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Monday, September 12, 2011

Hazard County

Just the good ol' boys, never meaning no harm...

NZ Herald Mr Cutforth said the expression "niggers in the woodpile" had come to mind while he was trying to explain some difficulties the council was having.

It was an old family saying and not something intended to be offensive, he said.

On reflection, he realised that the use of such an "archaic expression" was not appropriate in today's society.

"In a public situation I would never, never use it because I do know that the word nigger is not acceptable."

That's Boss Hogg's explanation - it's a family thing.

Justice Morris' antics:
In a Rotorua drug trial, he astounded lawyers by using the phrase "nigger in the woodpile" when talking about the defendant's role in the case.
Justice Morris [...] was born in Dundee and moved to New Zealand in his teens, but never lost his Scottish accent.

Maybe that was a family thing too?

Paul Holmes' sense of humour: Holmes sparked a public outcry in September after he referred to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan as a "cheeky darkie".

The comments triggered a flurry of publicity in New Zealand and overseas describing the broadcaster as racist and calling for his resignation.

Probably just a family thing eh.

Aother radio broadcaster's musings:
Speaking to Fight For Life promoter and former Kiwis league player Dean Lonergan on Friday, Veitch said about the African-American Williams: "Do you know where the apes come from? She is a reminder."

Well it's a pretty big family that these people belong to isn't it. It is the European family.

These are the thoughts of the decision-makers and media that shape NZ society. There are endless examples. Countless.

I once attempted to gather examples of racially prejudiced news and opinion articles from the NZ Herald - once. My starting point was not just overt racism and language of the type in the above cases (because the print medium is unforgiving for such gross offences and I expected to find very few of these instances) but also news articles that were not neutral and had assumed a subjective perspective aligned on the basis of ethnicity. For example using "them" when referring to Maori, but not when referring to Pakeha, taking a side by describing one set of information as fact and the other as a claim or a contention and so forth.

I had expected this exercise to result in one or two clippings each day. That first paper I went through on Day One I couldn't even start clipping them out there were so many. Before I even got to the Editorial page I realised that I had to abandon the project - it would be overwhelming. Very little was neutral, almost everything took a Pakeha angle. It would be simplier to cut out the minority of pieces that were not racist.

So I have both sympathy and respect for any researcher attempting to quantify the degree of racism in public discourse in this country.

The nature of the racism that Europeans hold can best be described as a superiority complex. In a colonial setting, such as NZ, this manifests itself as an active denegration of Maori (in private amongst Europeans and in public through the laws, media, education system and other institutions that they control) and a passive - if quite willful - ignorance of things Maori.

In this setting it is almost impossible for a Pakeha born and raised in NZ not to be racially prejudiced against Maori in some respect. From the day a young NZer first reads the morning paper, tunes into network radio and attends a government school they begin absorbing the prejudices of those institutions. It is self evident to Pakeha from their own private conversations that racism runs through their community because they encounter it as a matter of course - not necessarily actively engaged in it themselves - but at least aware, if not tolerant, of it.

Part of the European superiority complex is the irony that they attribute racial tolerance and equality as a virtue devised as a product of the European enlightenment and as a mark of their civilisation - yet this general assumption of having created and therefore inherently knowing what is best for all is often employed to justify any manner of intolerance and inequality.

But heaven help anyone - especially a Maori - who dares to tell them of these facts as Mutu discovered last week. Never tell a white person - especially a racist one - that they are racist. Oh, no - that's everyone else, not them. No-one will admit to it and yet it seeps out everywhere all the time. This is the superiority complex again - we can't be racist because we are better than that. As if everyone stopped being racist at some unknown point in the 1980s? 1990s? 2000s? White people themselves know this is not true. While many Pakeha are not consciously racist they must be aware at some level that some of their assumptions of Maori (for example) are prejudiced, unfair and reflect views of their more obviously racist parents and grandparents.

But they feel they must defend their people from the race slander of the Mutu woman - regardless of what research she presents. This defence is reactive and goes from one end of Pakeha society to the other. For example the left wing academic Bryce Edwards in the commentary accompanying his NZ Politics daily media content list denigrates Mutu:
Notice the substance of Mutu's argument is not gone into, but a personal attack is. They don't want to debate the actual topic or the research - they are at pains to skirt around it.

