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Home arrow Education arrow Early Childhood Education in Aotearoa New Zealand: History, Pedagogy, and Liberation

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Myth three: what? racism in New Zealand, never!

Historically, it has been argued by Ballara (1986), there has always been a color bar in New Zealand albeit a de facto one, evident in the ways in which some theatres, bars, and restaurants discriminated against Maori; how Maori were not welcome in Pakeha social institutions; Maori women being discouraged from entering the public restrooms; community centers being regarded as a facilities for Europeans only; differing rates of pay and job opportunities; and discrimination in the work place, housing, and so on. However, in spite of the frequency with which the reality of a color bar in New Zealand was demonstrated, there has persisted a myth, promoted publicly and maintained officially, that New Zealand was/is a “prejudice-free” country, in which Pakeha and Maori lived together in peace and harmony; that, after all New Zealand is a fair-minded, free, and independent Nation. In the following discourse clearly the analysis lacks some awareness but, by virtue of its publication, keeps the mythologizing mechanisms productive:

Quote from the Dominion Post, September 6, 2012 Letter: He has no right to use that word

OPINION: African-Americans earned the right to call each other “nigger.” They earned it through suffering real oppression at the hands of die-hard racists.

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira (Harawira’s N-bomb directed at National MPs, Stuff, September 6) has no such right. He isn’t black, he isn’t African-American, he hasn’t suffered anything like the same oppression. On the contrary, he’s benefited from one of the most relatively benevolent colonizations of the 18th and 19th century.

All he is [is] a racist Maori serial complainer. He wallows in his perception of past wrongs because he doesn’t have anything else to offer. He’ll remain a gathering point for his, mercifully, few fellow travellers and a figure of repulsion for the rest of us. (The Dominion Post, September 6, 2012)

As Tuck (2010) argues, there are inconsistencies and tensions in defining indigeneity as blood-quantum bound or any other external definition, for example, skin color. Gordon (2012) asserts that the formulation of black and white worlds does not refer to every individual black or white person, but to those who live by the value systems of those worlds. Further, that “whereas whiteness relies on a narcissistic self-deceptive notion of the American social and political system’s completeness, blackness relies on pointing out the incompleteness of the system, its imperfections and contradictions” (Gordon, 2012, p. 8). Here is one contradiction made explicit in the above discourse: benevolent colonizations the oxymoron of a “kind violent” process, the logic of which underpins ethnocentricism and provides some insight into the “kiwi” consciousness. Maori must continue, at every bend, to resist discourses that promote “whiteness” and territorialize Maori identities through external discourses of blood-quantum, skin color or skull size, bone density, hair characteristic, name-calling, and labeling or any other such objectifying apparatus. They are the apparatuses of anti-Maori racism. An effective tool, a resource, that counters anti-Maori racism is the promotion and revitalization of the Maori language because it is through the reo Maori that alternative discourses surface.

 
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