End Colonial Mentality: Jacinda Ardern as Pacific Islander of the Year – REALLY?

*Sigh* I can’t believe I’m even writing this post now. If you keep up with Polynesian news then you probably heard about Island Business naming New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern as Pacific Islander of Year, and man did the flood gates open. I mean come on! Where is the one love here? So let’s dive into this cause there’s things we need to unpack in talking about this decision from the Fiji based magazine.

What is Colonial Mentality?

I think this is something very important that we need and have to talk about. It’s something that I’m just now learning about, but I can see how much it has played a major part in my life and way of the thinking. So, what is the definition of colonial mentality? Wikipedia defines it as, ” is the internalized attitude of ethnic or cultural inferiority felt by people as a result of colonization, i.e. them being colonized by another group.” Essentially it means we hold the white man’s standard of things higher than our own people. *cough, cough Island Business* It years and years of generations being told that their way of doing things, traditions, hairstyles, fashion, etc. are worthless.

If you’re like me, this realization starts making sense when you think back to your childhood. Who tried to find any way possible to make their hair fit the white man’s standard? Your facial features were more “white”? I could go on. For me, my hair was the bane of my existence. I could pass as white (which one of my best friends who is Black told me is a sad thing that I had been accustomed to saying), but my hair didn’t pass the white test. That and I do have some melanin and was stronger than most white girls, but other than that I was pretty much your basic white girl. Looking back, I hate that I had become used to saying, “passing.” Why did I need to say that? Colonial mentality.

See when I was in college, there were Twitter accounts called “Basic White Girl Problems.” They tweeted hilarious basic white girl stuff, but I felt like I couldn’t or shouldn’t call myself a “white girl.” I mean it’s half true, but it still didn’t sit well with me. But you know what? Our ancestors a couple of years ago knew I needed to snap out of it. I started working at a place where my coworkers were very much all about embracing your heritage. Owning it. I’m so blessed to have had those amazing coworkers. My friend though did warn me that the journey to discovering my heritage was going to be a tough one because I didn’t know the true history of our Polynesian people. I didn’t the struggles our ancestors went through when the white man landed on our shores. Did you know those struggles can affect us today due to colonial mentality? I didn’t till I read this, “In psychology colonial mentality has been used to explain instances of collective depression, anxiety, and other widespread mental health issues in populations that have experienced colonization.”

Have you wondered why our people are struggling real hard with mental illness? I have cause we are also some pretty happy people. Well, I have an idea now. Trickled down through history, colonial mentality is a factor. Let’s break it down. Collective – all of us. We are all subject to colonial mentality for generations. Being told that we don’t have worth from those whose opinion are given more value than ours. Which by the way doesn’t help when people like, oh I don’t know, Sammy J, Common Kings, and Island Business are part of the problem and not the solution. Then you have the word anxiety. Well, duh. There’s gonna be anxiety. Do you fit in? Can you speak your language or will you be discriminated for? Do those boys throw stuff in your hair to see if it sticks? Are you made fun of for being a strong girl? Yeah, a person would develop anxiety, and it just goes on and on.

I can’t unpack everything in a blog post that’s supposed to be focused on this magazine’s decision, but this Instagram post gave some great indicators of colonial mentality:

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Does most of this look familiar? Does ALL of it look familiar? Yeah, me too.

Okay Looking at You Island Business

So, I couldn’t find the editor of the magazine, and I’m not sure how they came to this conclusion, but I do know who wrote the article. The name credited is Dev Nadkarni, and get this – you have to subscribe to read the article that was published in December. Listen if you’re going to name someone “Person of the Year,” at least make this article readable to the public without basically hiding it. Like I totally understand the reason why you did because it means you can get more subscribers and what not, but like you had to know this was going to spark some Islander buzz. Because plenty of us do not – let me repeat that – DO NOT agree with this decision at all.

Why did you piss off a great majority of Islanders? Well, for one it doesn’t help that mainstream media picked up. This means you are sending the message to everyone outside the Pasifika circle that we have literally run out of influential people to choose from and had to go with the Prime Minister of one of the biggest Pasifika communities in the world. When in actuality we have heaps of wonderful people to choose from. I swear there are movers and shakers who are grinding it out daily! They are making their mark on the world and leaving a legacy that we are proud of. Like the one who is going to make a HUGE mark in America is Parris Goebel. In February, she’s the choreographer for the biggest sporting event in the nation. That’s major! And, Parris is a name many, many PI and those outside the PI community know. Don’t get me started on those who are like PI sub-celebrities all over the world killing it. You had a literal ocean of people to choose from and you chose – JACINDA ARDERN.

What makes this so annoying for me is that homegirl didn’t show up for the protests at Ihumātao. Like she’s all PI positive until it really matters, and trust me this PM was like one of the leading women in the world I looked up to cause when you have a terrible orange in the White House, she was and in a way is still someone to admire. But, y’all didn’t have to make her PI Person of the Year. Cause when it comes to true PI issues where is she? Is she making the communities of PI people better? Are homes more affordable? Is mental health for PI people a priority for her? Just speaking a few Maori words in a speech doesn’t make you Maori. Just making it law to have Maori signs along with English signs doesn’t make you PI.

It’s time we wake up and realize we have to be careful when politicians say and do things just to get a vote. What is in their heart? When they are no longer running or when the doors are closed do they still have the love in their heart for PI people?

Pasifika Allies Please Stand Up!

Now, Ardern may be a true ally and truly care about the community, but that doesn’t detract from the point that I believe Island Business made a mistake. But, let’s not place all the blame on the magazine. Where is Ardern? Why isn’t she standing up and saying, “Hey, I appreciate the love, but I have someone I’m going to pass this honor onto.” I mean the caption for the article did say they had an “exclusive interview” with her. Why didn’t she take this time to stand up for the PI community she seems to love so much?

We nee PI allies. We need people outside of the PI community who are wiling to stand up and say, “Hey, how about you don’t do that?” Allies help spread the message outside of the community. They are our bridges and introductions to people who we can help educate and bring into the fold. I mean I know how much we love to share, and we are very hospitable people.

Time to Stand Up for Our People

Y’all I’m so tired of our people downing ourselves. I’m just going to say this once – WHITE PEOPLE DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING AND THEY FOR SURE AIN’T GOD! *sigh* That felt good. I just am so sick and tired of our people holding white people up on a pedestal as if they were all knowing. The, excuse my language, fuck they are. Don’t get me wrong, I’m half white, but like it’s as if some of the older generation think that the white man or anyone outside our community has the golden answer or way of doing things.

Sure, the Europeans may have given us some modern things we appreciate, but guess what? We’re about to have another take over by the Asians and I for sure am not going to stand by and watch another group of people try to take control of our islands. So, it’s damn time we stand up for each other. In all honesty, I think the Mau needs to come back. I think the Pacific Islander version of the Black Panthers need to come back. Why are we waiting to be oppressed to form groups. How about some forward thinking and being ahead of the game. I think it’s high time we stand up together – unified as one.

And, that my friends, my fam is the koko!

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