birds and our national icon but refer to Samoans who are Kiwis through and through, NZ born Samoans are Samoans who are born in Aotearoa, Hamo is a colloquial expression for Samoans, coconuts are hard nuts to crack (lovely term for islanders during the Dawn Raids) but are sweet and refreshing, fob is an acronym for "fresh off the boat" referring to new migrants from the islands and often used as a derogatory term, bunga (boonga) is another derogatory term, Pasifika describes people that the government uses when referring to Polynesians even though they have distinct ethnic groups, Polynesians are people from "many islands", natives are a quaint way of referring to people who are indigenous to the land or from a local area,  Pacific Islanders are people from the Pacific region, overstayers are people who overstay their welcome, hang on... am I an overstayer?

No, I was born here.