We like to think race relations in New Zealand are pretty good.
They may not be as bad as they are in some other countries, but they’re not nearly as good as they should be and one of the reasons for that is the soft bigotry of low expectations.
The phrase isn’t original – I think it was first used by George Bush – but it encapsulates the danger of support which harms rather than helps.
One sad example of this is the pressure to have Maori seats on the new Auckland council and the reason given: because Maori won’t be represented without them.
That’s rubbish. Democratic elections allow anyone to stand, they allow anyone to support those who stand and once elected the councillors will be bound – legally and ethically – to represent all the people in their wards and to act in the best interests of them and the wider city.
Democracy isn’t good enough for some people but those who are arguing for special rights aren’t helping Maori, they’re hindering them, the ones who are supposedly supporting Maori are dragging them down.
They’re telling them, and us, that Maori aren’t good enough to foot it in an equal contest, that people who aren’t Maori wouldn’t vote for Maori candidates, and that the people who are elected wouldn’t fulfil their obligations to listen to Maori views.
That’s bigoted and ignorant.
It’s also self defeating because, as Tariana Turia said in a discussion on the Maori electorates on Agenda last year, the seats didn’t give Maori a voice:
I think what our people are starting to realise though is that when they voted Maori people into Labour they never got a Maori voice, they got a Labour voice and that was the difference, and they’ve only begun to realise it since the Maori Party came into parliament, because it is the first time that they have heard significant Maori issues raised on a daily basis.
If Maori seats didn’t give Maori a voice in parliament, they won’t on the council either.
Rather than wasting their energy demanding special seats, those who want Maori representation should put their efforts in to encouraging and supporting candidates who will give them a voice.
Jim Hopkins: We’re all in this together
Glenn Jameson on Time to End Racism in New Zealand
Kiwiblog on Hikoi Day