Ever since Kris Fa’afoi put his name forward to be Labour’s candidate in the Mana by-election, the National smear machine has been attacking him on his Tokelaun heritage.
First it was ‘oh, they’re only going to choose him because he has a brown face’. Now, apparently, the problem is that he isn’t Pasifika enough.
The National Party research unit has dug up and passed to Cameron Slater the blurb for a 2003 documentary, Long Lost Sons, in which Fa’afoi and his brother, Jason, go to the home of their parents, Tokelau.
Before departing on what the blurb describes “a heartfelt journey home” the brothers say how they weren’t raised in a strongly Tokelaun tradition with Kris saying “It’s just the box that we ticked when they gave us the census.” That’s a situation many children of immigrants can relate too. During the course of the documentary, the brothers come to have a deeper understanding and appreciation of their heritage.
But the National smear machine doesn’t actually understand the immigrant experience, they’re just after a wedge issue: first the guy’s too brown for National, now he’s not brown enough.
I had hoped we had moved past the time when National used race as a wedge in its election campaigns. It seems we haven’t.
Fa’afoi is going to win in Mana because he is the best candidate, representing the party with the best policies. He hasn’t made a huge issue of his ethnicity and I doubt voters will either. This is the 21st century, after all.
Maybe, someday, National will be able to win elections on their policies rather than with race-baiting and false advertising. I won’t hold my breath.