Yellow Peril by Tze Ming Mok

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Yellow Peril: the identity game

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  • Tze Ming Mok,

    I hate to bring it down to this. But if 'New Zealander' is such a universal ethnicity for people who have been born here, where are the non-white people on this thread who prefer 'New Zealander' as an ethnicity? In responses to an earlier blog on this issue, I at least had *two* people out of about 20 pro-'New Zealander' or 'Kiwi' responses who weren't just plain ol' Pakeha - they were of multiple ethnicity and basically seemed confused or defensive about their identity. Practically ready to cry about it, in fact: for them, I could cut some slack. The rest were, you know, plain ol' Pakeha. For them - well - no.

    Sure, evolving creole multicultural ethnic identity is like, wow, so interesting - but I get the feeling that a lot of this identity talk claiming universally applicable 'New Zealand' ethnicity is avoiding the hard realities of why it is important or necessary to collect data on ethnicity to start with. You know - racism. You can't just wish away ethnic inequalities by refusing to officially admit to being white, in a blaze of glorious utopian nationalism - all it means is that the Census can't correlate your ethnicity with your income, education & occupation and confirm your membership of a privileged group.

    Maybe we'll be able to calculate how dominated by Pakeha the 'New Zealander' category is by examining its income level.

    Sure, we can contemplate whether 'Pakeha' technically means anyone who is not Maori, and therefore whether it is suitable as a descriptor of white New Zealanders with a strong sense of local identity. But - in reference to the question asked of me - no non-white, non-Maori, non-Pacific person I know *ever* calls themselves 'Pakeha'. Unless they are also part white. That would just be dumb. Pakeha means white people to us (sometimes we say 'kiwi'), and specifically 'local' white people. Local white people need a name, because they are the ones in charge. 'New Zealander' doesn't quite cut it.

    And as Sonal asked, with regard to Yamis' checklist of 'New Zealand' ethnicity:

    what constitutes common culture/values etc?

    For Yamis:

    english and a sprinking of Maori here and there, sport, beer, horse racing, fishing, summer holidays at the beach, marmite, gumboots, bush walks, hunting, flying nun bands

    None of these things are the subject of a national consensus, rather than a nationalist Pakeha consensus (and are probably contested within Pakeha culture too). I hate sport. I prefer rum. I have no interest in horse racing or fishing, beaches are nice of course although I spent most of my summer holidays in Southeast Asia as a child, marmite is gross, I have no gumboots or other rural attire, I am uninterested in bush walking, a little grossed out by the idea of hunting, and much prefer KRS-One to the Clean. Hence - I am not a New Zealander by ethnicity? I guess I already knew that. What it would more strongly suggest to me is that I am not a Pakeha - even more specifically, I am not a Pakeha bloke with a tendency to idealise rural life. I'm a female Asian inner-city Aucklander. Having Pakeha blokes with tendencies to idealise rural life define our nationalist ideology of identity is probably bad enough - though god knows they've been doing it for a long time. Them trying to transform that unfairly universalised nationalist identity into a national ethnicity is just... I don't know... the next step?

    SarfBank, Lunnin' • Since Nov 2006 • 154 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard,

    Sport: I used to hate the very concept, but while I'll watch the odd game these day, you won't catch me playing the stuff.

    Beer: I never even tried it until I was in my mid-30s, and then only because I was in Brussels and it seemed like the thing to do. I still prefer Chimay Bleu to Lion Tui Red Lager or whatever that blokey stuff is, and give me a dry Martini or a Cotes du Rhone any day.

    Horse racing, fishing: ugh.

    Summer holidays at the beach: the worst thing about summer holidays is that all the decent shops and bars are closed. That, and it's too hot to wear cashmere.

    Marmite: Double ugh! Pass the tapenade.

    Gumboots, bush walks, hunting: I don't even like walking across the grass at Midland park. I love game, but prefer to get it from Logan Brown than DIY.

    Flying nun bands: if you've been reading the other thread, you'll know my thoughts on that. Unless FN bands have started using Ableton Live, that is.


