“Racism” becomes a buzz word on the campaign trail – but our media watchdogs stay muzzled when the Māori Party offends
Oh, dear. We have nothing to report from the Beehive.
At least, we have nothing to report from the government’s official website.
But the drones have not gone silent. They are out on the election campaign trail, busy buzzing about this and that in the hope of winning media attention, and winning lots of headline when they are buzzing about racism.
Thus they are egregiously selective when headlining claims and counter-claims that involve racism, and seem to be turning their spotlight only on anything inflammatory involving ACT, National or New Zealand First candidates, or which those parties have not condemned to the satisfaction of left-wing politicians and their media champions.
Most notably, they have paid scant heed to Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi’s support for claims that Māori are a genetically superior group.
The racist quote which Waititi seconded in a recent TVNZ interview was made to the Northland Age in September 2020 by Māori Party candidate Heather Te Au-Skipworth while outlining the party’s call for a $100 million fund to invest in “Māori sport”:
‘It is a known fact that Māori genetic makeup is stronger than others.’
That was added to the party’s website where it remained until it was removed last year after the ACT Party complained about it.
The heat has been turned up against other remarks regarded as “racist” in the past day or so, but as is evident from these headlines and the reports beneath them, the media have been blinkered against politicians who champion colour-blind policies:
A group of Māori leaders pitched in by sending an open letter to the Herald this morning, insisting that racism, in any form, should have no place in our elections.
“Leaders, whether it is within your iwi, your whānau or of a political party, have a responsibility to call out racism and race-baiting and publicly condemn it.
“Race-baiting for votes is not new here in Aotearoa. But this election, the dog whistling and the outright public displays of racism from political candidates have increased to unacceptable levels.
“We need to draw a line in the sand, put an end to this divisive style of politics because Aotearoa, we are better than that.”
The writers of the letter declared their support for left-leaning parties:
“We support the position taken by the leader of the Labour Party, Chris Hipkins, calling for the end to race-baiting and racist comments in our country’s election campaigns.
“We acknowledge both the Green Party and Te Paati Māori for their anti-racism positions and respect the words of Kiingi Tuheitia Pōtatau Te Wherowhero IIV, who, at his Koroneihana called for political parties to stop using Māori people as a political football.”
The letter calls on National leader Christopher Luxon to condemn the racist comments (allegedly) made by NZ First candidates and “the race-baiting policies of the Act Party” and commit himself “to representing all of us – including Māori”.
ACT leader David Seymour responded by accusing “the self-proclaimed Māori leaders” of appearing to fight racism for purely political reasons.
“They were silent about Te Pati Māori’s claims that Māori are genetically superior, or that houses should be kept for Māori and not immigrants. Or when a Te Pati Māori candidate said ‘The Pākehā concept [of Matariki] is often about getting drunk and releasing fireworks at midnight’. Or when Rawiri Waititi said about European New Zealanders: their ‘archaic species is becoming more extinct as a new Aotearoa is on the rise’.”
Seymour took the opportunity to highlight ACT’s policy insofar as it deals with the Treaty of Waitangi. It is set out in a party document ‘Democracy or Co-Government?’ and says it is for Parliament, not ACT, to properly define the principles of the Treaty.
“It was Parliament that said there were principles in the first place, so Parliament is well within its rights to say what those principles mean.”
An earlier press statement from ACT had called out the media for ignoring Māori Party racism.
Among the examples it cited was the Māori Party’s sports policy claim that, ‘It is a known fact that Māori genetic makeup is stronger than others.’
It is this quote which Rawiri Waititi defended when speaking to TVNZ interviewer Jack Tame. He said:
“How can it be racist when you’re trying to empower a people that are climbing out from the bottom of the bonnet [sic] of colonial violence for the last 183 years?”
“We’re trying to rebuild our people… [after] years and years of colonial violence on our people. And so why can’t we call ourselves magic? Why can’t we call ourselves proud? Why can’t we believe in ourselves? And why can’t we say to our people that your genetics mean something, that you can be proud of that?”
Commentaries on what Waititi said include these –
World Socialist Web Site
We have yet to find any commentary in New Zealand’s mainstream media.
In his article, Professor Jerry Coyne asked:
Is it okay for oppressed minorities to evince blatantly racist attitudes, claiming, for example, that they are “genetically superior to other groups”? (Needless to say, the claim I’m discussing here is not backed by evidence.)
I’d argue that no, dismissing entire groups as inferior based purely on stereotypes is wrong, whoever does it. But it’s even worse when the racist is a co-leader of an important political party in a Western nation. And what’s triply bad is that the national press and government of that country, which happens to be New Zealand, fails to call out the racist.
That is, of course, because the racist is Rawiri Waititi, a Māori who is co-leader of Te Pāti Māori (TPM): the Māori party in New Zealand’s House of Representatives. And the report, which I can’t find elsewhere, comes from the World Socialist Website (click below to read). On the other hand, the racist quote seconded by Waititi comes from The Northland Age, part of the New Zealand Herald, the country’s most widely read newspaper:
Coyne acknowledged that Māori can believe in themselves and empower their people.
And yes, they can be proud,
… though calling themselves “magic” is a bit too close to superstition for my taste. And of course your genetics does “mean something”, like which group you’re most closely related to (I’m betting on Polynesians).
But what you can’t say is that your group has a “stronger genetic makeup” than other groups. The term “stronger” is meaningless here, and is not used by geneticists to compare genomes of different groups.
Coyne was surprised that neither the media nor the Race Relations Commissioner has shown any interest.
If a white New Zealander said that “colonialist genetics were stronger than Māori genetics”, it would be all over the Kiwi news as an arrant example of racism, which it would be.
So it’s telling that when a big-time Māori politicians says something equivalent, it’s ignored by the press, the government, and the public. That is what is known as “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” and all decent Kiwis, whether Māori or “colonialists”, should be demanding retractions and apologies.
Coyne concluded that in this country it would be considered racist to call anything said by a Māori “racist.”
That’s how far the fear has spread in New Zealand.
Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton