Call for immigration vetting – Dr Rawiri Taonui

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Many Maori are rightly concerned about immigration. Multiculturalism can dilute indigenous rights. Maori are only the fourth largest group after Europeans, Asians and Pasifika in Auckland, the largest ‘Maori city’ in New Zealand.

Some Maori support non-white immigration because they see other multicultural countries as more broadminded than our own. Others such as Margaret Mutu have concerns about white immigration and for good reason.

The BBC AHistory of Racism documentary (2007) argued that contemporary racism was born from the European colonisation of Africa, Asia, the Americas and the Pacific to justify stripping their resources for the enrichment of Europe. This left a legacy whereby the descendants of the colonists maintain an advantage by marginalising the descendants of the colonised, which as the UN accepts, is evidenced in the worldwide poor social statistics for the latter.

Britain and its former colonies, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, the United States and Australia have poor records in this regard.

The 2006 census shows 58% (335,000 of 574,000) of our nine largest immigrant populations come from former British “Empire” countries. Many will remember the immigrant who objected to the spelling of Kapiti because he wished to live in a British country and not a Maori one. Do we want more of that?

Another dimension comes from this year’s Race Relations Report which cited 15 race-related cases of white New Zealanders accosting mainly Asians but also brown and black people ranging from verbal abuse to murder. Eleven occurred in the White dominated South Island, eight were in Christchurch, seemingly the capital of such things.

More recently, we’ve seen the case of another white New Zealander intimidating his immigrant neighbours with a slasher for speaking their language. Should white immigration from British heritage countries with similar problems be unchecked?

New Zealand’s immigration policy allows entry for people with skills and money, with an emphasis on the latter – subject to good health, no criminal convictions, and capacity in English. Nowhere is there a good citizen test for life in a multicultural country with significant Maori, Pasifika and Asian issues. That begs some form of vetting.

Maori sometimes forget that such racism is not confined to former Empire countries. Other European countries also wrought colonial havoc. Japan also colonised the Ainu; China colonised Tibet, East Turkestan, Mongolia and Mein; Russia colonised Siberia; the Dravidians and Indo-Aryans colonised the Indian Sub-continent. These countries exhibit rampant postcolonial racism.

A test might therefore be general rather than specific. Questions like: How many languages do you speak? Do you interact well with other cultures? What does the Treaty of Waitangi mean?

The Mutu furore also demonstrates our lack of understanding about racism.

Prejudice occurs interpersonally when people judge others for their visible colour or ethnicity. We might note that this does not affect all Maori. Many now have fair skins and European features. Indeed, some anti-Mutu comments have come from the latter.

Power related racism is a structural phenomenon when the descendant colonisers dominate the institutions of government, education, health and justice and make decisions based on conscious or unconscious assumptions that disadvantage subordinate groups. We deny the extent of this.

Distinguished academic Ranginui Walker has said we are reluctant to discuss racism rationally. This is true for Pakeha and Maori.

Since the semi-formalisation of the Treaty, Maori-Pakeha relations have been defined in the polite language of biculturalism, talking past each other, cultural misunderstandings, Treaty rights, Treaty breaches and Treaty settlements. Australia, with no treaty, has concentrated on the UN International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racism (ICERD) and is more open about its racism.

When the government, Human Rights Commission, and Maori and Pakeha NGOs submitted reports to the 2009 UN Periodic of Review of New Zealand Human Rights only one mentioned discrimination against Maori; Maori made no mention.

Pakeha regularly denigrate as reverse racism Treaty settlements and affirmative action initiatives (allowed under ICERD) to bring Maori equal with Pakeha thereby denying the intergenerational wealth Pakeha continue to accrue via the misappropriation and marginalisation of Maori resources and society.

Many Pakeha believe that the poorer position of Maori derives from primitivism, tribalism and welfarism rather than structural racism.

Few heed Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres call this year to address the latter.

Maori who speak out are vilified – Tariana Turia for her holocaust comments, Hone Harawira for very human thoughts about cross-cultural relationships, and now Mutu. The Don Brash, Paul Holmes and Paul Henry outbursts, and more recently Whangarei Mayor Morris Cutforth’s “nigger in the woodpile” comment and Geoff Portman’s stunningly dumb forwarding of a racist email faced much less condemnation.

Let’s be honest. Many Pakeha don’t like Maori and some Maori don’t like Pakeha. The difference is more Pakeha wield decision making power that affects the lives of Maori.

I too have prejudice. I dislike racists, bigots, chauvinists and fundamentalist religious zealots. My tribe also dislikes some other tribes for really important historical reasons we no longer remember.

Rawiri Taonui is a Professor of Indigenous Studies at AUT

5 COMMENTS

  1. Well I really enjoy reading Rawiri Taonui thoughts on many things it is global,researched most rounded and dambed refreshing (I love that you get Hone therefore Maori in general), its also refreshing to here its not about the Warrior gene(Rascist) or what eva because stats found in undigenous peoples around the world in counties colonised face the same problems.Landless,cultureles,poor,illiterate,unemployed or unemployable(criminal record),beneficiary dambed well bloody robbed.

    in relation to a comment”Racism is a human afliction such as greed, envy and such other undesirable traits.undesirable ues human affiction no,Rascism is a white dominant problem not the same as Greed etc which can be found everywhere and everyone can be greedy racist only whites can be rascist

  2. NGOs corrected, thanks!

    Racism afflicts many societies. The key poit is to distinguish between prejudice/racism (personal) attitudes and racism that is structurally based i.e. peole with prejudices in positions of decion making who consiously or unconsiously make decisions that negatively impact on others that is where white vs black/brown/Asian is most serious in NZ and one presumes other countries. This can be non-colour based such as in Japan where the Ainu and Okinawans have suffered.

    • I’d like to modify this: racism is never purely personal, even if the mental habits from which it springs might be. There must be a cultural matrix which permits the racist to identify with one thing and reject the other. The distinction you make here seems to rest instead on the scope of action of the racist.
      Your note foreshadows your article on the IRB in the wake of the Sapolu/Owens furore, a case which illustrates the complexity of this issue. Labeling Owens as a racist must implicate (and certainly encourage the perception of) his cultural context as fertile ground for racism. Since Owens belongs to one vulnerable group within another, it is particulaely important to get it right.

  3. Hi,

    sorry but can someone please tidy something for me? Which agency/NGO is being referred to in:

    “When the government, Human Rights Commission, and Maori and Pakeha NGO submitted reports to the 2009 UN Periodic of Review of New Zealand Human Rights only one mentioned discrimination against Maori; Maori made no mention.”

    ..which one is the ‘only one’?

    🙂

    MPW

  4. How refreshing to hear the Maori view on racism in New Zealand.Dr Taonui has a clear vision of where multiculturalism stands in New Zealand and here in Australia. Racism exists even between whites. Although much more so, it is not just colour of skin. Racism is a human afliction such as greed, envy and such other undesirable traits.
    It consumes the perpetrator as well as the victim. Multiculturalism is the antidote to racism. Multiculturalism should teach people to respect others as their equals. Perhaps we need to separate citizenship from cultural identity.

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