Saturday, 14 July 2007

Thank you everyone!

Kia ora koutou,

Thanks to everyone who came to and supported the conference in so many ways. We had a great time and there was lots of fantastic feedback.

To support all the networking that went on over the weekend we have created a new site:

The site contains news, comments, conference papers and reports. Do visit!!!

Thanks again -

The organisers

report on day 1

The theme of the day was “Exploring dominant culture in Aotearoa/New Zealand: blindness and illusion”.

The first section was “Dominant culture and the construction of päkehä ID' or is it 'kiwi ID' ??”

Avril Bell’s key note set the scene for the first block. Titled “Becoming Päkehä: dominance and its costs”, it discussed dynamics ‘emptiness’ and historical amnesia. The invisibility of Päkehä dominance lead to dynamics where the ‘other’ was a cultural source to be learn about and examined. Avril suggested an alternative to this needing to know everything, to learn humbleness, and to be ok with not knowing everything. The discussion that followed brought challenge about another side of that dynamic. This was that there has already been much harm caused by Päkehä not wanting and needing to know, and whether that could be used as a cop out. That discussion and the keynote brought attention to the fine balance between wanting to know everything about the ‘other’ (and that being an expression of conquest or control), and an “I cant be arsed, it’s not my problem” approach.

Nigel Murphy’s presentation called “Race and the construction of New Zealand national
identity 1890-1907”, brought to the fore that racism, rather than being an anomaly of New
Zealand identity, was core to its construction and therefore still feeds nation building today.

Jacob Otter’s piece named “(Re)Doing whiteness in the pursuit of justice in Aotearoa”
explored the “Lefts” construction of whiteness. He pointed out that while whites have privilege,
there are ways in which that white privilege is subverted.

Will Christie spoke on "Native Päkehä: desire and power at work in dominant constructions of
ethnicity”. She talked about päkehä claims to indigneity as an attempt to ignore colonial
history, aided by the colonial governments reinventing? its identity.

There was a comment about the difficulty for many mainstream päkehä to see and comprehend
that they have privilege .

There was a question from a tangata whenua tane to the päkehä panel asking whether the
panelists feel they have a right to be here. One response was that there is a feeling of
belonging, but not an inherent right. Another response was that the language of ‘rights’ or ‘no
rights’ can lead to ‘guilt’ and a defensiveness, rather than a linking to responsibility related to
the circumstance we find ourselves in. Another flagged the need to be mindful of the ‘notion
of rights’ as its based in a white colonial state language. Also, tauiwi ‘rights’ derive from a
colonial state whose legitimacy is in question.

There was also a reminder that colonisation changed everything for everyone, colonised and
coloniser, forever, and there was a need to examine the connection between obligations and
rights. If there are rights, then what are the obligations?

After lunch the next block was “white privilege and dominance”. It opened with a few poems
from Alison Wong, that helped to ground the conference in the realities and experiences of
non-white peoples.

Wong Liu Shueng, the keynote speaker for that block spoke on “racism, angst, culture,
experience”. She shared experiences of racism and explained how her experiences spurred her
on to activism.

Discussion following highlighted there was an attitude learnt very young, about having to
know everything, and that there is a right answer.

There was a challenge about the term “banana”, and whether being white on the inside is
something that you want to be reclaim. It’s a problematic term is rejected by others.

A question about the “Mäori renaissance” and its impact on Liu Shueng’s work and Chinese
identity was responded to by challenging the very concept of “Mäori renaissance”. This was
on the premise that that work has always been going on, but non Mäori often couldn’t see it
happening. However, non Mäori suddenly seeing that work, sparked an examination in other
communities as to their own culture, eg why Chinese weren’t teaching their children. She noted
that we speak the unspoken, we figure out our own identity and who we are, and that is our

There was a question about the structural relationship of Chinese with ToW. The response was
that it was sometimes on the Chinese community’s agenda as an issue, and that it was
sometimes not.

