Soft bigotry of low expectations

We like to think race relations in New Zealand are pretty good.

We’re wrong.

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.

See also:

Jim Hopkins: We’re all in this together

Glenn Jameson on Time to End Racism in New Zealand

Kiwiblog on Hikoi Day

4 Responses to Soft bigotry of low expectations

  1. dave says:

    I think what Turia was meaning that the Labour Party constrains the “Maori voice” more so than the Maori Party does. Representation to most Maori has two words preceding it: “guaranteed” and ” effective” – and a ‘by Maori for Maori’ philosophy, And you may recall it was a Labour Maori MP who put through the Treaty of Waitangi Act. that’s a bit of a “voice”. Had a Maori seat not been guaranteed in parliament, the Maori voice would not have been been in Parliament to be effective in passing the TOW Act.

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  2. homepaddock says:

    “Had a Maori seat not been guaranteed in parliament, the Maori voice would not have been been in Parliament to be effective in passing the TOW Act.”

    That presupposes Maori wouldn’t be elected in general electorates and no other MP would have been prepared to introduce the legislation.

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  3. dave says:

    Even if another MP did introduce the legislation it would hardly have been one with a Maori voice. How many Maori have succeeded in securing general seats prior to MMP – you can count them on one hand. And guess how many of them were Labour seats?

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  4. homepaddock says:

    You’re right that pre-MMP few Maori got into parliament. But times and attitudes have changed for the better sicne then.

    If there weren’t Maori seats wouldn’t at least some of those representing those electorates still be elected in general electorates? Neither National nor Labour could afford to not ensure that they had a good number of Maori MPs be they electorate or list.

    In the ODT last year Philip Temple suggested how the voting might change with no decrease in Maori representation if the Maori seats went: http://www.odt.co.nz/opinion/opinion/28544/dual-cultural-heritage-moves-stymied-system

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