Here is Edwards' first mention of Mutu's immigration issue:
Note he refers to "further" restrictions of white immigration. A slip of the keyboard? - and a telling one. By terming it a restriction it strongly - inescapably - means he believes the immigration policy is a white immigration policy by default. This was the case up until 1987, but the idea that the European races have a right to unrestricted immigration to NZ is still well entrenched. And when he says "it is not as bizarre as it may sound" he assumes that Maori objections to high immigration are unknown - to Pakeha. The entire subjection of Maori and their rights and way of life is entirely due to immigration and he assumes a Pakeha ignorance of this. While claiming Maori did not want Island immigrants in the 70s and 80s it is also true that much political and social interaction, like the Polynesian Panthers, were based on Maori-Polynesian co-operation. The classification of Mutu's stance as "reactionary" is nothing short of Orwellian.

The white academics express their superiority complex by resorting to a line of freedom of speech (connected to the European elnightenment) as a pivot for suggesting she should otherwise be fired. Edwards is not the only white academic to feel resentment towards a Maori woman encroaching onto the European field of academia either. There is no way they would be making these comments about a fellow white male academic - and nor have they or will they. The personal denigration by "Pablo" on KiwiPolitico is acutely bitter but nonetheless quite informative of the hostile mentality:

Margaret Mutu is a racial polemicist who received her professorship as a PC sinecure from an Auckland University administration concerned about placating key constituent groups. She is a second rate rate academic with a third rate publication record espousing fourth rate post-dependency and post-modern subaltern-focused theories. She publishes in obscure journals, mostly without peer review, and in crony academic volumes. Her books are published by local presses and receive no international mention.

With academics like the "Pablo" (and Edwards) at all strata of academia is it any wonder that the study of racism is relegated to the obscure or that publishing is limited?

Needless to say, I have no time for Ms. Mutu and her rants. It offends me that she lumps me–an American raised in South America and who has been involved in struggles that she can only pontificate about–with Afrikkaners with attitudes.

And here the American white man - admitting he is an outsider in these conflicts - infers more knowledge than the indigenous woman about struggle.

She may be offensive, and indeed quite stupid, but that is her right as an academic. It was at the point of her hire that the mistake was made, but once her position was enshrined, however bogus the rationale, she has a right to use that pulpit for public commentary without fear of employment retribution. She may not be exactly the conscience of society, but her role as a polemicist enlives its discourse. Hence, I believe that she should be retained, however overpaid she may be.

The pervasive and hostile atmosphere and the prejudices and assumptions may not be racist in every instance, and so identifiably inappropriate to the general public, but the effects on NZ society of the institutional aspects are so deep that the non-whites use the same analysis and thinking and take on the roles and characteristics of the environment in which they find themselves. This is not to say they are "self-hating" in the way that many Maori policeman are for example, but that they are "self-victimising" in a manner more akin to the Stokholm Syndrome of the hostage.

For example last week while Mutu's comments were enraging millions, and the Pacific Islands Forum was about to take place, Barbara Dreaver (a Pacific Islander), shot a story for TV One news on Island overstayers. The overstayers were cowering and pathetic, the sympathetic Dreaver hoped that some leniency would come there way. What was not explained or examined is the meta situation whereby the Pacific Islanders are treated as a disposable pool of cheap labour to be flown in and out of the country according to the whim of the Labour Department without any rights, and yet Australia - a country both further away than most of our Island neighbours and a country with no indigenous links whatsover with NZ - has free access and reciprocal rights for their citizens. There aren't any round ups of overstaying Aussies are there - there can't be by law. The basis of that law is actually the Treaty of Waitangi which mentions specifically Australian and European immigration. The Australians then gave full rights to Maori in their 1901 constitution - a constitution that made it clear that Aborigines were not Australians. It is time to think about the inequality of that white Australia policy and why NZ does not extend the same courtesy to our closer neighbours.


At 13/9/11 5:08 pm, Blogger jane said...

Cutforth has been an auctioneer since way back- he's always had a ready come back, it's his trade. We could say he's a toad-in-the-hole; I can't imagine why people voted him in as mayor of Whangas, it's more likely they didn't vote....don't you know politics is frowned on in the shires? As for Ms Mutu, I believe she may have a realistic point, which is why she's getting a lot of flack, that and jealousy over her highly alliterative name!

At 14/9/11 12:57 am, Blogger Frank said...

"And here the American white man - admitting he is an outsider in these conflicts - infers more knowledge than the indigenous woman about struggle. "

Of course.

Consider the movie, "Avatar".

Human (American) soldier, transforms into image of Native of Pandora. At first he is marginally clumsy. Then picks up the native customs Uber Fast. Then tames the wild dragon that no native Pandoran has ever achieved.

It just took an outsider (American) to show these damned natives how it's done. Simple. Sorted.

(Just don't ask them about Afghanistan.)


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