Meng Zhu shared with us “Activism and being Chinese on colonised land”. She spoke of the
tokenism and other oppressions in a predominantly white ‘Left”. Of the many other
manifestations of oppression that must be eliminated, and seen within wider systems of control,
inequality and hierarchy. That to live in this colonised land means that we live with a colonial
capitalist state characterised by inequality imposed the world over.

Emet Degirmenci pointed to the economic motivations of “multiculturalism” in a consuming and controlling exploitation of ‘ethnic’ peoples cultures in her paper called “multiculturalism- what for?”.

Discussion covered:
* the links between migrancy and currency, of migrants seen only for their economic contribution. Also whether päkehä culture is willing, ready and able to take on issues

* the binary nature of thinking, “which culture do you belong to?” Being stuck between both, straddling both. That we don’t have to choose one or the other. That there are many identities, and they are fluid. The ramifications of white privilege, and any privilege is, that you don’t have to negotiate these nuances or the tensions of multiple identity, you just don’t have to think about it.

* the point that “indigenous päkehä” asserts a British right, at the same time as Mäori are asserting theirs. So it asserts a right not in an independent sense, but in relationship to, and to match, Mäori. There does exist a mainstream belief that there is a right of belonging because of the generations born here.

* problems and difierences faced by visible ethnic minorities and non-visible ethnic minorities. There was pain and pressure for Greek tauiwi or German tauiwi or Dutch tauiwi to assimilate as Päkehä, and that there were losses involved.

* the shifting codes of whiteness and what it means to be a ‘real NZer’. That the line keeps shifting, from skin colour, to accent, to birthplace, to values etc.

* Indigenous as a term is a somewhat political term in which it states a position to colonisation as historical and land based, as well as the continued state of colonisation. Päkehä cannot and should not call themselves indigenous.

Suzanne summed up with some important and interesting points.
* The pain and loss of becoming white, and the loss of culture being non-Anglo and subsumed into Anglo-dominated whiteness.
* The trickiness of language that native of NZ is not the same is NZ native. Remember ‘right’ and circumstance of living here comes with obligations.
* And that the label “Päkehä” can be an acknowlegdement and acceptance of those obligatons of justice and honouring Te Tiriti and supporting the journey Mäori have taken towards tino rangatiratanga.

* Päkehä culture has a history of dispossession. The Irish and Scots were kicked out, the Brits didn’t want to leave. That grief in white nation building underpins the Päkehä quest for belonging - the pain still held and well as the insecurity.
* That there is Päkehä culture of forgetting. This marks colonial culture, and includes forgetting stories, who we are, and includes destroying census data so we can’t look back, trace back. But we are still who we were.
* The need for humility to keep learning, and to explore the depth of respect.

* For Päkehä to take tokenism on board, and examine motivations and desire, for when Päkehä exoticise, colonial power is not examined.

* “Until the lions have their historians, tales of hunting will always favour the hunters”. African proverb.

Discussion comments included:
* a question regarding the difference between identity and identification with

* Thinking in an either / or way is a trap. That identities exclude and are exclusive, rather than just a self determining term. That rights and identity get seen like something finite, and if someone has some, others will have less, and some will have to go without. There is a focus on scarcity rather than abundance.

* the pressure of “having to earn your rights and your right to belong”. This is the Päkehä way.

* We shouldn’t let our discussions over labels get in the way of discussing the issues

* “Ethnic” has linguistic roots in “heathen, pagan, gentile, as well as tribe and nation”. It is an Anglo protestant naming term for ‘everyone else’. Proposed shift from ‘ethnic’ to ‘minority ethnic’ to define that each group identifies through ancestry and genealogy. That we are recognised as distinct groups, but can share common culture, religion, language and territory.

* Critique of Office of Ethnic Affairs as it enshrines the use of the term “ethnic”. It is a homogenising term, and negates the complexity and fluidity.

