Monday 31 May 2021

Let Racism Show Its Face.

Pre-Programmed, Or Re-Programmed? Is New Zealand at risk of becoming a nation of “Stepford Citizens”: people who smile politely, nod encouragingly, and recite word-perfectly the bi-cultural and multi-cultural slogans of their masters?

“COPROLITE” was the word that sprang to the mind of Paora Stanley, chief executive of Ngāi Te Rangi. Although unsurprised by the behaviour of some of the 300-strong crowd who had turned out to the founding meeting of the Tauranga Ratepayers Alliance, their vicious heckling of Kim Williams, chair of the Alliance’s steering committee, as she attempted to greet her audience in Maori, constituted a “sad indictment on them and the city”. (Coprolite, for those who don’t know, is what archaeologists call fossilised shit.)

Stanley may be a little hopeful in describing the sort of folk who shouted-down Williams with cries of “Speak English!”, “We don’t want to hear that!” “Sit down!”, as fossils. It may simply be the case that, in a city like Tauranga – for many years the home of a particularly outspoken brand of Kiwi conservatism – the hecklers believed themselves socially licenced to respond in the way they did. Certainly, many of these folk may be old: reflective of a time when Tauranga was the “retirement capital” of New Zealand. Some of them may even have been fervent supporters of Tauranga’s erstwhile MP, Winston Peters, and his NZ First Party. But to assume that every heckler in the auditorium was a political fossil is surely a little heroic?

There is a strong political assumption across pretty much the whole of the mainstream news media, that racist, anti-Maori and white supremacist views are confined to the benighted inhabitants of rural and provincial New Zealand. That only in the sort of far-flung places one glimpses in the Steinlager advertisements is it still possible to find folk willing to express racist opinions out loud. For “woke” New Zealand, Tauranga is the epitome of provincialism: a centre that went from small town to big city without passing through any of the civilising experiences that dignified Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. In the eyes of these sophisticates, Tauranga is what Hamilton would have been like without the University of Waikato.

If only New Zealand’s political geography was so simple. Provincialism, however, is a state of mind, not a postal code. Racist views cannot be neatly corralled in the “heartland” so beloved of advertising executives. It lives and breathes just as vigorously in the suburbs of all our major cities – and is certainly not confined to this country’s burgeoning archipelago of retirement villages.

In metropolitan New Zealand, however, it would be most unusual to encounter anything as unselfconscious and virulent as the recent outburst in Tauranga. In the big cities, any such expression would attract instant retribution. In the big cities, racists have learned to censor themselves. Only among people they trust absolutely, do they feel free to say what they feel.

This is, of course, a much more dangerous problem than the honest and open expression of racist attitudes supposedly encountered in your nearest country pub. New Zealand risks becoming a nation of “Stepford Citizens”: people who smile politely, nod encouragingly, and recite word-perfectly the bi-cultural and multi-cultural slogans of their masters. Harmless enough, you might think. And so they tend to be, right up until the day the equivalent of a Donald Trump happens by with a whole new line of behavioural software.

Or, to put it another way: How likely is it that the nation which is happy to arrest and incarcerate Maori out of all proportion to their numbers; the nation which mentally replaces the word “beneficiary” with the word “Maori”, and then waxes eloquent on the moral deficiencies of all such bludgers, fraudsters and deadbeat-dads; is truly the tolerant and progressive nation its Stepford Citizens proclaim it to be?

Indeed, turning the whole proposition around, why is New Zealand’s political class so ruthless in its policing of ordinary citizens’ thoughts and expressions, if the racist cohorts of the population are, allegedly, dwindling rapidly in number and power? What would be the point of hate speech laws in a country whose younger generations are entirely at ease with the sorts of changes championed in the He Puapua Report? Why seek to curtail freedom of expression when, far from threatening to poison the political discourse, free-speakers are only likely to expose the wholesomeness of their ideals? One does not build a wall if there is nothing and no one to fear living on the opposite side.