    So, that pretty much rules me out as a Pakeha. In fact, it pretty much rules out everyone except Colin Meads and Brian Turner. And since I'm white and English and have lived here for over 80% of my life, long enough to find the L&P ads genuinely nostalgic, I should have had a reasonable chance to become Kiwified.

    I had hoped that this sort of "good keen bloke" stereotype was dead and buried, but then again the reason that I don't come up against too many examples of it these days is that I don't live in New Zealand: I live in Wellington. In the same way that London isn't the UK, and New York certainly isn't the US of A, living in the http://wellurban.blogspot.com/2005/08/sex-sin-and-latte.html!educated liberal cesspit of Helengrad is a long way from living in the land of Burqa Bob.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1040 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Andrew,

    Them trying to transform that unfairly universalised nationalist identity into a national ethnicity is just...

    I really don't think anyone would try and create a standard for New Zealand ethnicity based on how well one fits into the Barry Crump/Fred Dagg mould. Sure, there's a kind of national archetype built around that model, in the same way that Steve Irwin and Crocodile Dundee are seen as quintessentially Australian, and the americans have their cowboy mythos.
    No one seriously expects a city-living, latte-swilling Aucklander, Melburnian or Angelino to have the first clue about shooting a deer, wrestling a croc or roping a steer, but the frontier is part of the heritage of these countries in a way that Britain and Europe and much of Asia don't really have.
    They don't have the conquering of a wild hinterland in their recent history. Sure, its only a minority of kiwis, aussies and yanks that actually 'go bush' on any regular basis, but it is an option either real or imagined and definitely idealised.

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 900 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    I find the whole debate quite entertaining. I'm beginning to believe that ethinicity is what other people call you/me/us. In Australia I'm definitely a kiwi, while Maori friends are maori kiwis, and the yellow peril... she's asian. Or maybe Chinese. Or maybe not, that depends on her accent and where she claims to be from (say "Uhm frum Nuw Zulund" and you're a kiwi).

    Ethinically I'm about half northern englander (despite the distance, there are ethnic differences between various Engs), some muddy fractions scots, gael and irish, as well as a bit of french if I read the whakapapa correctly. But in terms of "ethnic identity" it's more confusing - I speak more French than gaelic although I understand more irish/scottish than I do French, and I understand more Maori than either. Since I grew up in white New Zealand I suspect I'm a New Zealander of some sort. Pakeha? Nelsonian?

    I'm surprised no-one has questioned why Chatham Islanders or Moriori aren't in those statistics - do they get subsumed into Maori? By whom?

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1223 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard,

    !edit function!
    educated liberal cesspit

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1040 posts Report Reply

  • Manakura,

    They don't have the conquering of a wild hinterland in their recent history.

    Translation: They don't have the often brutal subjugation of indigenous peoples and the confiscation (or dubious purchase) of their ancestral lands in their recent history.

    Ok yes, the actual story of colonisation is way more nuanced than that - there were fair land transactions sometimes, some indigenous groups assisted colonists, etc etc...

    But the idea of a wild hinterland or terra nullis or wastelands is a total myth, in Aotearoa at least. There was virtually not a square metre of land that wasn't subject to the mana whenua of one or more hapu. Perhaps parts of remote Fiordland. Wild hinterland connotes vast tracts of land with no prior claim on it, freely availiable to the first rugged pioneer with the will to subdue and tae its potent fertile energy into a dairy farm. Bollix, the lot of it.

    Whaingāroa • Since Nov 2006 • 134 posts Report Reply

  • Manakura,

    BTW: 'tae' is idiot speak for 'tame'

    Whaingāroa • Since Nov 2006 • 134 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    Isn't it possible that people are opting for "Other" rather than for "New Zealander"?

    Given the choices in the graph I can see why many people would be a bit stumped and go just for Other.

    But I can't see what the problemn with opting for New Zealander is. It's a personal choice no matter who's in charge of NZ. I doubt a lot of less well off whites feel they're in charge.