* Critique of use of ethnic, as it also a euphemism for race, as race has become unacceptable to use.

* Problems of terminology is that it can mean different things to different people. We use common words to understand each other. Those words have a history, and that history is complicated.

* That if there is a word to describe dominating cultures it is scarcity. That there is the greed, based on the assumption that there is not enough resource to go around. And what underpins greed is fear. The reason privilege can’t be easily given up is the fear and belief that there is not enough.

* Note that the white dominant culture is marked by not sharing, that it tries to win and control everything. So we are asking it to do something it cannot do.

* Note that there seems to be a lot of answers regarding identity and culture, but what is the question?

* Note to go easy on ourselves, that we put a lot of pressure on language and the words we need to use. We don’t need to work it all out right now.

Then we had wine in teacups, lentil shepherds pie, boozy conversation and the usual
networking. And it was the end of day 1

report on day 2

Sundays heading was “Beyond dominant culture: creating new dynamics”.
We opened by reading a hauntingly beautiful picture book called “the Rabbits”. (John Marsden and Shaun Tan) this is a ‘pulling on your insides’ analogy about colonisation across the ditch.

Ruth de Souza chaired the first block of “The politics of identity” and lightened things up
a bit by telling a bit of a naughty joke about rabbits… and then outlining the
governments 3 strategic policies, one of them being the construction of national identity.

Moana Jackson talked about “the politics of identity” examining the very framing of the concept of identity. Of the understanding of self and belonging, in relation to histories and stories built upon the papa. Of definition based on relationships to kin, earth forest, sky, universe.

When relationships are very different as with päkehä and Tauiwi migration and settlement in Aotearoa, there is a need to create new ways of relations and fitting and joining.

The treaty was a construct for that, offering a kawa that respected difference, to relate and balance. However colonisation damaged that opening, as well as relationships in pacific, as colonial powers and a perception of western superiority tried to subsume rather than relate and balance.

A päkehä man said he had no reservations saying that he had appropriated a mäori rite on
the burying of placenta in the earth, when he took his daughters placenta back on the
plane to NZ. Also he asked about the notion of difference and the notion of power
implicit in difference and having to follow rules and comply.

The response was that pre Christianity, Europeans/pagans had their own rites surrounding
burying of the placenta to secure belonging, and that looking back to our own roots and
ancestral practice will mean that päkehä/Tauiwi do not need to feel they are co-opting or
appropriating mäori practice and rites. That power in te Ao Mäori has no synonym and is
not understood in the exclusionary and absolute way like in western frameworks. That
‘authority’ was of belonging to and in relation to everything else. So disputes around
difference, opposed to being of a court type adversarial nature, were of a resolutionary,
mediatory process with the aim of restoring and healing the relationship, much like in the
way two individuals who know each other will sort things out.

A suggestion that päkehä was a way for päkehä to acknowledge and place themselves
within the sphere of being ‘ethnic’ also. Which makes a place for other NZders as then
they cease to be ‘the’ NZders. That the term päkehä could be seen as a gift, one in which
there is a relationship and belonging. Which then would highlight obligations and
reciprocities of a gift. But is it just a cooption of a word, and how to negotiate the
tensions between co-option and engagement, as engagement may require use of ‘others’

Response of the bridges in Te Ao Mäori of whakapapa. The Treaty of Waitangi allowed
other house and houses where there were no traditional and historical relations with
Tauiwi. So the Treaty is to act as a bridge to work out how those relationships would
work. However colonisation and notions of Western superiority damaged that bridge,
because päkehä wanted only one house. A singular house in which other
peoples could have rooms in that house.

Response also that the compulsion to co-opt is under-pinned by trying to make up for a
past that is too hard to think about. So there is a need to resolve and reconcile ourselves
with that past. Cooption complicates that process and becomes abusive as a dynamic of
“to feel at home you have to steal from the neighbours”.

