Whanganui not Wanganui
Many Pakeha live in fear Maori will treat them like they treated Maori.
That was another view my uncle Syd Jackson used when he spoke about race relations in this country.
I was reminded of it when outraged Pakeha rang Radio Live to declare their right to their culture and identity after the Geographic Board, deliberating on the recommendation that the H be put back into Wanganui, acknowledged the spelling had been wrong for 150 years.
Call me stupid – as my talkback co-host often does – but how can a culture be threatened if the misspelling of a place name is corrected by the insertion of a single letter?
The only culture and identity under threat has been Maori culture.
My parents and grandparents had the language beaten out of them by teachers told to assimilate Maori kids.
Barring Maori being spoken in schools proved successful for successive governments – the language was just about destroyed.
It was not until the last generation that Maori was given respect.
In 1984 kohanga reo started and it looked like Maori might have a chance of saving the language. Maori language programmes started on TVNZ, Maori radio and Maori immersion and bilingual schools began in the 80s and 90s, and Maori TV kicked off in 2004.
We even started a new Maori Party.
So despite the disgraceful policies of previous governments, Maori have battled on with their efforts to save their language and culture.
There’s no doubt that this Maori renaissance has been of great concern to the racists who would have loved to have seen our language disappear. That’s what the fuss about the H being put back into Wanganui is about.
The racists there, and around the country, want to stop Maori having their language correctly spelt.
Why? They don’t really know, but I suspect they think Maori are getting too big for their boots and that if they give way to the H, then Maori will probably want the whole country next.
No doubt their fear is something akin to what uncle Syd said – “that Maori might want retribution for the way they were treated by Pakeha”.
But putting the H back is nothing to fear and will only lead to better Maori and Pakeha relations, just as the initiatives of the 80s, 90s and 2000 have proven.