Yellow Peril by Tze Ming Mok

Re-name in vain

Is it just me, or is the email urging you to write 'New Zealander' in the ethnicity box for the Census circulating primarily amongst... Pakeha New Zealanders? Quelle surprise. I guess people who have a burning need to deny their ethnicity are predominantly white, and they know it.

I mean, the Herald got the email from 'several sources', whereas I only got it once, and not from anyone I actually know. It's only just today come up on the Aotearoa Ethnic Network webring, and that's because of the Herald article. Funny, all those hundreds of influential people on AEN with ethnicities just ripe for discarding, and nobody thinks to forward the 'New Zealander' email to us directly! Geez, some inclusive non-ethnic ethnicity this 'New Zealander' thing is turning out to be.

PA reader Aaron kindly forwarded the ridiculous thing to me a few weeks ago, while I was still in a dumpling coma, and also included his informed comments that he sent in response. It seems that the email has by now mutated from the reactionary ignorance of its original form, which you can witness below, possibly because of feedback such as his. Either that or it's a completely separate email. The new one seems to not only categorise 'New Zealander' as an ethnic group, but 'proud New Zealander' as an ethnic group (therefore, if you don't put 'New Zealander' as your ethnicity, I guess you're not proud of being one). Anyway, this is what I received.

G'day all.

March the 7th is the day that New Zealand is holding a census. So what you might ask. Well remember last census, there were 1000 plus New Zealanders that thought it was important that they put down that their religion was a 'Jedi Knight', as it only that's 1000 people to make a change.

Stupid eh!

What I am asking you guys to do is, when you are asked what ethnicity you are you are given a range of choices from New Zealand Maori (which is cool) or pacific Islander (which is cool also) and/or New Zealand European or Pahkiha which too is cool - if you are one.

Pahkiha' means 'white pig' or 'White meat' depending on which end of the island you come from.

Aaron: Well, for one thing it's spelt Pakeha not Pahkiha. And it definately doesn't mean that. This article gives some interesting explanations.

Most of us have never been to Europe and descended from Europeans, but how many generations ago, for me, it's 6.

How come if you want to be called a New Zealander you have to tick 'other' and write in next to the tick New Zealander.

If Teri Henry (Striker for Arsenal) were to ask for residency in New Zealand would he be then deemed a New Zealand European?

Aaron: Because New Zealander isn't an ethnic definition. It's a definition of citizenship, not nationality [I would use 'ethnicity' in place of 'nationality', given that the meaning of the word 'nationality' is generally conflated with citizenship - TM]. Maori, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc, are all nationalities. It is interesting that many places have a state that is almost completely made up of one ethnicity. This is what we call a nation-state. However, New Zealand (like America or India) is made up of many nationalities. Americans wouldn't be able to put American as their Ethnicity and, if the Indian census takers are smart, they'll actually try to get to the different groups that live there.

This is not about racism and being a Maori or a pacific islander or a European (which is cool too); it's about us being NEW ZEALANDERS.

We are aren't we??

Aaron: Yes, by citizenship within a state that harbours many nationalities. The census would like to try and find out how many and what sort of nationalities.

Please forward this to as many 'New Zealanders' that you can we need at least 1000 to make a change - stupid eh?

Aaron: Well, in my opinion, yes. There is no change neeeded because your ethnicity is still something different to New Zealander. And that you can't change the census in this way anyway. How many references to Jedi as a real religion have you seen since? But hey, it's your census. Write whatever you like on it.

Quite apart from the weirdly inaccurate urban myths about both the etymology of 'Pakeha' and how Census categories are affected, we can also see from this email that the writer is obviously Pakeha, and is directing his call to other Pakeha to reject the label 'Pakeha/New Zealand European' and adopt 'New Zealander'. S/he specifically says "when you are asked what ethnicity you are you are given a range of choices from New Zealand Maori (which is cool) or pacific Islander (which is cool also) and/or New Zealand European or Pahkiha which too is cool - if you are one."

The writer is implying that if you are Maori or Pacific, or some other non-European ethnicity, then your ethnic definition choices in the census are basically unproblematic. Pretty fair implication. Her/his problem is only with the New Zealand European/Pakeha category.

People are worried that this could throw a spanner in the works of rigorous accounting of New Zealand's ethnic demography, screw up needs-based service funding etc. But, as I said in my previous post on the matter, I think we can be pretty safe in assuming that the market for this muddy thinking is nearly entirely Pakeha, and nearly everyone writing in 'New Zealander' on the Census ethnicity count is Pakeha. This dumbass attempt at 'bucking the system' is not only transparent and nonsensical, it's also not our problem. Like I said guys, sort it out amongst yourselves. Aaron is making a good start; I'm sure he wouldn't mind a cut and paste.

Okay, and one more time kids: the received definition of an 'ethnic group' from Michael E. Brown's 'Ethnic Conflict and International Security', p 4-5.

First, the group must have a name for itself. This is not trivial; a lack of a name reflects an insufficiently developed collective identity. Second, the people in the group must believe in a common ancestry [my emphasis]... Third, the members of the group must share historical memories... Fourth, the group must have a shared culture, generally based on a combination of language, religion, laws, customs, [etc]. Fifth, the group must feel attachment to a specific piece of territory, which it may or may not actually inhabit. Sixth and last, the people in the group have to think of themselves as a group in order to constitute an ethnic community; that is,they must have a sense of their common ethnicity. The group must be self-aware."