Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Biculturalism – what exactly is it?

It is referred to in our government policy, discussed in employment interviews and it even gets the odd mention in some of our social conversations but what does this thing called BICULTURALISM really require of us?

For many, just hearing the word ‘biculturalism’ triggers feelings of INADEQUACY and GUILT. It seems to be SOMETHING we feel we should be doing SOMETHING about but at the same time, WHAT exactly should we be doing?

For others… YAWN! Have we not talked about this issue enough already? WE KNOW that many Maori do not do well in this society, WE KNOW of the unfairness and the injustice in times past but surely it is time to move on… isn’t it? The question is - how do we move forward in a way that is best for both Maori and non-Maori?

Biculturalism is viewed by many as an attempt to ‘respond effectively to the different needs of two cultures’. The Treaty of Waitangi contains the same intentions – EQUAL OUTCOMES in this partnership of two cultures!

Sometimes I look at my two boys – created so differently, both so very valuable, both sharing the same space in our home. It’s taken me some time to realise this but a ‘one size fits all’ approach simply does not work for them and it definitely does not produce EQUAL OUTCOMES.

Do I continue with an approach that works for one child but not the OTHER and expect that the OTHER should just adapt?

Do I just allow a lowering of expectations for the OTHER, settling for the view that it is just the way it is?

No way! I love them BOTH and want to see BOTH of them fruitful and living life to the fullest! The only way forward is to KNOW them BOTH, to have a good relationship with them, to see what works for them. As a very practical example, one needs space and time to chill after school but the other likes my attention and wants to ‘download’ his day - so that is what they get as one way to ‘respond EFFECTIVELY to the different needs of the two [BOYS]’

Considering this then, what can we do in our workplace, our church, our neighbourhood, perhaps even in our own family that allows us to get to know the OTHER, better than we do right now? In which situation do they work/develop/contribute best and what can we do to accommodate and encourage that? How do we love our neighbours (indeed our treaty partners) as ourselves? Perhaps if we begin to take action from this position, we may be able to remove the seemingly unattainable notion of BICULTURALISM from our list of ‘Things I would like to do’ and make it part of the way we live our lives?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks hana, really great way of explaining this...