Email 02.05.18: The Maori wards proposal in Palmerston North, NZ

Well, it's an intractable issue. I don't see it as a question of "race". Races don't really exist. As James Baldwin observed, "white is an attitude", while "black is a condition". See . So it's possible to be physically black (or brown), and to have a "white attitude". In other words, one can't assume that a "Maori face" in Parliament, or in a local body, will automatically ensure that Maori values, interests and social problems, i.e. the "Maori condition", will be adequately addressed. In the past, the thinking was that Maori could be educated out of their "condition". The thinking was the same in Australia and North America, vis-a-vis defeated and dispossessed indigenous peoples. Children would be given a Western schooling, entirely in English, and would emerge with all the "right" ("white") attitudes. Past discord would be smoothed over, and equality would be achieved. Of course, it didn't work. Everywhere, the result was the same: the creation of a permanent underclass, with poorer health, shorter life expectancy, and higher rates of illiteracy, alcoholism, suicide and incarceration. Thus, the difference between New Zealand and Australia is one of degree, rather than of substance.

There's no easy fix for this state of affairs. Perhaps there's no fix at all. But one thing is certain: Waving a magic wand and saying "We're now one people" doesn't work. In fact, it's a joke, when you consider that Europeans can't construct even the simplest sentence in te reo. Likewise, the typical  "white" remonstration, "You've got the vote, you've got equal opportunity, you've received compensation, so what are you complaining about?" won't achieve anything.

That's my view - a somewhat pessimistic view, I'm afraid.  


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