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Chris Ford: The Pakeha Party - yeah, right?

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford

 Facebook has introduced New Zealanders to the latest political sensation during the last 24 hours - the Pakeha Party!

As soon as my attention was brought to this fledgling party's existence I thought to myself - what's next?

This party is either deadly serious in its intent or its organisers are doing a racist-inspired piss take on the Maori and Mana parties? I think the latter rationale explains the motive(s) of this new party better than the former does!

This so-called party is seeking to make the same old misguided arguments about so-called "Maori privilege". I saw an excellent Facebook posting by another political blogger, Manu Caddie, this afternoon castigating the new movement. Caddie made the simple point that do Pakeha want to experience worse health outcomes, higher criminal conviction rates, lower educational attainment rates, higher unemployment and even lower incomes? If the argument is framed in that way, then I think not!

I think that the Pakeha Party's sudden "rise" speaks to the latent racism of many of my fellow Pakeha. It's a colonialist inspired racism which seeks to deny that Maori experience disadvantage and, if they do, it's all their fault for not fully adapting to European ways and norms. It also seeks to deny Maori their right to exercise political self-determination, something that Pakeha have done for generations. Thus, assimilationist attitudes have denied Maori their right to political expression on an equitable basis with Pakeha. And when Maori have asserted this right in more recent times, it's been dubbed as seperatist. What nonsense!

Racial assimilationism has a long history in this country. It stems back to the eugenic desire of the early colonists that Maori and Pakeha races would interbreed and that Maori culture would die out accordingly. While Maori and Pakeha did and still do continue to enter into cross-cultural personal relationships, those Maori who claim cross-cultural ancestry in the present are choosing more and more to identify as Maori. Consequently, more Aotearoans are proud to call themselves Maori.

However, if we went back to the colonialist mentality which denied an autonomous political and cultural identity to the tangata whenua, then we would all be the poorer. I don't want to go back to that either!

I feel that the existence of our Maori indigenous culture is another aspect that defines us as New Zealanders. I don't want to go back to the days when we denied everything and thought that we had the best race relations in the world. Clearly, we must be upfront and honest and say that we don't. But in doing so, we should acknowledge the injustices, both past and present, that continue to be visited upon Maori while acknowledging the progress that has been made in rectifying past injustices as well.

If the Pakeha Party is truly serious - and I hope it isn't - then they would be setting things back even more than Don Brash did with his 2004 Orewa speech. I thought we had gone beyond that with the establishment of the Mana and Maori parties which sought to end the idea that Maori political aspiration was somehow bad for New Zealand. I fear that if the Pakeha Party does take off as a serious political vehicle (with 21,000 FB likes so far it could well do) then we would definitely go back not just to 2004 but even further back than that!

 

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