I decided today that I’m a racist. Not in the typical sense.
For those who don’t know, New Zealand has two main racial groups. The native people (the Maori) and everyone else, imported some centuries later. New Zealand was colonised by Europeans – I shouldn’t need to elaborate on the atrocities that were committed to the Maori people, it’s a story that played out all over the globe as the world empires of the day overran the native people who happened to reside on the land they wanted.
Nor do I deny that, as a nation, they deserve at the very least recognition for those crimes. And some form of recompense.
So why do I say I’m a racist?
I was reading the newspaper today. (Online, natch.) And I tripped over a link that made me angry. Furiously, coldly, white-hot, angry. And I note, I have Maori friends. I have friends from most areas of the colour spectrum – not because I try, but because I pick my friends for their personalities, not their colours. However, Maori is the topic at hand, so. I’ve been on maraes, attended more powhiris than I can remember. A few tangis, too. Back in school, I had a pretty decent command of the language. Never had to use it since, so I’ve forgotten most of what I knew. I have no problems with any of the individual Maori I’ve ever known (barring the usual interpersonal disagreements also known as life). Half my relatives and cousins are Maori. I’ve spent a lot of time with their extended whanau. No problems there.
I have a hell of a lot of problems with some so-called Maori Policy, though; the policy that apparently represents the Maori people in the political arena.
I don’t argue that people of different ethnic origins often have different needs. For instance, the medical world. My genes predispose me to heart issues. Pacific Islanders have higher incidences of diabetes. If you’re Irish, you don’t tan. Asians tend to be of shorter stature than Europeans. Some racially-based policies are necessary, in any government of a multi-cultural society. Which, correct me if I’m wrong, is what New Zealand is supposed to be.
I was born in New Zealand. That grants me full citizenship here. Once I turned 18, I had the right to vote. The same legal rights as any other citizen of my country. So, why do I feel like I’m being relegated to the second class?
I went through school the only child of a widow. We were broke. And I was one of the lucky ones – when I went to uni, I managed to acquire a scholarship that was based purely on academic merit. I worked damned hard for my education. (And don’t get me started on the mess that is NCEA.) Simply by the trick of my birth, however, I was ineligible for well over half the available scholarships in my school year. Half of the ones I was eligible for were only due to my sex.
In the last few years, New Zealand has seen many, many legal battles over the Treaty of Waitangi. Again, I stress, I do not deny the claims to recompense that the Maori, as a people, have. They were foully treated by the European colonists. It’s the more extreme claims that get my goat. The seabed and foreshore claims, where the Maori people claimed exclusive rights over the seabed and foreshore areas of NZ. Remember where we’re an island nation, with a lot of business invested in fisheries, tourism, and similar water-related ventures? The commentary from a leading politician, who was thrilled that the Maori have such high rates of teen pregnancy, because that way they’re ‘browning up the nation’. The cases which are just starting to trickle into court, where the Maori claim control rights over our fresh water sources. The concept that Maori should have a special say in our immigration policies, because they’re the tangata whenua.
Why is my opinion somehow viewed as being worth less than that of a Kiwi of mixed Maori-and-other background (there is statistically no such thing as a pure-blooded Maori, as far as I’m aware)? I don’t care if your ancestors are brown, white, red, yellow, purple or green. Were you born here? Alternatively, do you have legal citizenship? Great! We’re equal then.
I was born in New Zealand. I have worked hard to get where I am, and will continue to do so. I pay my taxes, I don’t break the law, I’m a good citizen. In every census I’ve been old enough to legally complete myself, I’ve put my ethnicity as “New Zealander”. I was born here. I don’t want my inherited skin colour to make any difference to the way I’m treated by the Government that I help to elect.
It doesn’t work that way, of course.