'Pakeha Party' highlights perception of inequality

DION TUUTA
Last updated 07:58 15/07/2013

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OPINION: Almost two years ago, I wrote an opinion piece about how I thought the name for the Maori Party was - from an inclusivity perspective - not necessarily the best branding move I'd ever seen.

In that opinion piece, I mentioned that "if someone started up the 'Pakeha Party' - I'd be wondering whether I would be welcome to attend any of their political gatherings".

I therefore found it somewhat amusing to see someone created a "Pakeha Party" Facebook page, which has garnered enough likes to the point where people are now talking about registering it as a political party.

The thing that surprised me about the emergence of people calling for a Pakeha Party is that it took so long to happen - or at least come to public prominence.

The Pakeha Party page was supposedly established seeking equal rights and benefits for the Pakeha of New Zealand and the idea, which apparently started out as a bit of a spoof, has garnered a significant following on Facebook and once again highlighted that race - and perceptions of racial preferential treatment - remain a sensitive issue within New Zealand.

The ideas being promoted concerning a possible Pakeha Party are very similar to an already established political organisation called the 1 Law 4 All Party.

This party ostensibly seeks to establish "racial equality" by stripping all references to the Treaty of Waitangi from legislation, abolishing the Maori seats, getting rid of the seabed and foreshore legislation and making English, "the spoken language of New Zealand . . . the nation's only official language".

In short, the party's solution to end racism in New Zealand is to erase every single political gain that Maori have struggled achieve during the past 40 years. The organisation claims its objective is colourblind law and colourblind government - and has anything it views as "Maori privilege" squarely in its sights.

A quick flick through their website will give readers a good dose of the usual anti-Maori messages concerning taxpayer- funded privilege, Treaty gravy trains, Maori-only schools and so-called tribal elites ripping off the system.

The organisation's website also actively promotes its version of the true history of New Zealand. Any Taranaki Maori reading this opinion might be interested to know that the 1 Law 4 All website even has a special section dedicated to the history of Parihaka - or at least their version of it.

Taranaki's own Keri Opae has even managed to use their website as an example of a Maori who is clearly mistaken in his belief that his tupuna were not in the wrong when their lands were confiscated and Parihaka was invaded. This opinion piece will probably get me on their hit list next to Keri.

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Their interpretation of history is basically a rehash of one-sided 19th century accounts of events from a time when this world view (ie, the Pakeha world view) was the only accepted world view and the only one promulgated in the media. The frustrating thing about this is that the party seems to presume that those 19th century accounts completely wipe out any validity that the Maori experience of these events might have.

Their counter to the Maori perspective is that it is somehow based on a revisionist view of history - a reinvention and misrepresentation of how the past was - rather than a passing down of real experience.

If you unpack the basic tenet of the 1 Law 4 All Party, to me it all comes back to that essential element of 19th-century colonialism - that "our" way of life and our view of the world is better than "yours" and you must assimilate. And if you don't want to assimilate, then you are obviously an advocate for separatism. It's not us - it's you.

Sadly, it's easy to promote those kinds of messages. It's much harder to build bridges between groups while respecting difference.

And while I still think the Maori Party is a name that creates mental barriers for some New Zealanders (like all those who signed up to the Pakeha Party Facebook page), the party itself has worked hard to build bridges between Maori and non-Maori in a way that the so-called Pakeha Party and 1 Law 4 All Party would, quite frankly, struggle to achieve.

- Taranaki Daily News

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