Reality check on race relations

WILLIE JACKSON
Last updated 08:11 02/11/2012

I wonder sometimes where people do their research. According to Conservative Party leader Colin Craig, race relations in this country are at an all time low.

How he's been able to deduce that is beyond me.

I ask myself if I've missed something. Was there a race riot somewhere?

Are Pakeha and Maori warring on the streets and are there Maori terrorists lurking in the streets who I haven't seen?

The answer to all those questions of course is no.

So you might wonder how Colin Craig could come up with this view.

Well, the only rational explanation is that he's made it up.

What he should have said is that Maori are just getting too big for their boots and that good Pakeha like him are tired of ungrateful Maori who would still be wearing grass skirts and eating each other but for the beneficence of Pakeha.

That's the truth of the matter whether Colin admits it or not.

I sometimes get reminded of that view on my Radio Live talkback show and this week it came from an 80-year-old Pakeha woman called Elizabeth.

She said that New Zealand was so much better 50 years ago until people like me came along and changed things and that her ancestors gave so much to this country but Maori like me are so unappreciative of their efforts.

Finally she reminded me of the $80 billion that Maori had received through the Treaty settlement process.

Of course like Colin Craig, she is wrong on all accounts and like him her ignorance contributes much to the prevailing misunderstanding and disharmony.

Fifty years ago there was no recognition of Maori language and Maori were virtually invisible across most sectors of our society.

Successive governments have rigidly stuck to the $1 billion fiscal cap for settlements - less than 1 per cent of their true entitlement.

The early colonialists brought some positives but the negatives far outweigh them.

In fact the wrong that was imposed on Maori has been compared to the Jewish Holocaust by the Waitangi Tribunal.

Despite the tensions and churning of misinformation about how Maori have been privileged, race relations here are probably better than anywhere else in the world.

Pakeha and Maori kids are learning te reo Maori, the national anthem is bilingual and the haka is a source of pride for Kiwis.

Maori have adapted to democracy and change in society comes not at the point of a gun but through a judicial system and governments that look more favourably at Maori grievances than they did in the past.

And I suspect that's the real problem for those like Elizabeth and Colin Craig who think that Maori have just gotten too clever for their own good.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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