Apropos of which, was it not the contention of Marama Davidson and Golriz Ghahraman, speaking in the Domain to the thousands of Aucklanders who had gathered to express their sorrow and solidarity with the victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks, that the actions of the lone terrorist represented only the tip of the spear of the white supremacist ideology that lies at the heart of colonisation? And, why on earth would the Ministry of Education sanction courses designed to confront “White Privilege”, if racism was not an all-pervading evil of New Zealand society?

Either, racism is a coprolitic throwback: a fast-disappearing affliction restricted to the sort of “crusties” who heckled Kim Williams in Tauranga. Or, it is an all-pervading evil that must be confronted unflinchingly at every level of our society. What it cannot be, is both. Moreover, whatever it turns out to be: failing-fast, or fuelling-up; it cannot be dealt with successfully by suppression.

To their credit, the authors of He Puapua, two of whom fronted-up on TVNZ’s Marae programme on Sunday, 30 May 2021, are consistent in their call for a “mature conversation” about the ideas contained in their report. What the producers of the show, and the New Zealand news media generally, need to grasp, however, is that one cannot have a “mature conversation” if the only people invited to participate are all of the same mind. Nothing is more likely inflame public opinion than a well-justified belief that only one version of the story is being told.

It is worth recalling that the catalysing issue behind the turnout of 300 ratepayers in Tauranga was the Labour Government’s decision to unseat the Tauranga City Council and replace it with commissioners, whose first major decision was to impose a swingeing 17 percent rate increase on the city’s residents. It is not difficult to join the dots between the audience’s anger at losing the right to set their own rates, and what they saw as the equally high-handed imposition of Maori language and culture upon citizens with little liking for either.

Racism is not defeated by such methods. To defeat racism it is necessary to let people see it in all its ugliness – as they did in the reports of that Tauranga meeting. To construct a bi-cultural constitution, one must not only advance the arguments in its favour; one must also allow people to hear the arguments against.

When the Commissioner of Public Safety for Birmingham, Alabama, Bull Connor, ordered his police to turn firehoses on African-American children in their Sunday best; when Alsatian dogs were set upon unarmed civil-rights protesters; who got the better of the argument? When bulldozers flattened the wharenui on Bastion Point, what was it that New Zealanders witnessed?

The most effective case to be made against racism and white supremacy is simply, and always, to allow people to look upon its face.

This essay was originally posted on the website of Monday, 31 May 2021.


Trev1 said...

It seems reports of the Tauranga heckling have been greatly exaggerated. According to Newshub on 28 May, "The speaker at a Tauranga event says she was not shouted down by the crowd for speaking te reo Māori and was in fact largely supported.
Kim Williams was addressing about 300 people at the launch of the Tauranga Ratepayers Alliance at Mount Maunganui. She told The Bay of Plenty Times she had spoken mostly in English and only about "six words" in te reo Māori when people in the crowd began to yell at her.

They shouted they "didn't want to hear that" and that Williams should "get off the stage".

The Bay of Plenty Times said discussing the incident brought Williams to tears.

However in a statement from the Tauranga Ratepayers Alliance on Friday Williams said "the media are making a majority out of a minority".

"Much of the noise was the audience objecting to the two or three abusers I was looking directly at," she said.

"The room supported me. Dozens from the meeting approached me after to offer love, support and apology."

Williams added MC Peter Williams "absolutely condemned those two or three bigots who enjoy the negativity of divisiveness".

As for the wider issues, New Zealanders are not and never have been "white supremacists". Clumsy paternalists and bigots from time to time perhaps, but supremacism is on another level. The hallmark of this country's development had until recent times been egalitarianism and a belief in "fairness". Nevertheless some academics and politicians immediately exploited the Mosque shootings to promote division and their own poisonous agendas without restraint and they continue to do so. They should be called out for the extremists they are.

Barry said...