    There may be a loss of usefull statistical info if more people opt for NZer but where it counts most - Maori ethnicity - I can't see that being a big problem as most Maori identify their ethnicity pretty strongly.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Andrew,

    Translation: They don't have the often brutal subjugation of indigenous peoples and the confiscation (or dubious purchase) of their ancestral lands in their recent history.

    Nah, most of them have that in one shape or form - generally longer than 500 - 1000 years ago though - after that they had to go abroad to indulge their conquering urges.
    Not denying the brutal subjugation in any way, but the major characterising feature of the colonisation in NZ, Aus & the Americas was the unbalanced levels of warmaking ability/technology of the parties involved. Europe reached a comparative balance of power centuries ago, since then any two sides fighting in that neighbourhood had more-or-less similar attitudes and tools towards making war. Once Brits and French and Spaniards and Portuguese with guns met cultures still using stone-tipped spears they, of course, prevailed. In the same way that the roman legions rampaged across the warring tribes of Europe in the days of Julius Caesar.
    I've just completely lost track of whatever point I might have had, but I've spent the time typing this, so I'll post anyway :-)

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 900 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    actually,

    Once Brits and French and Spaniards and Portuguese with guns met cultures still using stone-tipped spears they, of course, prevailed.

    i think you mean, "usually" prevailed.

    in parts of australia the main factor in europeans favour was the horse, not the gun. they could gallop into populated areas very quickly, butcher half a dozen or so (muskets aren't all that accurate), and gallop out. fcking cowards...

    on the other hand, in south america it was the good old fashioned plate amour that spared them. the aztecs and inca had obsidian weapons that shattered too easily.


    but back on track. i agree with tze ming that pakeha is the most appropriate label for white new zealanders. but also need to reiterate that it is an ethnic label. 'new zealanders' is supposed to be the nationality. the fact that the national characteristics are dominated by pakeha characteristics is just a product of colonialism, and the natural inclination of nationalism.

    a national identity is always dominated by the majority ethnicity.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2042 posts Report Reply

  • Yamis,

    Tze ming mok:

    and much prefer KRS-One to the Clean

    Damn, I love KRS-One!!!

    The list of things I wrote as things which are part of NZ culture was not a be all and end all list and of course you have people within races around the world who like totally different things. My wife is Korean and likes cats while her Korean friend staying with us is scared shitless of them. In Korea I know Koreans in underground punk rock bands while others have never heard of it, some love hip hop, some love horrible pop music, some are into football hardcore and some couldn't give a shit.

    I'm not saying all NZers are interested in the things I mentioned. Even I'm not interested in half of them, but they are all things that stand out AT THE MOMENT about NZ. In 20 years time things like online gaming might be considered strong parts of NZ culture along with Karaoke rooms and Norei bungs, PC bungs and Po-jang macha on street corners.

    Anyway, I'm about out on this topic. I think I've said about as much as I can. Some understood, some totally misunderstood.

    Two more things though.

    Firstly...

    I asked a Maori teacher of Te Reo at my school if Pakeha meant "non-Maori" just last week and she said YES. People don't have to agree with her but she is seriously clued up on all matters Maori as you might expect so conclude what you will.

    Secondly...

    If New Zealand European is somebody who is white does a French person or Dutch person who happens to be black comes to live in New Zealand, do they have to start putting "African" on their census form? People are assuming that all Europeans are white.

    Since Nov 2006 • 903 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    claiming universally applicable 'New Zealand' ethnicity is avoiding the hard realities of why it is important or necessary to collect data on ethnicity to start with. You know - racism. You can't just wish away ethnic inequalities by refusing to officially admit to being white, in a blaze of glorious utopian nationalism

    I think this is right. But people can opt out of narratives that load their identity with unwelcome political or ideological consequences. Whether or not there is a "New Zealand" ethnicity with which some people identify (and clearly some do define themselves this way) I think others are declining to participate in a categorisation exercise that has connotations they are uncomfortable with.

