At the school our parents picked a million onions to put us in, we are given nicknames. I find myself constantly saying the whiteified version of my name because my palagi teacher in year 1 that could say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious decided that Lavenitani Taufa was “a bit of a tongue twister”.
My beautiful name translates to Lavender. Like a Valensole field, my name, my identity is trampled on by foreigners. We are flowers. The brown flowers that are handpicked and hidden behind the white lilies and white daisies. Turned into wallflowers, we’re only being shown when you need more diversity. The submissiveness and obedience that is ingrained into us Polynesian kids is used against us, we are used until we turn rotten, until we lose our angelic voices, until we can no longer play in the 1 XV.
At the school our parents picked a million onions to put us in, we are tested on our ability to read and write. They don’t know that we know the language better than the palagi boys and palagi girls themselves because our own native tongues were stolen.
At the school that our parents picked a million onions to put us in, we are told “domestic violence isn’t okay” and “if someone touches you in a nonconsensual way you should speak up”, but our dads say, “whatever happens in the family, stays in the family”. It is a shame for us to not trust in our parent’s teachings, but why should we trust in the system which highlights our downfalls and don’t even want to acknowledge our achievements? We laugh and discuss with our fellow pasifika students how and why we received the bruises that wrap around our thighs like a malu.
At the school our parents picked a million onions to put us in, the subtle racist comments and actions that they make are woven into our minds like a homemade konga fala, choking our own opinions and thoughts until we are the perfect exemplar as to why the statistics are the way they are.
At the school our parents picked a million onions to put us in, we are told to do 6 assignments at once. Yet at home our little siblings rely on us, we are taught to cook, to clean, make sure they learn their ABCs and at the same time do your own studies. While my father is out drinking kava and my mother goes to her second job, I am the mother and father to my siblings.
It’s hard to be a confident woman of colour when society shoves the white man’s standards in my face. It’s hard to be a confident woman of colour when the people closest to me are brainwashed, that we will always be second place, that white is right, that you should always back away from a fight or you’ll be labelled a parasite.
They claim to know our story, but who authorised these authors? it’s not until now that I felt compelled to flip the script, to remind you of what was stripped. Of what you missed in the story you say is mine. Cos like my brother said, my name is Lavenitani not criminal. I won’t let your actions, your talk, and your failure to know what I am capable of, affect me. And like my sister said, I am a daughter of the Pacific. Layer by layer, you pull off my peoples onion peels, and every layer stings worse but you will never see me cry. Cos at the school my parents picked a million onions to put me in, I refuse to let your ignorance be the reason I die.
Lavenitani Mischah Taufa
Aorere College, Auckland