Fighting Racism

John Ansell is traveling the country “testing the water” for the launch of a “Colourblind State”. He’s coming to Tauranga on Monday 12 November, where I live and where, I fear, he has a lot of sympathy. For a couple of months, I’ve been surveying the Letters to the Editor of The Bay of Plenty Times (where, full disclosure, I currently write a Saturday opinion column), and almost every day there’s one attacking Māori. Here are some excerpts from a few such letters, just to provide a flavour of local sentiment:

10 September: “[The likes of the Maori Party] sit around and think: ‘Well, now we have Chris Finlayson wrapped around our little fingers, what else can we swindle out of those Whites? … It is time that the Waitangi Tribunal listened to claims from settlers who not only rescued Maori from total geographic and social exile and a savage way of life which was spiralling toward extinction, but they placed the whole world, with the knowledge and expertise of thousands of years’ experience at their disposal. Where is the gratitude?”

12 September: “In the name of sanity, when is Prime Minister John Key going to grow a pair and slap these greedy Maori agitators down once and for all? … As for ‘Mana’, every nation who have [sic] been conquered had to adjust and get on with it. No more excuses, these part-Maori people have to grow up and face reality.”

14 September: “The sooner we end this Waitangi apartheid tribunal and grievance industry the better off the country will be.”

21 September: “How far does the country go in setting right the ‘grievances of the past’ before it becomes simply a case of ‘hands in the lolly jar?’”

24 September: “If Maori get water and wind rights, will they fix the statues that came down on The Strand a few weeks ago because of high winds?”

25 September: “Is it not true that Maori have had ‘countless’ benefits bestowed upon them that were never mentioned in the treaty? How dare they – Maori – hold the country to ransom with interpretations when it suits them.”

4 October: “’Appeasement’ deservedly became a somewhat dirty word in 1939, and now some 73 years later, it’s the only word I can think of to describe the pathetic, namby pamby efforts of our political leaders, in response to these ridiculous Treaty of Waitangi claims being made by the Iwi elite.”

10 October: Responding to a letter from a Maori correspondent: “So, [—-] thinks Maori are hard done-by. If you want to live in a Punga [sic] house with wall-to-wall dirt and a stockade around to keep all the wild animals from coming in to eat you then move out of the nice place you live in.”

27 October: After noting that Ngāi Tahu’s chairman Mark Soloman [sic] is really a Pākehā, the writer went on to say “There are people lining up to cash in on the Treaty in which their 5 per cent of Maori [sic] ancestry was diddled by their other 95 per cent of European ancestry. If some ancestors cheated another, then why are they claiming it back from the rest of us, why not just keep it all in the family.”

As I said, that’s just a selection. And these are from people who give their names (though often with just an initial for their first name, I notice), so you can imagine what things are like down among the online comment threads.

As is frequently reported in the mainstream media, Ansell has been best known as the man behind the Kiwi/Iwi advertising campaign of 2008. According to NBR, he also spearheaded ACT’s “Fed up with pandering to Maori radicals” ads in mid-2011, and quit the party over “white cowardice” comments and a clash with Don Brash.

The Otago University student newspaper Critic did a feature this past August titled Treatygate  in which they revealed plans for a $2 million campaign “aiming to make New Zealand a ‘colourblind’ (racially neutral) state.” The campaign would have two brands: Treatygate and Colourblind State, and the whole article is well worth a read, as it outlines plans for a referendum in 2014. Critic quotes Ansell as saying the primary goal of the Treatygate campaign is to “expose the bias and enrage the public”. “You have to make the public mad… otherwise we’re the passionless people, we won’t rouse ourselves to oppose the politicians unless [the public] have the information.”

Critic goes on to write: “Ansell recognises that his campaign could divide the country, but he believes his side will emerge victorious: ‘In the end I think it’ll be a matter of brinkmanship. I don’t think it’ll lead to civil war. The Griever Maori understands brinkmanship, they understand theatre, they understand how to get heard, and they’re going for all they can get. But in the end I think they’ll be brought to heel by the majority.'”

It’s the Colourblind State part of the campaign that’s coming to Tauranga. And, according to Ansell’s blog, to Auckland (tomorrow, 10 November), the Kapiti Coast (14 November) and Wellington (15 November).

On Thursday, Ansell wrote a post titled “Big Maori Protest Planned for Tauranga Meeting”: “From what I’d heard about Bay of Plenty Maori, I thought the locals might feel unsafe running the gauntlet of an abusive mob,” he wrote. “But the policeman in charge of the operation (yes, they have a squad dedicated to keeping us safe!) tells me the organiser has assured him the protest will be peaceful.”

I heard about the protest from a friend, who’s not Maori and neither am I, so I’m not too sure about it being a “Maori protest”. As Ansell also points out in his post, the protestors plan to dress up as Black & White Minstrels. According to advertising for the protest, this is intended as a parody the whole Colourblind State idea.

I like parody, and want to do whatever I can to support anti-racism. But not in a million years would you get me anywhere near blackface. Maybe it’s a hangover from living in the U.S. for a long time, but even with the best intentions in the world, I don’t think it works to use racism as a counter to racism. Which doesn’t mean I won’t go along wearing my own face as a citizen and resident of Tauranga who is increasingly concerned – well, fearful actually – about what appears to be a growing and dangerous wave of anti-Maori sentiment and activism.

Ansell says he didn’t initially advertise the venue because of the likelihood of protest. (And he had some trouble getting a venue in Auckland.) He asks, on his blog, whether “the people of Tauranga [are] going to cave into this intimidation” and, in expressing hopes for a good turnout, writes that it “would send a powerful message to Grievers around the country that New Zealanders have had enough of their obsession with begging, bullying and bullshit.”

It’s clearly up to Pākehā, not Māori, to fight anti-Māori attacks. I hope Tauranga will send a powerful message to the Treatygate/Colourblind people that we’ve had enough of their obsession with Māori, and their determination to pit us against one another.

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4 Responses

  1. Iv read a couple of your articles and you could hardly be called unbiased, a journalist is supposed to supply the facts not her own ideals, i see your photo leaning against the wall with the shaggy Susan Bradford look and same ideals.
    John Ansell is only asking for what most kiwis want every one equal, its the reason the government will never take a reforendum on treaty of waitangi or any thing else pertaining to maori, they know the answer already and its a big we dont want it, so someone like Ansell steps up for, yes the majority .
    Look at it any way you like, your a racist using your position to push your on personel views and the only thing sadder then that is a news paper that will publish them.

  2. Most journalists worth their salt recognise that even facts can be presented in a way that is biased. Thank God we have at least one or two journalists who can expose the racism which is so embedded in society and mainstream media that most people clearly don’t see it!

  3. i thought after your blog on racism and John Ansell you would have been keen to write about the Tauranga meeting but no, and i see your comrades at the BAY TIMES have been very quite , perhaps you could read an article at the centre for political research by Fiona Mackenzie ,
    sycophantic journalism undermines democracy, shows the damage of biased uninformed journalists such as your self and all at that. times

  4. your biased comments do you no good at all,you obviously have not read new zealands history.maori genocide was of the level that today would see its participants before war crimes tribunals,indeed the cannibalism would set it out from anything else.
    anti-european raciism is the correct term for the new zealand condition.

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