Guy Williams: The quiet racism of New Zealand
OPINION Is New Zealand a racist country? Wow, what an opening question. I can already tell this is going to be a ripper of a column this week. Call the Canon Media Awards, I'm coming in hot. Like the new Michael Laws. Whatever happened to Michael Laws? I hope he's OK. On second thoughts, I'm not that concerned.
In the grand scale of things I think most New Zealanders are pretty great at accepting other cultures, colours and creeds. (With the exception of the 90's christian rock band Creed, who most of us are strongly opposed to).
We pride ourselves on being less racist than Australia or America, but let's be honest, that is a pathetically low bar. It's like being proud of beating the Cook Islands at ice hockey.
Growing up in Nelson, I was blissfully unaware of any racial tension. We lived under a system of racial harmony I call "It's all white, so it's all right".
Nelson, and New Zealand for the most part, is a lucky and loving country, but since moving to Auckland I can't help but notice a quiet undercurrent of unnecessary nastiness towards minorities and recent immigrants. I say recent immigrants, because my view is that we all came to this Island paradise from somewhere else.
There's nothing more Kiwi than coming over here, and taking Maori land, then complaining about Chinese people coming over here and taking our land. Our country was built on immigration, and that's what makes it great. My mum is from Canada and every day I thank God for people from other countries so my dad didn't marry his cousin.
In Auckland, I'm seeing new levels of racial animosity towards Chinese and Indian New Zealanders. My Canadian/Kiwi uncle recently returned from a local "sports meeting" to tell us that one of the biggest issues facing sport is Chinese immigrants making no effort to integrate into New Zealand culture. I pointed out that it seemed rational that no one would want to integrate him. And what effort is he making to integrate with them?
In my opinion, it takes generations to integrate into a new culture. If I was in China, I would immediately be drawn to lanky, loud, English-speaking, Matilda-the-musical-loving freaks similar to myself. My uncle's "sports meeting" went on to complain about the "Asians sucking up all the golf coaching" which I thought was hilarious.
I had to ask – what sort of meeting was this? A Klan meeting? This was the perfect scapegoat for me: "I could have been the next Tiger Woods but those Asians! Sucked up all my golf coaching". It's like me blaming my failed basketball career on Lebron James! That could have been me out there in the NBA finals if it wasn't for Lebron James sucking up all the basketball coaching.
Can I be clear: I don't think that it's racist to question immigration policy or levels. And I hate it when people are quick to call someone a racist. But if you start blaming your problems or societal problems on immigrants or worse, a specific culture of immigrants, than I have a problem. And you don't want no problems from me. I'll probably do a tweet.
Ironically, a lot of Kiwis don't just have a problem with immigrants, they love to take shots at indigenous New Zealanders as well! Every time I hear someone complaining about Maori "special privileges" I always try and question if you feel like in New Zealand are Maori really the people causing your problems, or cheating the system?
I wish could we focus our negative energy towards politicians who aren't doing enough to acknowledge child poverty or American tech companies that don't play tax in New Zealand. I'll never forget an email we received at the Edge radio station that complained that there was a "Maori TV but not a Pakeha TV!" I sent back the most condescending message I possibly could: "THAT'S EVERY OTHER CHANEL YA MUPPET!" I often wonder how these people even figured out how acquire and then use a computer.
I worry that we're on the verge of two icky situations; 1. The Warriors not making the top eight and being called "Lazy Islanders" and 2. Immigration becoming one of the biggest issues in New Zealand politics.
From New Zealand's pathetically low refugee intake, to our record high level of general immigration, things are already getting a bit crazy. I ask that people try and make their political arguments about population growth and the economy. If you have a problem with a culture or a specific type of people then for me, you're not a New Zealander and you should go back to the country that you came from.
- Sunday Star Times