A Maori woman living in one of Auckland’s up-market and famous suburbs has been told her use of te reo (the language spoken by Maori people) is “vile” and “disgusting” and has been told she is not welcome in the area.
Rose Greaves has lived in Vermont St, in Ponsonby, for more than seven years.
During that time, she has been the target of racial slurs and threats.
In the latest attack, she received a letter just before lockdown from one of her neighbours telling her to do Ponsonby a favour and leave.
“To the female householder, I have been a resident at Vermont St in Ponsonby for 23 years,” the letter says.
“Since the time that you have occupied the residence at Vermont St, you have caused myself and my neighbours a lot of upset, to say the least!
“The language and level of vulgar display of disgusting behaviour that you produce is absolutely vile.”
Speaking to TVNZ’s Marae program, Ms Greaves said she often spoke te reo to her grandchildren when they visited, as well as friends and family.
She admitted screwing up the letter when she first saw it, knowing immediately that the writer was referring to her being proudly Maori.
“My being Maori, my speaking Maori, my being very proud to be Maori – openly Maori – that’s who I am.”
The writer also took aim at the taonga (a Maori word referring to a treasured possession in Maori culture), weaving and other handicrafts the grandmother – a traditional weaver – makes and displays in the front of her home.
“Not to mention the rubbish items you put in your front yard is pathetic and vile,” they wrote.
Ms Greaves relayed the racist attacks she had been subjected to in the time she has lived in Ponsonby.
“I’ve lived here for over seven years and during that time, I’ve had threats – death threats – from the White Power to burn my house down with me in it.
“I’ve been called n***** monkey several times. So the letter is quite tame compared to those experiences I’ve had,” she told the program.
In the letter, the neighbours goes on to describe how they and their fellow neighbours had worked hard and paid top rates.
“You have done nothing,” the person wrote to Ms Greaves.
“You’re here because Housing NZ put you here. You don’t pay any rates … nothing!
“There is a playground across the road yet that doesn’t stop your disgusting behaviour. You are an embarrassment to Ponsonby!
“Please, please do Ponsonby a favour and get Housing NZ to transfer you. You are not liked and not welcome here.”
Ms Greaves said she would not be leaving her home – a place where her grandchildren and family often visited; as well as her weaving students.
She said she also hoped whoever wrote the letter would one day come and introduce themselves and get to know her.
“I don’t want my mokopuna (grandchildren) to grow up and be whakamā (shamed or embarrassed) because of the colour of their skin.
“So I feel I have a responsibility to continue what I was taught by my kuia (elderly Maori women/relatives) – and that is to have love for everyone.”
This article originally appeared on the NZ Herald and was reproduced with permission