Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Racist white immigrants?

Margaret Mutu (above), Professor of Maori Studies at Auckland University, generated a storm when she called for white migrants to NZ to be screened for “white supremacist” attitudes. She based her view on findings of a Department of Labour survey that found that more Maori than others were ‘negative’ towards immigrants. According to Mutu, “Maori feel very threatened as more groups come in and swamp them.”

Most of the storm of opposition that followed rejected Mutu’s comments as themselves racist for discriminating against white migrants on the basis of "colour, race or nationality" - the official Race Relations Office definition. Mutu was attacked by some for making the statement as an academic but was correctly defended by her Vice Chancellor and others on the grounds of academic freedom. Her response was that she was making a considered statement based on the evidence, and as a Maori she could not be racist in commenting on “white supremacy” because she “was not in a position of power.”

We agree with Mutu. You cannot be a racist unless you impose your views on an oppressed group by means of power. Being an individual, even Professor, does not give you the power to do that. Thinking that other people, tribes or family members are different and inferior is not racism unless you can oppress the ‘other’ in such as way as to materially gain by it in the long term. Historically racism, as we know it today, was invented by European colonisers to classify non-Europeans as subhuman to justify ripping off their riches and impose white supremacist rule. The Catholic Church had a huge upheaval before it recognised Native Americans as humans capable of ‘salvation’. It took a couple of centuries for black Africans to achieve this select status.

When direct colonial rule was overturned lots of white racists retreated to countries where they attitudes where not challenged. The British in India went ‘home’. NZ was already colonised by a settler population of white supremacists who professed equal citizenship but stole the land and went to war against self-rule. Racism in NZ was used to justify the colonial domination and destruction of Maori society to turn land into private property and drive Maori into the reserve army of labour.

Post WW2 de-colonisation' saw NZ open up to a big flow of ‘kith and kin’ from post-colonial Africa and Britain and in this country racist attitudes were usually unchallenged because they were hidden or accepted as ‘normal’. Such 'kith and kin' are still preferred migrants today. So there is some truth to what Mutu says. In many cases racists don’t recognise they are racists because racism has been ‘institutionalised’ and made respectable as ‘biculturalism’ or ‘multiculturalisn’ by the dominant ‘white culture’.

On the other hand, 'reverse racism' is not really racism since it can’t be imposed. If it could then Maori would be running the country and whites would be complaining about being at the bottom of the heap. So-called reverse racism is no more than the expression of historic grievances of the colonial past being reproduced today as Maori marginalised off their land and concentrated in the so-called 'underclass'. White racists hide their racism by trying to claim that this grievance-driven resentment is equally if not more pervasive and potent as European racism.

Some Maori recompense has been made, especially to iwi corporate elites, but only by begging the state to redress past wrongs and playing by the rules of capitalism – that even Brash can agree with. But begging is hardly the action of racists even iwi elites. And if the begging begins to look like ‘special treatment’ then the racists come rushing out to cry ‘one law for all’.

In the final analysis New Zealand remains a racist country and the evidence for that is the majority support for the NACT regime that continues to plunder land and resources, most recently the Foreshore and Seabed, preventing any possibility of Maori emerging from marginalisation into economic self-sufficiency. So long as NZ remains a capitalist semi-colony dependent on land based resources ultimately stolen from Maori, so will racism continue to be part of the fabric of society.

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