Letters – Issue 55

Removing distinctions of race

Richard Hill’s review “Beyond Treaty illiteracy” (August 2002 issue) purports to emphasise the crucial importance of language as a means of communication. Who disagrees? Unfortunately, his review is bizarrely unreadable.

He opens with a few general shots at the “populist writers” he’s been reading, those who “denigrate”, so he says, “the Treaty of Waitangi and everything it represents, past, present and future.” Who are these writers and which books?

I’ve read lots of stuff on Treaty issues over recent years and have concluded that those who dislike some of what has evolved object, in the main, to the way the Treaty has been interpreted and then acted upon. Preferred versions are not always truths. All sides profess a concern for fairness, justice, the future of race relations in New Zealand, and so on and on. There is racism here, as in every country, and there are racists on all sides of the debate. There are also patronising, self-serving, and mischievous persons on all sides.

Hill seems to be one of those who feels that he and those he agrees with have a mortgage on sensitivity, knowledge, virtue, and an unchallenged occupancy of the moral high ground. I disagree with him, and others, who insist upon saying that New Zealanders are ignorant of past injustices relating to race and land. Not so: most, in my experience, are well aware of the fact that injustice is part and parcel of life, period, and that some of those who went before us – just as some of those who live among us now – got, and get, a raw deal. The argument is about what is a fair and just, or not fair and just, way of dealing with grievances today. A great many non-Maori people are browned off about regularly being told that when they are in difficulties, it is their fault, and that when Maori are, it is the fault of non-Maori too.

It is true that the imposition of Rogernomics resulted in large numbers of people losing their jobs more quickly than they would otherwise have done. Among that number were thousands of people with Maori blood as well as thousands of non-Maori citizens. In total, it would not surprise me if the number of non-Maori were greater than Maori. But this isn’t the point. The point is we need to identify people in need, whoever and wherever they are, and see what we can do to assist them. In other words, in this area, remove distinctions of race. The principal part of the problem we have in New Zealand is not – or need not be – racial: it is socio-economic as a consequence of ideological determinations.

I like to think that Richard Hill, the Consedines, and Richard Dawson mean well. But maybe they are barking up the wrong trees, and could even be exacerbating rather than alleviating our problems.


Brian Turner





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