If we’re friends on Facebook or real life, you might know the whole Israel Folau situation makes me feel like saying things you’re not meant to print in the paper. If we’re not, I’ve summed up those feelings here.
If “the fight of your life” is to be allowed to tell your 280k followers that my gay mates and whānauare inherently evil, while keeping your $5m property portfolio, you can’t have my money. If youdon’t think there are bigger problems the world could solve with $3 million, or your donation, take some time to look around, please.
I was reflecting recently on why I’m still feeling/thinking about it. I don’t like carrying that kind of energy around, so I was interested in why I was doing so. And I realised what it was.
It’s not just the harmful effect his words have on our already vulnerable rainbow community andwhānau. Other people with platforms and influence as big have done worse and I didn’t clench my fists as hard. It’s not just the asking of $3 million from a society with much bigger problems than one man’s rugby contract. There have been bigger misuses of putea that didn’t annoy me as much.
I get angry because of the people who connect to Israel the most. Most of us are more likely to listen to the people who look like us, and he looks like a group of us who sometimes don’t seem to have enough good role models.
I’m not Samoan, I don’t play league, but I know what that lack of relevant examples feels like. The minds he’s most likely to reach are the same ones I try to set a positive example for in the different kinds of mahi I do, because there are plenty of bad role models for us, setting unhelpful and unhealthy examples.
Because of his relevance to some of them, my Māori and Pacific Island whānaunga and mates are more likely to listen when he talks. Knowing it’s those people, my people, who are most likely to hear, maybe even adopt his views is what makes my knuckles white.
So my call to action, kāore, our call to action, is this. If you’re in a position to lead, to be a good role model, please do. If you’re doing something helpful, something worth sharing, tell the world. That’s how you amplify the difference you already make. That’s how you offset the negative examples who fire from the shadows.
“But that’s not the Kiwi way,” you might hear.
Kāore te kūmara e kōrero mō tōna ake reka.
The kūmara doesn’t speak of its own sweetness.
Ignore that whakataukī – don’t worry about others calling you a kūmara bragging about its sweetness. We can tell when you’re doing it for the right reasons.
There are plenty of bad role models for mine and your people to follow. But you can be one of the good ones. Be a leader and fight back with a better example. Be a role model who reminds us of the good we can do.
Tell us about it. Be the one we can turn to, away from the negative. Do it today.
You might be surprised how many of us need you.
Pera Barrett is a rap singer, story writer and Shoebox Christmas freedom fighter. He is the 2019 Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero of the Year for his work providing Christmas gifts to children in low decile schools. He was born and grew up in Ōtaki.