    Maybe similar considerations were in play when the question of who is "indigenous" was discussed earlier. If x, then y - the "New Zealander" census phenomenon isn't just about the x, its also about the y.

    Since Nov 2006 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    I don't see why Pakeha is necessarily the most appropriate term for the ethnicity of white NZers. And I don't see why it is racist for people to opt for New Zealander.

    Ethnicity is about genetic relatedness. Ethnic groups are large extended families. Caucasian is a more accurate description than European. As Yanis points out there are many Europeans who aren't white.

    The term Pakeha comes from our colonial history due to the need to distinguish between Maori and Others. It's more a political term than a description of ethnicity.

    But people can opt out of narratives that load their identity with unwelcome political or ideological consequences.

    I'm not sure that you mean this to be a good or bad thing but I can see it as postive - a refusal to have one's identity determined by past conflicts. Many ethnic conflicts around the world could do with just such a refusal of group/genetic identity.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Anna Park,

    Neil,
    The reason this Pakeha doesn't answer "New Zealander" as her ethnicity is that it is not an ethnicity. It's a nationality.
    It's that simple.

    Saying "I'm a New Zealander" when the subtext is "I am Caucasian" is racist (I'm not saying you are racist) because the implication is that other New Zealanders (non-white) are somehow less New Zealandish than us.
    (I'm assuming broadly here that you are also Ngati Pakeha, if not, aroha mai).
    I realise most of this has been stated already , probably in forms far more articulate than mine, but I just really wanted to get in on what I see as an excellent discussion we all should have, early and often.

    BTW, I speak a bit of Te Reo, and I have always used Pakeha for ethnically Caucasian New Zealanders and Tauiwi for foreigners visiting NZ, or very recent migrants, of any ethnicity.

    Can any fluent speakers correct/substantiate this distinction for me?

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2006 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Manakura,

    Saying "I'm a New Zealander" when the subtext is "I am Caucasian" is racist (I'm not saying you are racist) because the implication is that other New Zealanders (non-white) are somehow less New Zealandish than us.

    That about sums it up - its just not healthy to let a small group of people, lets face it, predominantly white people, who occupy a priveleged position in New Zealand, to appropriate a term strongly associated with National Identity and the status of citizenship It is an exclusionary practice whether intentional or not.

    Besides which, its bloody greedy - New Zealand Europeans already have a perfectly adequate name: Pakeha (incorrect usage notwithstanding!). Just because it has taken on some negative shades of meaning doesn't mean Pakeha should try take on a new term - that newbie will become just as tarnished as Pakeha in a short time. Well, already has by the looks of it...

    Instead of copping/opting out of the narratives associated with Pakeha that give it bad meanings, Pakeha should 'own' those narratives, meaning take responsibility for them. See it as a challenge to correct the wrongs that lead to negativity.

    Opting out of narratives that form your identity is not a positive thing, especially when those narratives explain and/or challenge how a group came to dominate a society/country/land. Historical amnesia over how Pakeha gained their priveleged positon in NZ is not a good look. In fact it is one of the reason why 'Pakeha' can have negative meanings.


    Yamis said:

    In 20 years time things like online gaming might be considered strong parts of NZ culture along with Karaoke rooms and Norei bungs, PC bungs and Po-jang macha on street corners.

    I have no idea what the last three things are, but Karaoke rooms... dude! They are a huge part of 'NZ Culture', whatever that is. There are hundreds of them for a start, and a lot of New Zealanders (national not 'ethnic') of all stripes) frequent them... frequently. Viva la Champion Singing Rooms, Auckland CBD!

    My point is, just because its not featured in media, or talked about nostalgically in blog threads or down the local doesn't mean it isn't imortant to what NZ is right now. Just takes a while for it to become apparent, especially if you live in... hmmm Masterton or Invercargill.

