Since release of the I, Too, Am Auckland videos (all three of which can be viewed here), a number of questions and critiques have been raised, which this post will attempt to address.
Issue 1: Was there an over-representation of Pacific interviewees relative to Māori interviewees?
In some ways, yes. In other ways, no. With respect to the raw number of interviewees, there was a disproportionate number of Pacific students interviewed. Listed below are some basic descriptive statistics of interviewees:
(*”Māori” includes interviewees who identified solely as Māori, as well as those identifying as Māori and any other ethnicity, including a Pacific background; ** “Pacific” interviewees expressed identifying as Cook Island Maori, Fijian, Niuean, Samoan, and Tongan).
Representation, however, can be viewed in other ways, including how much speaking time interviewees had in the 3 primary videos (i.e., excluding the 90-second Trailer).
|Video 1: “Experiences”||Minutes||Percentage|
|Māori students||6 min, 18 sec||42.6%|
|Pacific students||8 min, 8 sec||55.0%|
|Combination Māori and Pacific students||0 min, 3 sec||0.4%|
|No interviewees||0 min, 18 sec||2.0%|
|Total “Experiences” video||14 min, 47 sec||100.0%|
|Video 2: “Targeted Admission Schemes/Tuākana”|
|Māori students||0 min, 7 sec||1.2%|
|Pacific students||1 min, 9 sec||11.7%|
|Māori staff||8 min, 10 sec||82.9%|
|No interviewees||0 min, 25 sec||4.2%|
|Total “Targeted Admission Schemes/Tuākana” video||9 min, 51 sec||100.0%|
|Video 3: “Solutions”|
|Māori students||2 min, 28 sec||41.2%|
|Pacific students||2 min, 43 sec||45.4%|
|Māori staff||0 min, 33 sec||9.2%|
|No interviewees||0 min, 15 sec||4.2%|
|Total “Solutions” video||5 min, 59 sec||100.0%|
|All 3 Videos Combined
|Māori (students and staff)||17 min, 36 sec||57.5%|
|Pacific students||12 min, 0 sec||39.2%|
|No interviewees||0 min, 58 sec||3.2%|
|Total||30 min, 37 sec||100.0%|
|Māori students, all 3 videos||9 min, 26 sec||44.0%|
|Pacific students, all 3 videos||12 min, 0 sec||55.9%|
|Total, students only||21 min, 26 sec||100.0%|
Although more Pacific students were interviewed than Māori, Māori were featured more in terms of speaking time across the videos when including Māori staff. If only accounting for students, Pacific students did have more time in the videos – roughly 2 and 1/2 more minutes than Māori students. Unfortunately, Pacific staff were not present in videos despite the “I, Too, Am Auckland” team’s requests to a few Pacific staff who were asked. Due to time constraints, further requests to secure Pacific staff representation were not made – a significant limitation.
Faculty representation and level of study amongst student interviewees is also worth presenting:
|Faculty Major(s)||Number Students|
|Medical & Health Sciences||7|
|Creative Arts & Industries||3|
Notably absent are students from the Faculty of Education, where a disproportionately high number of Māori and Pacific students study.
Given the descriptive observations presented above, it is important to highlight that the “I, Too, Am Auckland” project is not and has never been framed as scientific research. Rather, it is based off of scientific research, which has been published in two peer-reviewed academic articles thus far (see here and here), which conveyed the same themes covered in these videos.
Issue 2: Why were Māori and Pacific students grouped together, and why were other ethnic minorities not included?
Māori are recognised as indigenous, tangata whenua (“people of the land”) in Aotearoa New Zealand, whereas Pacific peoples are nga iwi o te moana nui (“people of the Pacific Ocean”); there is an obvious and important distinction. Despite these differences, Māori and Pacific students were grouped together because as expressed in the previously mentioned research, students from both groups experience very similar forms of everyday racism. One key difference is resistance by some majority-group students to discussion in courses over The Treaty of Waitangi/Te Tiriti o Waitangi, which more adversely affects Māori students, being a form of everyday colonialism. Still, Māori and Pacific students must share coping with racialized stereotypes tied to a range of areas (e.g., alleged criminality, poor educational capability).
Additionally in some faculties, Māori and Pacific students can both gain university entry through an admission scheme, which fuels much of the backlash driven by some majority-group students towards Māori and Pacific students. The University’s Tuākana Programme is also used on occassion by some majority-group students to disparage Māori and Pacific students’ educational successes. To this end, there were more similarities than differences with regard to everyday discrimination, and it made sense to group students together in spite of existing heterogeneity.
It was also due largely to the targeted adminission schemes and Tuākana Programme, which frequently apply to both Māori and Pacific students, that this project did not include students from other ethnic minorities, who surely experience their own forms of racism. “I, Too, Am Auckland’s” focus on Māori and Pacific students does not dismiss the experiences that other ethnic minority students face, but that was not this project’s focus. Furthermore, Aotearoa New Zealand is part of Polynesia, giving Māori a regional connection to Polynesian and Melanesian students.
Picture credit here.
Issue 3: Does the “I, Too, Am Auckland” project bring negative attention to Māori and Pacific communities, who should “harden up” and not present themselves as “victims”?
The “I, Too, Am Auckland” team contends that no student should ever need to “get through” discrimination, or “harden up” in order to prepare for life after uni. Ethnic minorities should not have to shoulder the burden of coping with or preparing for racism. Instead, majority-group members who do discriminate should stop doing so, and those who do not discriminate should step up as responsible citizens and bystanders to end racism (just as men should step up to end sexism).
Students partaking in the “I, Too, Am Auckland” videos have engaged in consciousness raising. They are not bringing negative attention to themselves, their families or their broader ethnic communities by speaking up about a serious issue. Instead, they demonstrate courage in speaking up about a sensitive issue that has been ignored for far too long. Whether one agrees or disagrees with these students’ viewpoints, the students should be recognised as leaders who stepped up to speak publicly on an issue they felt strongly about, rather than remain silent and let discrimination persist, thereby impacting future generations of students.
By speaking out, the student interviewees are recognising that they are not simply individuals. They are part of a collective, tied to their families’ prior sacrificies and future Māori and Pacific tertiary students’ well-being. As students who (1) publicly confront a social problem, (2) present solutions, and (3) discuss turning discrimination into educational motivation, these students are not passive victims. For more on this issue, see here.
Issue 4: The discrimination Māori and Pacific students face is not a big deal.
Racism and vestiges of colonialism are always a big deal. They are reminders that ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples are still considered second class citizens, and this has serious implications for some students, as expressed in the videos. Racism and colonialism should never be trivialised.