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Challenging Pacific Stereotypes

As young pacific people, we’re blessed with a lot more than we realise. We can sing, dance, make people laugh, create beautiful art and excel in any given sport (or in anything related to food) – and that’s to say the least. But what might come as a surprise to people outside of the Pacific is that we’re not limited to what we’re famous for, and our ability to excel is far beyond the rugby field and the entertainers stage.

You are more than your shell

Here at Talanoa, we’re constantly reminding young people that as important as their beautiful brown skin is – it’s just a shell. We serve them daily reminders that what truly defines them is the person they choose to be. Understanding this is the first step to challenging a world that tells us we deserved to be judged by how we look and where we come from. How can we convince people we are more than a stereotype if we don’t believe it ourselves? Don’t underestimate the power of self-belief – it’s your most powerful tool in taking on people who try to belittle us to fit their understanding of who we are.

The importance of discernment and assertiveness

It’s so easy to get upset when a person makes a rude remark about our culture or a biased decision based on our background. Before reacting, always ask yourself if it’s worth speaking up against. In most cases, it’ll be a yes. But go wisely and go gently, you want people to hear you out – you’ll only prove their point if you come across aggressively. Depending on the situation, you can always start by asking them why they’ve come to that conclusion and how it relates to their decision. It might open up an opportunity for a healthy debate or conversation where you can explain why all Pacific people are unique, and that although we may have some similarities, what makes up our weaknesses and strengths is what makes us all so different.

On the other hand, some situations will call on you to walk away, when all you want to do is fiercely put a person in their place. Don’t bite the bait! The ultimate revenge is no revenge at all. Why would you want to be tied to someone whose narrow-minded opinion has been used to upset you? By involving yourself in a discussion about their behaviour, you’re tied to them – you’ve been roped in by their negative views, words and actions, even if it’s just for a few moments. What do their actions say about who they are? Are they a person you’d like to spend time with, work with or understand? Think carefully before responding. It’s all about knowing what’s worth challenging and what situations aren’t worth pursuing. 

Using your talents to pave your own path

If you find yourself aiming for a career in entertainment or sport, we want you to know we believe in you and aren’t trying to discourage you from following a path that many other Pacific people have taken. If anything, you might find that our people have set the bar so high that you’ll have to work twice as hard as anyone else to achieve greatness within the industry.

And for those of us who have dreams of following a completely different pathway, know you have a whole team here at Talanoa who are cheering you on too, waiting to see you succeed. Our advice is pretty simple, and something we know you’ll easily remember: just be yourself. Don’t apologise for what makes you different, and don’t be afraid to stand alone in pursuit of your dream. Tap into your unique talent and be as open as you can to learning how to be the best that you can be in what you do.

We want you to know your dreams are important – not just to you, but to all of us as a people too. Think of all the people you can inform, inspire and push to succeed when you show us all how amazing you are. The only way people will realise that we’re more than an “Islander” label, is if we show them. Know that we’re all behind you – even if you feel alone. There are many of us around the world who love to see our own achieve new heights, and we’re always here to support those who stumble along their way. We’re here for you, and are waiting for you to challenge whatever stereotype is standing in your way.

Want to know more about how we can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses to achieve your goals? Read more about Talanoa and our services.

Photo credit: Tracey Wallace

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