    Yamis (and Anna):
    Ok, I stand corrected, some Maori do use Pakeha to mean non-Maori, but I maintain it is an incorrect, and worse lazy usage. I have done a bit of asking round in the last couple of days, and the responses confirm Yamis' point. interestingly that defintion of Pakeha doesn't feature in any dictionary of te reo Maori, not even the mighty, constantly updated Wakareo online.

    It worries me that some Maori are lumping all non-Maori European NZ nationals into one group like that, when clearly there are vast differences between groups, especially in what they may mean to Maori in terms of mana motuhake and tino rangatiratanga.

    Whaingāroa • Since Nov 2006 • 134 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Manakura:

    It worries me that some Maori are lumping all non-Maori European NZ nationals into one group like that, when clearly there are vast differences between groups, especially in what they may mean to Maori in terms of mana motuhake and tino rangatiratanga.

    But the main thing is, dude, you won the Flying Nun contest!

    Click "Reply" at the bottom of this post to tell me where to send your box set:

    http://publicaddress.net/default,3794.sm

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22763 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    Manakura, you may feel that Pakeha is the right word for the ethnicity of white NZers but I don't believe that you can make that decsion on behalf of others. I accept the label in certain circumstances and not others. I would not use it to decsribe my ethnicity since, like for a lot of peope, its a bit mixed up. But I am happy to accept the term when talking about treaty issues.

    I think calling people who tick the New Zealander box racist is a debasement of the term. I prefer to save it for actual instances of racist attitudes or behaviour.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Anna Park,

    " I think calling people who tick the New Zealander box racist is a debasement of the term. I prefer to save it for actual instances of racist attitudes or behaviour."

    This is a fair point.
    I agree that many/most of the people who tick "New Zealander" are not racist individuals.

    This does not mean that the effect of such a ticking (?) does not have a racist denotation.

    If my physical attributes/genetic makeup mark me as Caucasian, and I state that "New Zealander" is my ethnicity, it's pretty damn hard for someone with different physical attributes than me to argue they are also a New Zealander by ethnicity.

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2006 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin,

    As stated before, there is no reason why NZer cannot become an ethnicity. Sure its a nationality as well, and that should always be its primary usage, but the two can merge to some degree. There are people that are citizens of this country that clearly identify with different national identities and that is perfectly fine, then there are those that do not, that share a common identification - why shouldn't they be able to make their own new ethnic group?

    If NZer does become an ethnicity I'd hope that it would be an inclusive one that is not just shorthand for white and english speaking. But it may not.

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 1021 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    I'm an Antipodean, walk upside down, on my hands preferably, and have a dog's head.
    Really it makes a difference, Euro's just can't place me.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Manakura,

    Manakura, you may feel that Pakeha is the right word for the ethnicity of white NZers but I don't believe that you can make that decsion on behalf of others.

    Fair enough, I wouldn't accept outsiders dictating the nature of my identity to me. Not sure if that was what i was doing, certainly not my intention anyway. Let me just say that Pakeha is the word I use to identify myself as a New Zeland European, and it doesn't trouble me to use that term, neither does it trouble any of my Maori friends and whanau, nor the Pakeha ones (and obviously most of those people are, like me Maori and Pakeha). So its hard for me to undersatnd why Pakeha should be troubled by it, even though it has some negative connotations. 'Maori' does too, but we own it and meet the challenge to make it a positive term (i.e. "Mean Maori Mean!")


    The other thing to it is that New Zealander as ethnicity is mostly just a substitution for 'Pakeha' or 'NZ European'. As Tze Ming said earlier:

    Still, despite all the definition and invention of 'New Zealand' identity and/or ethnicity going on in this thread, it does still look, walk, smell, swim and quack like good ol' postcolonial Pakeha to me.

    So for most people the whole 'New Zealander' thing was a waste of time: "you say New Zealander, I think Pakeha.. lets call the whole thing off..."

    Ok, so the appropriation of the term used to describe national belonging by (some members of) the dominant ethnic group of this nation for the purposes of naming their fledgling ethnicity is not KKK, lynching, John Howard racism.

