The pursuit of a race-based society is repeatedly thrust up my nose. It’s offensive, unnecessary and impossible to justify, but a little historical reflection provides hope.
Racial inequality can’t last because it doesn’t actually work. Arbitrarily drawing a line between races to assign superiority and inferiority didn’t work for Hitler who failed to exterminate a race he considered inferior. Eventually, Judaism became celebrated but unfortunately not everywhere. A few Arab countries remain openly hostile having no Jewish citizens.
Before Seinfeld Jewish characters were rare, but following its success, they began to surface on every network. The “Jewish sitcom” was now a reality. Going back to the earliest years of network broadcasting in the US, Jewish comedy was afraid to wear its Jewishness too explicitly. Apprehensive of antisemitism and fearing that their work would be perceived as “too Jewish”, those Jewish executives, writers, producers, and directors who were the driving forces behind network television exercised a form of self-censorship by toning it down.
In 1935 Hitler made Jews non-citizens in Germany and outlawed mixed marriages, defining a Jew as anyone with at least three grandparents of completely Jewish heritage. The Aryan race had to be kept pure.
African slaves in America’s eighteenth-century New World were considered inferior to their European masters, but human nature prevailed, and children from illegal unions between Europeans and enslaved Africans, native Indian slaves and free people of various shades of colour produced a multicultural, albeit three-tiered society. It was a start.
Officially, race-based rights were determined by the “one drop rule”: a single drop of African American blood made white blood black.
To be considered black in the United States not even half of one’s ancestry must be African black. But will one-fourth do, or one-eighth, or less? The nation’s answer to the question “Who is black?” has long been that a black is any person with any known African black ancestry. This definition reflects the long experience with slavery and later with Jim Crow segregation. In the South it became known as the “one-drop rule”, meaning that a single drop of “black blood” makes a person a black.
The “one drop rule” was gradually dropped between 1970 and 1983 to acknowledge the established negro/coloured/mulatto population and “black” was redefined as 1/32 African American, demonstrating that the law eventually conforms to the path established by human nature.
Now that New Zealand has regressed into racism, who is Maori?
Defining Maori is fraught and something Te Tiriti did not foresee – because it was not necessary – which is an excellent argument for leaving the Treaty back in the annals of history where it belongs.
The Maori Affairs Amendment Act 1974 defines Maori as “a person of the Maori race of New Zealand; and includes any descendant of such a person”. Vague, but NZ rugby takes it more seriously, defining Maori All Blacks as at least 1/16 Maori.
Anyone can identify as Maori and join the Maori electoral roll. Te Pati Maori won’t turn voters away – you can bet the farm on that – but don’t assume becoming Maori means you can revert to non-Maori anytime you want. Te Pati Maori plans to abolish the Maori relationship with the British Royal Family and set up a separate Maori Parliament and for that they need numbers.
Add the derogatory terms “white privilege” and “colonialism” into racial confusion and it turns ugly. There is no room for the one nation, one people and one law that the Treaty of Waitangi prescribed.
Virtually all New Zealanders are hybrids, a mixture of European, Maori, Asian and Pacifica. We are well past the antiquated notion of “pure bred” simply because most of us aren’t pure anything. Black or white doesn’t actually exist and yet we are supposed to agree to a contrived theoretical divide between Maori and non-Maori?
Hollywood’s blundering historical rewrites misrepresent the actual racism of two or more decades ago as synonymous with today’s generally accepted racial equality. Don’t bother trying to make sense of the ludicrous tales Bridgerton and Tom Jones and Cleopatra’s recent movie remakes offer. There isn’t any.
Eventually, human nature transcends racial divides. Even in the 18th century racially divided society of New Orleans. Kimberley S Hanger’s Bounded Lives, Bounded Places: Free Black Society in Colonial New Orleans, 1769–1803 describes the flexibility around assigning racial designation depending on “who recorded it, what purpose it served and what physical characteristics were considered most relevant”.
This is human nature doing what it does best, procreating interracially, and finding ways to circumvent the laws designed to keep races apart. The emerging anti-racist society was imperfect but made tolerable and workable. Notably, in that time period the percentage of liberated slaves doubled.
History is not on the side of elite Iwi on the warpath for racial division. We are not obliged to agree with that retrograde movement. Indeed both history and modernity demonstrate that human nature eventually overcomes imposed racial discrimination. It’s just not natural.
Suze sees herself as happily a New Zealander whose heritage shaped but does not define, and believes unless we protect our rights and freedoms they will be taken off us by a few powerful people. This article was first published HERE