At the Xmas dinner for Grey Power we had a Viet Nam veteran providing a bit of entrainment and started the meal with grace. He was a maori and with the current love-in for all things maori I was surprised that he said grace in English. I later thanked him for having the political sense re grace.
His response was "Its insulting to speak to people in a language they dont know"
Hes absolutley right.
All these people who drone on about te reo being an official language I will bet dont know any of the third official language - sign language.
There 21 te reo language radio stations in NZ. I still cant understand the national radio and TV stations need to annoy paople with endless displays of how smart they are with te reo. Most cent speak english properly.

sumsuch said...

I was at the place of great dioramas of early NZ history near Hawera. An older woman started blurting every crap about modern Maori, in light of their forebears. Her friends said nowt. Of course I said nothing.

Her friends at least knew better to say their real opinions in public. And for me, we social democrat rationalists expect obvious idiocy to be self-defeating, and NZers don't confront.

oneblokesview said...

I guess you werent at the meeting and are relying on media.

From those there..
A few people called out ""speak English"".

Even the speaker herself said many apologised to her personally for the outburst of the few radicals.

But thats par for todays media. Balanced reporting has been thrown to the wind in favour of click bait sensationalism. Be it fear porn over covid, vaccines, climate change and the latest media darling..racism.

I wonder what it will be next?

DS said...

It's not urban vs provinces, of course. The population of Tauranga now exceeds that of Dunedin.

It's actually North vs South. The Upper North Island (defined as north of New Plymouth) is far more overtly divided along racial lines than the rest of the country - it is where most Maori live, but also where the Pakeha population is much more prone to vocalising anti-Maori attitudes.

I'd be tempted to suggest that Pakeha South Islanders would be more likely bemused than angry at being talked to in Maori.

David George said...

A few months ago at a funeral for an old Kaikohe entity and friend a chap got up and talked at length in Maori. Almost no one there would have understood what he was saying and certainly not the deceased or his widow. The crowd was quiet, fidgety, none of the usual nodding in agreement over a shared memory or laughter at an anecdote or light hearted deprecating tale.
What is this all about? An incantation to a pagan deity perhaps? No explanation was offered.
It was inappropriate and insulting, the crowd was visibly uncomfortable; absent any reasonable explanation, perhaps that was the intention.
Out of respect for the family everyone just sat there and tolerated it. In any other situation we should have turned our backs and walked out.

greywarbler said...

A well argued and illustrated essay Chris. Makes me think, and puts thoughts out there for others to do so.'s I have been playing klezmer music from the Wellington band Klezmer Rebs and at their concert they said that it was music that many of the 6 million Jews killed in the 1930s and 1940s would have played, and it commemorating those people. The music is bold, bright, complex like the Jews themselves. The attack on them was a marker for human civilisation that does not seem to have galvanised enough change.

There is a side to the human spirit that can develop in a poisonous way, and there is a tendency to reject difference and be complacent with one's own and place others into a separated different category. We all do this and if it becomes exaggerated in NZ we will be going backward in our community of interaction. We have been adapting to thinking of Maori and pakeha as being in tandem after much work over many decades on understanding the Treaty, learning some words of Maori, appreciating Maori ways, art, learning kapa haka.

The nastiness that crops up resonates more than the good unfortunately, particularly when suffered personally from one person to another. Part of the problem is the yawning gap in children's learning in not being taught how to respect themselves and also others. There is a paucity in adults of the practice of respect for others, of having a gracious and open spirit. Appreciate the goodness and cleverness in others, and the way they demonstrate it, and the automatic denigration of someone doesn't occur. The colour of their skin is a marker for their background genes and perhaps culture, but does not indicate the individual or group's full being and thinking.

We need to be taught at a young age the skills of human relations, how to think out an opinion and express it well, not just absorb and follow what goes on around us; it is called assertiveness and this reduces a tendency to aggression. What is important is to be helped to find your own strengths and understand your weaknesses, to look for the positives and strengths in others instead of knee-jerk negatives. We need to invigorate our approaches, how we think about each other in general and then those who offend against the law. This would get us much further than forcing us to mouth the words of assimilation into Maori culture as a marker of stopping racism. It is rethinking from the heart, not from obedience and authoritarianism. I consider edicts about how to think about what's called racism will just result in scapegoating and unmerited blame which will be resented by the individual and grow to discontent from wider society.

greywarbler said...