    Its not that serious obviously. But it's racist nonetheless, the kind born of not questioning one's assumptions, not questioning the reason for their priveleged position in society, and assuming the centrality of their culture over that of other memebrs of the nation.

    Not suggesting that Neil, Yamis or any of the other 'New Zealanders-for-census-purposes' peeps here are intellectually lazy bigots. I accept some of the people that wrote in their nationality as their ethnicity have a well thought out and intentioned rationale. But clearly most 'New Zealanders' are New Zealand Europeans, and of that group most (or the most vocal perhaps?) are 'soft bigots'.

    I still think the problem is to do with the size of the boxes you are aasked to tick - they need to be much much larger, so people with a fraught and complex identity can let it all out in wonderful flowing prose/exposition.

    Whaingāroa • Since Nov 2006 • 134 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin,

    It is not immediately obvious to most people that using the word Nzer as short hand for White, English-speaking Nzer could be racist. Sure, if you explain the logic, most people might see your point. But most people are not going to get into that discussion, they are just going to be offended that you called them racist for asserting an identity that they identify with. They will read headlines in North and South, listen to sound bites etc, and they will be upset. What will be the next thing they do, after being offended? I suspect they will even more strongly identify with this label. Then before you know it your opposition has ended up solidifying the ethnic identity in question.

    A lot of cultural practices work like this. For every pronouncement of politicians in France and the UK about the headscarf wearing ‘issue’, I am sure more women of Muslim communities in those states feel the desire to wear such scarves.

    So what am I saying? Be careful with how you approach this issue if you want to change the behaviour of the offending people. Labelling them as racist, even if carefully qualified, could easily be totally counter productive.

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 1021 posts Report Reply

  • dc_red,

    If my physical attributes/genetic makeup mark me as Caucasian, and I state that "New Zealander" is my ethnicity, it's pretty damn hard for someone with different physical attributes than me to argue they are also a New Zealander by ethnicity.

    Says who? Can a black Dutch person in New Zealand not write in "Dutch"? Can an Asian Canadian person in New Zealand not write in "Canadian"? Of course they can if they want to, and feel that's accurate. Or should they really be writing in "African" and "Asian" for all eternity?

    Once again, I wrote in "New Zealander" and am happy for anyone else who feels that's the best description of their ethnic identity to do the same. I might be slightly surprised if say, someone fresh off the boat from Liverpool or Tierra del Fuego did this, but if a long-term resident of the country who felt like a New Zealander, but happened to have, say, one parent from Ghana and another from Guernsey, did so, I wouldn't give a toss. It's not a particularly exclusive category.

    As stated before, there is no reason why NZer cannot become an ethnicity. Sure its a nationality as well, and that should always be its primary usage, but the two can merge to some degree.

    Exactly. Just like Samoan. Tongan. Dutch. Niuean. and the various other ethnic examples on the form.

    Oil Patch, Alberta • Since Nov 2006 • 706 posts Report Reply

  • Manakura,

    So what am I saying? Be careful with how you approach this issue if you want to change the behaviour of the offending people. Labelling them as racist, even if carefully qualified, could easily be totally counter productive.

    Point taken, I hadn't thought that through. Still, don't think it applies to this thread, which is a credit to everyone here.

    On other news, holy shit, I won some stuff! I was so busy being a ethnic identity smart arse that I totally missed Russell's post. Cool. Like to thank god, my family my agent...

    Whaingāroa • Since Nov 2006 • 134 posts Report Reply

  • Yamis,

    If NZer does become an ethnicity I'd hope that it would be an inclusive one that is not just shorthand for white and english speaking.

    That's what I hope, and the way it can become that is if we are a welcoming country, with diverse people, diverse interests and are proud of our country. Having negative attitudes and loading labels with failry negative connotations and labelling the people who choose them negatively won't help. I am lucky enough to teach at one of the most multicultural schools in the world and it seems to operate just fine. Lets all hold hands and sing we are the world.

    Since Nov 2006 • 903 posts Report Reply

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