It's very easy to say, "I'm not racist". It's almost as easy as pretending not to hear a friend or family member when they say something racist. When racism is never directed towards you, you can have the luxury of "not seeing colour". When you're white, racism doesn't really exist.
I get it. I have a white face, even though I have Māori whakapapa. If you saw me on the street and knew nothing about me, you'd absolutely peg me as a Pākehā. If I wanted to, I could easily pretend that there is no racism in New Zealand, because it doesn't disadvantage me.
But in my heart of hearts, even if I had fully given myself over to feigned ignorance, I would know that it was a lie.
Growing up in a Pākehā environment, racism was all around me. When I was a child, my Pākehā grandfather would to rant about the "bloody maaris". Teachers would mispronounce my Māori classmates' names. We grew up saying that we came from "Row-tah-rua". And that was just the tip of the iceberg.
The thing about racism is that if you really listen out for it, you'll find it in the most innocuous places.
If you allow yourself to consider that New Zealand might be a racist place, and open your heart and mind to the possibility, you will realise that it's everywhere.
It's in the stubborn mispronunciation of the Māori language. It's in the throwaway smears about Asian and Indian drivers. It's in words and phrases like "all hui, no do-ey" and "Chowick".
It's in the idea that it's "racist" to refer to someone as "white" or "Pākehā", forgetting that it's common to refer to someone as "Māori". It's in the astounding statistic from a Victoria University study that 31 percent of 700 NZ police officers said that they were more likely to suspect a Māori person of committing a crime.
So why do we feel so uncomfortable when someone points it out – particularly if that person has a brown face? Why is it such a shock to us when someone highlights the obvious?
Taika Waititi is a brave man. It takes courage to start a conversation about race in New Zealand. It takes serious nerve to have that conversation on the world stage. Particularly when you're that tallest of poppies – a New Zealander of the Year.