If they are us we should all be NZers

Stats NZ is seeking feedback on the New Zealand standard classification of ethnicity:

Ethnicity is a key social factor used with other topics in describing the New Zealand population. Information collected on ethnicity is used to inform, plan, and evaluate services and policies by a wide range of organisations, local authorities and government agencies.

“We’ve already captured and collated some feedback from past enquiries, but we want to make sure all potential issues have been identified,” data and statistical standard manager Ashleigh Maw said.

Ethnicity is the ethnic group or groups that people identify with or feel they belong to. Ethnicity is a measure of cultural affiliation, as opposed to race, ancestry, nationality or citizenship. Ethnicity is self-perceived, and people can belong to more than one ethnic group. . .

This is an opportunity to end the ridiculous category of European as a catch-all for non-Maori New Zealanders of English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh or northern European descent.

European as an ethnicity says more about what people aren’t rather than what they are. European is for people who are not Maori, Pacific Islander, one of the many North or South American, African, Asian, Middle Eastern ethnicities.

Ironically, it’s also not for anyone of the varied European ethnicities. No-one from Europe would say their ethnicity is European, they’d opt for something much narrower, like Spanish or even more specifically Catalan or Basque, for example.

If European isn’t an ethnicity for those on the continent, why should it be one for those of us at the opposite end of the earth?

Some forms asking ethnicity have New Zealander of European descent. If I tick that I do so reluctantly because I feel ethnically that I’m of Scottish descent rather than European. But even more because I’m uncomfortable that while I can be a New Zealander people of other descents aren’t given an option of being one of whatever descent applies.

In this age of inclusivity, we could do worse than follow the USA where people identify as, for example Afro Americans, Native Americans, Chinese Americans . . . This acknowledges both the cultural and historical factors which differentiate them as well as those they have in common.

The Prime Minister was praised for saying they are us when referring to the victims of the mosque attacks.

That was a powerful message but it’s not one that’s reflected in official categorisation by ethnicity.

It is high time that Stats NZ and other agencies seeking ethnicity caught up with the PM’s sentiment and started counting people as New Zealanders.

That way all the different theys would be wes and we’d all be us.

You’ll find more information and how to make a submission here.

2 Responses to If they are us we should all be NZers

  1. […] The review prompted Homepaddock blogger Ele Ludemann to post an item headed If they are us we should all be NZers. […]


  2. Teletext says:

    When filling out forms that ask for ethnicity, I always tick “other” and write in “New Zealander”. My father was born in Northern Ireland and was of many generations back Scottish descent. My mothers family came from Devon but can be traced back to arriving in England from Normandy in 1066. Also her grandfather was from Portugal. My daughters are all that plus half Korean so they have a real mix of ethnicities.


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