Further. The treatment of those who break the law, who are anti-social, many of them being Maori needs to change. There have been many advocates for this and some successful stories, but it seems that government is lazy, or even allowing a condemning racism to determine the thinking that limits investment in the prisoners' habilitation. Being imaginative, flipping around ideas beyond prejudice, I have looked at a particular curse, of thieves arming themselves and holding up dairies for money and goods. I thought; it is equivalent to work, they have planned it and obtained the tools and clothes needed to carry it out. They have exercised themselves to perform the task. So the young ones particularly, could be treated differently than having the present jail time. They could be given a suspended sentence; do a sociological course to enable them to see what they are and why, and also how faulty human society is which has to be repaired every day. And to see that they can be one of the repairers, starting on themselves. Then they are offered an apprenticeship that is within their interests. Then they go back to the dairy owner and apologise and give them a useful gift from money that they have earned from work.
Then they carry out the apprenticeship, with permission to make two changes within, after six months with one trainer.

I keep saying, from observation and experience, that parents at all incomes, need to attend parenting courses and discussions on how children's behaviour is formed, and teaching about philosophy and how to control thinking, and so control behaviour and limit racism and the likelihood of anomie in their own and children's development. And to encourage the parents' behaviour this be linked with a weekly payment for the next six months. Poor parents will try for it, wealthy ones will be more relaxed but could put it aside for private school costs, so find it worthwhile.

Teach practical measures in how to face down bullying, which preys on someone's felt weakness or attacks someone just because of difference. Also teach how to set goals for oneself, and get help in achieving them because if you don't feel like a loser then you don't look for ways to debase others for the small buzz of power you receive from hurting them where they are vulnerable.

Combatting racism requires some light let into the dark or neglected places of our minds, and that will be so on both sides of the contention.

Brendan McNeill said...

White supremacy is without doubt a ‘thing’ in New Zealand; certainly the SIS now feels obligated to report on it post the Christchurch massacre, although I suspect they could all hold a convention in a minibus and still have room for additional passengers. I note there is no interest by the SIS in searching out and reporting on the left’s adherents to Antifa in NZ, but that’s another story.

Of course there is the kind of racism in New Zealand that your article refers to, and you are right to call it out where it exists. However I sense this is less of a ‘thing’ than it was (say) in my parents generation, and will diminish over time as even more Maori Pakeha intermarriages occur. It’s difficult to sustain a ‘them and us’ narrative when we all have Maori friends and Maori ancestry in our families.

The new and growing racism we have to face down today is one that is being embraced by the Government, our media and our educational elite. It is a racism expressed through an agenda of racial separatism, and the ideology of ‘anti-racism’ and ‘white-fragility’. The difficulty the government is yet to face, is convincing the vast majority of Pakeha that they are inherently racist by virtue of their skin colour. That denial is further evidence of their racism.

I’m aware the ‘struggle sessions’ have begun in some Corporates, and will no doubt make their way through our various institutions; unconscious bias lurking in the dark recesses of our white hearts waiting to be exposed by our enlightened betters.

Surely as a nation we are better to focus upon the things that bring us together, while not dismissing past failings, or those that are yet to come despite our best intentions. As Karl du Fresne recently opined, “We are all in the same Waka”, and the sooner we focus upon this the better.

John Hurley said...

Calling that racism is ignorant. She did say she only wanted to speak "six little words" but all over the media people have been pummeled. The question is why don't people want to join in the media's enthusiasm for te reo. I suspect it is evolutionary. It is changing the ownership of society by imposing language, after all, language has to be one of the most common signifiers of who we are and who we aren't.

Language is identity

Just as how growing up in a certain culture becomes a part of your identity, the language you speak also forms a part of your self. You may not think much of it, but you truly feel it when you go to a foreign land where your native tongue is not spoken. When you hear your own language being spoken by another traveller or immigrant, that sense of familiarity and comfort is undeniable. Even if you don’t strongly identify with the culture tied to the language, the language itself is the canvas of your mind – the means by which you form your thoughts and feelings. Speaking in your own language always makes you feel the most comfortable, at home, and most true to yourself. The interesting thing is, some multilinguals feel different identities when they speak in different languages, further proving how language can play a part in forming our identities.

oneblokesview said...

