Embedded racial differences
By John Robinson
Racial difference is firmly embedded in New Zealand – in statute, in requirements for special attention based explicitly on race, within local bodies, universities, many professional organisations, and in societies that refuse any discussion or questioning of that conventional wisdom.
The idea that we can be divided into separate races is morally repugnant. Yet here it is, written into law.
The separation of New Zealand citizenship into two peoples is between Maori and others, with just who is Maori defined in the Maori Affairs Amendment Act 1974. “A Maori is a person of the Maori race of New Zealand; and includes any descendent of such a person.”
This is a logical absurdity, defining Maori as Maori, which is no definition at all. But we are more interested in the key word here, which is “race”.
Science rejects the concept of race
Acceptance of race involves a belief that humans are divided into distinct groups, a hypothesis that has been scientifically debunked.
That concept was refuted by the eighteenth century Age of Reason, when the principle of equality became enshrined in the French and USA constitutions.
Article 1 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights expresses this principle clearly. “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It was basic to the Treaty of Waitangi, until its recent rewriting.
Racism in law is quite simply the denial of that principle with provision of special race-based rights. That is what exists in New Zealand.
The spread of racist provisions in NZ
It has been growing and spreading throughout out the 42 years (from 1975) of the Waitangi Tribunal, in a process of building grievance that stands in stark contrast with the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which worked for just five years “to advance the cause of reconciliation”.
One consequence is the formulation of an extraordinary, extensive list of legal differentiation and preferential treatment, including 175 statutes (a list is available at http://www.hobsonspledge.nz/the_separation_framework).
This legislation includes representation at national and local levels, control of and ownership of state assets, rivers, fisheries, foreshore, television, buildings – and much more.
There is even provision for special consultation with iwi on climate change, and a strategy for engagement with Maori on international treaties. Special rights are everywhere, on the beaches and at sea, along rivers, on lakes and in national parks.
An insistence that all non-Maori should feel a deep guilt for claimed wrongs of the past has become deeply embedded in New Zealand culture.
A typical example is provided by Max Harris in The New Zealand project. He demands “decolonisation” – “recognising the political, social and economic effects of colonisation, and working to redress them”.
Divided into separate races?
Here is the basis for the particular form of current New Zealand racism. We are divided into separate races, and required to believe that our history is replete with racial discord and terrible wrongs done by colonists.
We are asked to take on the responsibility for such supposed wrongdoing, which is defined in a one-sided fashion as being all the fault of ‘colonists’. Then, driven by this guilt trip, we must provide special and favourable provisions in recompense.
The whole pattern falls apart when we believe in the unity of mankind and understand that race is an artificial construct, that what is important is to recognise our common humanity and work together as equals – in other words, to refute racism.
Need to understand what actually happened in our history
Differentiation by race is further undermined when we study the true history of our country and find the falsity of many of the stories of one-sided wrongdoing.
Our ancestors, Maori or European, or whatever, varied in the actions they took: some were striving to build a better nation and some driven by selfish goals. Most did their very best.
However, this division, this new ‘partnership’ of peoples divided by race, is sadly accepted within many professional organisations. Here are two examples.
Nursing has “cultural safety”, where nursing practice must reflect the Maori point of view “as the indigenous minority in our country”. This follows that familiar refrain, that “the historical effects of colonization and ongoing social structures that systematically disadvantage groups of people must be accounted for in health care delivery.”
Science, which is a profoundly secular and universal enterprise, has joined the movement. The Royal Society Code of Ethics includes five calls to act in accordance with the Treaty of Waitangi – scientists are required to “endeavour to ensure that all research is conducted in accordance with the [newly minted] principles of the Treaty of Waitangi” and to have regard for a division into two peoples, “partnership”.
The meaning of the various requirements is deliberately obscure, allowing any interpretation that will favour particular interests. This is made clear by the former Minister for Treaty Negotiations, Christopher Finlayson. “The Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993 defines tikanga Maori as Maori customary values and practices. There are a variety of Maori customary values and practices, so it is important that any definition of tikanga in any future legislation is not too prescriptive.” As a key element of tikanga is whakapapa, ancestor worship, superstitious beliefs are recognised in law.
Thus, the Department of Conservation tells us to keep off Mount Ngaurahoe as we must “respect the sanctity of the sacred mountains”, and landowners in Auckland are asked for payments before building on sacred sites.
A whole generation has been told that racial division is an integral part of our culture; the story of colonial misdeeds has become an essential feature of intolerant political correctness.
Denying freedom of speech
Many voluntary organisations refuse to recognise any alternative, and those who have the temerity to think for themselves soon meet the resultant blocks to open debate. One such is the Otaki Historical Society. I joined, introduced my publications, and offered to give a talk, but was unwelcome.
“Committee members agreed we must always be mindful of the Society’s responsibility to give our members and the community opportunities to hear talks about interesting historical topics. However, the committee was also aware that it has never been the Society’s practice to act as a forum for potentially controversial views which may give rise to disharmony if members hold opposing views.
Because of this we do not think a Society meeting is an appropriate forum for this discussion. We must, therefore, decline your offer to speak.”
That dismissal was insulting. My “potentially controversial views” were never identified. They refuse an open forum allowing people to “hold opposing views”. New information and debate is mistaken for “disharmony”, and must be forbidden. What remains is ignorance.
This is no isolated experience. Interestingly enough most people I talk to – including several members of the Otaki Historical Society – agree and frequently tell me of their own experiences of the racial discrimination that surrounds us.