Brown Brothers; How Negative Stereotypes Affect Polynesian And Maori In New Zealand ‘My demographic is: high school cleaning ladies, fast food burger-making, factory boxpacking, rubbish truck drivers, bus drivers, taxi drivers, sober drivers and living off the pension joy riders — I am a dropout.’ These are all ideas raised and challenged by Joshua Iosefo’s 2011 viral speech, ‘Brown Brother’. ‘Brown Brother’ is one of three texts that will be examined, compared and contrasted in this essay. The second text, ‘Manurewa’, is a short film based on the South Auckland murder of Navtej Singh, a liquor shop owner. The third text is ‘Fish Heads’, a short story written by Aparina Taylor, that focuses on a group of Maori boys who live in the city.
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The media is a huge culprit for the negative stereotyping that has been brought upon pacifica people. Brown people are more than what they are portrayed to be through media. Films such as ‘Manurewa’ reinforce many of the negative stereotypes that have been brought upon Pacific people. The stereotype of ‘brown’ people is a negative one, one of unemployment, one of crime, one of violence. In ‘Manurewa’ each one of these stereotypes were portrayed. The men in the short film were all unemployed, all committed crime and all showed violence.
“Bro Town, Sione’s Wedding, and do I have to mention the GC? Now I don’t mean to condescend – I mean these shows are great, don’t get me wrong – but can anyone explain: will there ever be a time when our representation goes deeper than putting our own people to shame?” Joshua Iosefo, in his ‘Brown Brother’ speech, spoke about this issue – how the media represents ‘brown’ people in a negative light. He highlights how these types of shows create and enforce the stereotypes that ‘brown’ people now have to live by. While these shows are meant to entertain, this negative reinforcement only show the bad side of Polynesian and Maori people.
One of the major themes of the film ‘Manurewa’ is about people being trapped by low expectations and invisible boundaries. People can become trapped from attaining success, trapped from fulfilling their potential, and trapped from being heard. The message in the film ‘Manurewa’ is that not all ‘brown’ people are bad, but the expectations that their stereotypes have created for them along with the people that they are surrounded with often leads to them making horrific mistakes. In this true story, a good person has been surrounded with unemployed, violent people and ultimately ends up committing a murder. In the beginning of the film the boy shows that he does have love and passion in his heart through feeding and nurturing the horse. After the murder the three older men are happy and excited but the boy was completely distressed about what he had done. These two scenes clearly show that the boy is a good person who simply made a bad mistakes because of the people that he was surrounded by. When Joshua Iosefo performed ‘Brown Brother’ at the Tedx conference, he explained how brown people are trapped because of expectations, and surroundings. Meaning that the expectations that have been set from the stereotypes as well as the people that they are surrounded by impact greatly and almost trap brown people from success. He used a box as an example, where he explained that each side of the box needs to be kicked down in order for Maori and Polynesian people to succeed.
People need to make the change themselves through their own actions. ‘Brown’ people need to stop being what the stereotypes expects them to be and need to start proving that they are better than the stereotype. In the short story, ‘Fish Heads’ the Maori boys are short of money but they do not let this stop them. All four boys are employed, they all work for the little money that they have and they show that there is no reason to live the way that the stereotype expects them to live. They are not violent, they do not commit crimes and they do not drink alcohol excessively. They respect people and they are happy living a simple wholesome life. Similarly, Joshua Iosefo talks about beating the stereotype, about standing up and showing that you are better than the stereotype. “You can do all things through Christ, Philippians 4:13. You are more than capable. And I don’t say that just to make you feel better, I say that because I know. Cause your creator told me to tell you so. You will go places, you will tell stories, so do not feel afraid or alone for your God and your family and your home will forever be inside the marrow of your bones. So do not fret, do not regret. For where you go, you take us with you. Brown brother, do not be afraid to be the first, the first to graduate, the first to climb, the first prime minister, or the first good wife — brown brother, do not be afraid to be the change. Not in skin tone or colour, but a change in mindset.
From one brown brother, to another”. These are the powerful words that Joshua pointed at people living under the expectations that the stereotype has set for them. This powerful message is aimed st those who have been beaten by the expectations that have been set by the stereotype. The three texts, ‘Manurewa’, ‘Brown Brother’ and ‘Fish Heads’ clearly illustrate that there are negative stereotypes and low expectations for Polynesians and Maori in New Zealand. These stereotypes can lead people to feel that they are stuck and defined by their stereotype. Joshua Iosefo’s speech, talked of the stereotype that was his ‘demographic’ but also said that Polynesians needed to be responsible for overcoming or changing this stereotype. In the film ‘Manurewa’, the inability for Isaac to escape from this cycle of negativity lead the once caring teenager to associate with bad people and ultimately lead to him murdering an innocent man. Whereas in contrast, the text ‘Fish Heads’ showed that if people are removed from negative environments and influences, they are able to live in a non-stereotypical way.