Yep, another reason to ignore mainstream media reporting.

This from the lady herself.

Post by Kimiora Williams
I was born in two worlds - I have one heart. My Father is Maori, My Mother is European and I am blessed to have been bought up and live in two cultures!
The BOP Times story doesn't reflect the situation I was in at the TRA meeting. Much of the noise in the audience were objecting to the two or three abusers I was looking directly at. That room fully supported me as did the TRA group and clearly most attendees. Dozens from the meeting approached me after to offer love, support and apology. The media are making this minority out as a majority however I appreciated their story. However we all know minorities are rulers in any force including in the media. Peter Williams absolutely condemned these two or three bigots who enjoy the negativity of divisiveness.
BOP Times Link

greywarbler said...

Are we going to be prevented from using examples of extreme racism so OTT that it is laughable? I am reading Reginald Hill's Ruling Passion and his character Detective Superintendent Dalziel is a big, bluff, bad-mouthing pile of man who treads heavily and is regularly uncouth but usually successful with his cases. This information request while with his Sergeant Pascoe uses exaggeration of his character and lack of charm to good effect.:

'Get me the infirmary at Doncaster, will you?' he said. 'I want someone who knows something about the condition of Mr Edgar Sturgeon. I don't want some little brown man who doesn't know a thermometer from a banana.'
If they could expel Dalziel from the Commonwealth, thought Pascoe, there might be hope for peace in our time.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

" I note there is no interest by the SIS in searching out and reporting on the left’s adherents to Antifa in NZ, but that’s another story."

Brendan. It's precisely because the SAS has been concentrating on left-wing radicals that they didn't catch the Tarrant guy. Another one of your "I wish it were true" statements I see. It certainly is another story. And you're old enough to have read it but obviously didn't.

Incidentally, my dad was antifa. So were my three grandfathers and seven great uncles one or two of which took part in that great antifascist action D-day.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"What is this all about? An incantation to a pagan deity perhaps? No explanation was offered."

Jesus wept, who cares? I've sat through more boring speeches that anyone on this site I guarantee it, and to be honest I'd much sooner they were in Maori. It's a mellifluous language of which I have a bare knowledge – enough to recognise certain words I needed to when I was working and then pass them on to someone who actually knew the language, so I can't follow the speeches at all, and given the nature of most speeches that's a damn good thing. I just go to my happy place – which you can't do of the bastards are speaking in English, you're almost forced to listen. This is just manufactured indignation – yet again. Not saying the right have a monopoly on it, but they are sure as hell giving it a thrashing all over the world at the moment.

John Hurley said...

Chris I have made several requests to RNZ and HRC to explain why it is racist to object to the use of te reo on English speaking broadcasts.

Make that "over use" as in attempts at normalising.

I have cited Isaiah Berlins positive and negative liberty. Why do you think it is racism? I call it push back?

I'd also take issue with Brendan McNeil about "white supremacy".

WS in the current context is 1. objects to rapid demographic change.

2. Objects to Maori agenda.

The Barron said...

Someone speaking Maori in New Zealand? What next, speaking French in France? Cantonese in China? Where will it end?

David, you do raise an interesting theological question. Would the deceased understand Maori, or would the soul / spirit be more like the babble fish? The idea that those that believe in life after death would see the departed limited to the linguistic understanding at the time of death would seem sadly limiting. Perhaps Christians should bone up on their Aramaic, just in case.

David George said...

Yes Barron, beyond death is beyond language. Not so for us who live though.
My impression was that it was intended to insult rather than communicate and that the speaker was some sort of psychopath who took pleasure in the negative emotions he was creating. I didn't have the opportunity to speak with him afterwards and I could be wrong but, as I said, absent any reasonable explanation the effect should be assumed to be the motivation.