If you have a Facebook or keep an eye on the news at all, you will have heard about police being told not to ticket unlicenced Maori drivers in South Auckland with some not-at-all questionable Facebook click-bait and comment fodder.
Firstly, on top of prompting racist comments (which is exactly what followed), they barely were even honest titles. The document they’re referring to does not make Maori people exempt from fines, they still have to pay it after 2 months if they don’t get their licence and the compliance is for anyone who meets certain criteria (even if it’s clearly worded badly so that Maori are “considered”).
Now let’s look at some comments I found…
They go from people crying racist…
To the people who actually read the article…
To some guy called Hemi who made me laugh…
Okay, so if you think this is racism, it’s time to stop and think and really understand what that word ACTUALLY means. I’m going to quote directly from the internetz.
“Racism exists when prejudice+power combine to form social constructs, legislation and widespread media bias that contribute to the oppression of the rights and liberties of a group of people. Racism is systemic, institutional, and far reaching. It is the prevalence of racism within social structures and institutional norms, along with implicit and explicit enforcement by members of a group, that allows racism to run rampant and unchecked.”
So no. This one little policy (that wasn’t only set up for Maori people) is not racist.
This comedian Aamer Rahman hits the nail on the head when he talks about “reverse racism” – it’s worth a watch.
I knew I’d find this kind of comment on the above Facebook posts, and it really didn’t take long.
“I know a lot of pakeha offenders where’s there get out of jail free card……. I suppose for the law to have your back you have gots to be black.”
This person reeks so bad of white privilege, I can smell them from here. Ugh. And it’s *their. Learn how to spell.
To say that pakeha have it hard compared to Maori is actually quite sick when you think about it.
I’m going to be honest and say I never really understood why Maori and Pacific Islanders got certain benefits (or “benefits”) when it comes to scholarships, community groups, political parties and those quotas that are in certain industries and uni programmes. I am half Cook Island Maori, but grew up in NZ on a dairy farm with my papa‘ā father mostly around his side of the family. This has given me a weird mish mash of experiences.
I went from my local, low decile Maori primary school to a posh all-girl boarding school to university – I was privileged enough to get this amazing education and never go without because of where I’m from.
Even so, I used to get told to apply for the Pacific Island uni scholarships, which I wasn’t keen on because I didn’t like the idea that I was being singled out to get free money when my friends wouldn’t (also because I was lazy and that sounded like effort). When I got to uni, I was automatically signed up for some Pacific Island group and was invited to all of these meetings which I thought sounded stupid. Then in my third year I got a letter telling me that someone had looked up my grades to see how I was going in my classes because I was P.I. and that I seemed to be doing well but to let them know if I needed any help.
I was actually really offended. None of my flatmates got this letter. Why should I be singled out as the brown person of my friends who probably needs help because I’m clearly dumber than these white kids. My flatmates were offended. Why does she get offered help when I don’t? She shouldn’t get preferential treatment because she’s not white.
It was really confusing!
Well now I finally understand it. Most Maori and Pacific Islanders are the subjects of some long-running, deep, deep, systemic oppression which keeps them at a disadvantage for most of their lives.
Now, I don’t think I fall in this category as I was raised in the most Kiwi fashion possible – milking cows and riding motorbikes – and my ethnicity is pretty much uncategorisable. I’m like the Cliff Curtis of internet rants. I haven’t been profiled since I was a teenager and I am incredibly lucky for that. But I’m not representative of the brown folk of New Zealand at all.
Let’s get statistical.
So, firstly, population vs incarceration rates of European, Maori and Pacific Islanders.
|Population (2013 Census)||74%||15%||7%|
|Prison Population (30 June 2012)||33%||51%||12%|
You’re all clever enough to see some clear inconsistencies with the ratios there. In 2006, 13% of Maori who were convicted of an offense received a custodial sentence compared to just 8% each for Europeans and Pacific Islanders. They are also less likely to receive home detention compared to Europeans.
Or there’s our unemployment rates, where the percentage of both Maori and Pacific Islanders unemployed are consistently significantly higher than that of European people up to the age of 65.
What about child poverty? Children of Maori or Pacific Island descent are twice as likely to be living in poverty compared with European kids.
Let’s be clear, this is not because the brown folk are inherently lazier or more criminal minded than the whiter folk, it’s because New Zealand as a country has not made life at all easy for anyone who isn’t white since the we got colonised.
And we have people like this really helping the cause…
I think it’s really interesting how we can see how blatant racism is in other countries but not our own.
In Australia where the aboriginals weren’t considered citizens until 1967, and some were considered ‘flora and fauna’ and are now in the middle of the forced closure of their communities. We’ve had so many protests and calls to action.
In America where we see police brutality against black people getting to the point where a young girl in a bikini is manhandled so aggressively we all freak out and demand answers.
We are so blind to what’s happening in little old New Zealand. Sure our native folk have it better than some other countries, but that’s not to say we’re not massive douchebags about it.
To quote John Oliver on equal pay – “If someone takes a dump on my desk, the size of the dump is not the issue. I’m not going to say ‘well how big of a dump is it? 8 inches? 10 inches? Oh just 3 inches? Well that’s almost like you didn’t take a dump on my desk at all!'”.
Even the UN agrees. This quote came after a visit in April 2014.
“Following a two-week visit to New Zealand, the UN Working Party on Arbitrary Detention found systemic bias against Māori at all levels of the criminal justice system. It said there must be a review into the bias against Māori, and noted that four previous reports by the UN had found the justice system to be biased against Māori.”
It’s time to look inwards and be more aware of our own internal bias as well as the biases that have become the day-to-day norm. Why do we headline stories about Maori people with their ethnicity but not white people? Why do we assume that all beneficiaries are horrible parents? What do you think is the underlying reason for the high rate of young Maori offending? Why do people in poverty offend so much? How did they get in poverty in the first place? It’s as simple as realising that some people are dealt a 2 and a 7 of different suits and some people are dealt a pair of aces and everyone’s expected to win at the Texas Hold’em game of life. Boom! #metaphorsftw
So, to wrap up today’s rant, I’m going to reiterate that that ill-worded policy by the police about not ticketing certain people immediately is NOT racist. If anything, it’s a clever policy to help target the underlying issue of WHY someone (probably Maori because let’s be honest, they’re the ones being pulled over the majority of the time #profiling) may not have a licence, or be driving outside of their restrictions, rather than piling fines on someone who could very well not be able to afford both a ticket AND a new licence. That shit is expensive yo. If we’re encouraging people to get their licence with the threat of a fine in 2 months, they’re more likely to do it and therefore more likely to become safer drivers and make our roads a better place.
Just look into these things and check your privilege (I think I’m contractually obliged to say that in a feminist blog) – there’s always more to it than the media outlets will make it out. I guarantee it.
Extra extra: Read this article about poor people and how we blame them for their poverty, and watch the video below with my future husband, rapper Akala, being amazing and talking about racism. These aren’t NZ based, but the issues are essentially the same.
Love love love!