Margaret Mutu says her comments could not be racist

06:14, Sep 07 2011
Margaret Mutu
MARGARET MUTU: "Maori feel very threatened as more groups come in and swamp them."

Controversial academic Margaret Mutu says her comments about white immigration cannot be racist because she is not in a position of power.

The head of the University of Auckland's Maori studies department fronted up to both angry and supportive callers on talkback radio show Radio Live today.

She said Maori cannot be racist against Pakeha in New Zealand if you considered the definition of racism.

"Racism is definitely associated with power and using power to deprive another group," she said.

"Maori are not in a position of power in this country and therefore cannot deprive Pakeha."

She defended her comments to Sunday Star Times last week - that the majority of white migrants bring "white supremacist" attitudes to New Zealand.

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"I'm actually highlighting the fact racism exists in this country and it is a matter that this country needs to address, to debate, to identify what racism actually looks like, then talk about how we are going to fix it up," she told Radio Live.

Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres earlier said there was no justification for anybody to discriminate on the basis of colour, race or national origin.

He dismissed the idea that the ability to be racist depended on a person's position of power.

"Racial prejudice is the same whether it come from a Maori or Pakeha."

However, a number of radio listeners have defended Mutu on the talkback show because they believed Maori were not given enough say on immigration rules.

Maori women's group Te Wharepora Hou made a similar call yesterday.

The Auckland-based group is calling for people to focus on racism in New Zealand, rather than simply calling for Mutu to be sacked.

Te Wharepora Hou spokeswoman Mera Penehira said Maori women were left out of national debate.

''She has a role as an academic to bring about informed and critical thinking into this important and timely conversation about immigration and racism in Aotearoa.''

Ngapuhi leader David Rankin had called for her sacking and yesterday lodged a formal race relations complaint against Mutu and the University of Auckland.

He said he considered Mutu's comments "highly offensive and plainly racist".

"This time, Margaret has gone too far."

"The advice I have is that she has breached the Race Relations Act and needs to be held accountable for it."

However, Te Wharepora Hou spokeswoman Mera Penehira said the call to have Mutu dismissed was ludicrous.

The university is standing by Mutu, with vice-chancellor Stuart McCutcheon saying academics had a right to free speech, even when their comments may be controversial.

Mutu's comments came in response to a Department of Labour report that found Maori were more likely to express anti-immigration sentiment than Pakeha or any other ethnic group. 

She agreed with the findings and called on the Government to restrict the number of white migrants arriving from countries such as South Africa as she believed they brought attitudes destructive to Maori. 

''They do bring with them, as much as they deny it, an attitude of white supremacy, and that is fostered by the country,'' she said.  

She was happy to welcome white immigrants who understood issues of racism against Maori.  

''You have a minority of Pakeha who are very good, they recognise the racism, they object to it and speak out strongly against it.''

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