A couple of weeks ago Act leader Jamie Whyte stated the party’s long-held position that there should be no race-based privilege.
The substance of his argument was lost in loud cries of racism which followed.
Yesterday New Zealand First leader Winston Peters repeated a very old line – two wongs don’t make a white.
He thought it was funny.
In another time and another place it might have been.
In the context of the xenophobia around Asian immigration in general and the purchase of properties by Chinese companies in particular it wasn’t.
It was a deliberate dog whistle designed to attention and it worked.
He got attention and the small demographic of the disenchanted to whom he appeals probably liked it.
But how will New Zealanders of Chinese descent be feeling?
New Zealand shamefully imposed a poll tax on Chinese immigrants in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Their descendents are part of the rich cultural fabric of our country, so too are more recent migrants.
They are generally over represented in positive statistics for education, health, income and crime and under represented in negative ones.
They are New Zealanders and don’t deserve to be singled out for political advantage.
That the only way Peters can get attention is with this stale word-play shows how little he has to offer.
He was wrong but contrasting the relatively mild reaction to his childish attempt at humour with the heated response to Whyte’s speech shows some wrongs are more wrong than others.
If reasoned arguments are wrong they should be met with reasonable counter arguments, not empty cries of racism.
Childish attempts at humour should be treated with the disdain they deserve.
Race relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy says we’ve got a lot of work to do:
Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy says “politicians making fun of an entire race of people isn’t new but it’s disappointing and shameful New Zealand political leaders are still doing it in 2014.”
“We’re better than this and our political leaders need to realise that.”
“We have come a long way as a nation in terms of people treating each other with respect but sadly we have some people who just don’t get it and who don’t want to get it,” said Dame Susan.
“Winston Peters needs to know he’s not funny. His outdated rhetoric belongs in New Zealand’s past: it has no place in New Zealand’s future.”
Dame Susan supported the comments made this morning by Chinese New Zealander and former Chinese Association chair, Stephen Young who said Mr Peters words belonged in the past.
Every year the Human Rights Commission fields thousands of complaints from people all over the country: approximately a third are complaints about racial discrimination. Nine out of ten complaints are resolved by our team of mediators said Dame Susan.
“We still have a lot of work to do in New Zealand when it comes to treating one another with respect. There is still, quite clearly, a lot of work to do,” said Dame Susan.
“All New Zealanders – including and especially those charged with the responsibility and honour of representing us in our parliament – need to treat one another with dignity, and respect: the foundations upon which human rights are found. Human rights begin at home.”
We all need to remember that a variety of creeds and races call New Zealand home.