Ruth opened the panel section of “the Politics of Identity” saying that she once attended a
conference called something like “biculturalism versus multiculturalism”. And she
remembered that Danny had said “the problem is not biculturalism or multiculturalism,
its monoculturalism”.

Danny Butt’s talk was called “leaving NZ to become local”, discussed the need for
päkehä to get past anxiety about being to scared to ask, or ashamed of not knowing. To
also get better at not being right and being open to constructive criticism. About learning
environments where being corrected is part of a reciprocal learning process. In a society
where confidence as seen as power, you have to have power to inflict abuse. He brought
up a point about sexual offenders having a lack of self-esteem, skills and confidence.
Relating that to päkehä not asking what they have to give up, but how to address the
violent side effects of the lack of power to open themselves up to change.

Sekhar Bandyopadhyay in “politics of multiculturalism and the minorities” outlined the
dynamics between nation and nation state, and how minorities and migration disturbs that
relation. History as a cultural tool of defining a nation. As well as a multicultural policy
can be used to give limited autonomous space to ethnic minorities so that diversity is
contained in a social way so as to not threaten the monocultural core and values of how a
state functions.

Athena Gavriel in “more than food and dancing girls: national identity, what’s in it for
me?” pointed out the difference between ethnic and national identity, and ethnicity and
culture being fluid. Also about the subsuming of diverse European cultures within
whiteness and the term päkehä.

The discussion brought up a question of what song Danny sung in the bus. To which
Danny responded that he didn’t, and that there is often a gap between our ideals, and the
reality of where we are at.

A comment that we are all New Zealanders.

Note on the government quest for a national identity as dangerous, and how it just
assumes it can initiate that discussion.

That while some perceived positives of a ‘national identity’ may be that of
acknowledging Mäori as tangata whenua and the place of the Treaty, is that even a good

Response that when the government talks of ‘nation’ it means nation state. And when the
Treaty is referred to as the ‘founding’ document what was founded was päkehä power.
So national identity is nation building nationalism, which maintains päkehä founded

When an ‘inclusive national identity where we can have shared relations that respect
difference’ is suggested, the point is, that as ethnic minorities we aren’t even being heard.
Which means our differences cannot be respected, so we cant have those shared relations.

Note that the government is going to do its thing so as to manage the colonial ethnic
problem, and what can be done strategically to diverge from national identity to
consciousness, and how to use its aims and actions as a cover to get resources.

Question of whether this section and conference has a plan for outcomes and

The answer from organisers is ‘no’. That the ‘point’ is for us to feed each other here and
to go back to all the communities and spaces we work in to share the learning and
knowledge to strengthen our diverse communities.

Comment about nations and nationalism and in Quebec there are nations within nations
and are those concepts helpful or positive things.

Comment that these should be civil conversations not state ones. Of nation not being
homogenous, not just having one voice and that the sate cannot represent everyone. To
think of identities in the plural.

Note about when things are good we can “all be New Zealanders”. But when something
threatens monocultural power, like September 11, some citizens don’t get treated the
same as other citizens. That during various wars in various countries the requirements
for belonging change and some people get put into interment camps, or on an alien list
and get seen as a threat to the nation.

A challenge to the notion that we can all are New Zealanders as that is a co-opting,
subsuming and homogenising way to squash and disappear whakapapa.

Comment on how a government quest to create and set a national identity relates to the
branding of NZ to sell it abroad. The whole clean green, 100% pure has economic
motivations to create a point of difference and control resources.

Comment about the difficulties of identity and identification cannot label progression, as
labels get seen as complete. So how do we find a term so we can all join together and
fight the common enemy.

Another challenge to the ‘we are all New Zealanders’ simply continues the ‘melting pot’
idea, which is just assimilation and domination using nicer words.

Note about the complexities of visible and invisible minorities. Where your own people
might be able to see and recognise you but where are you in a national body politics, or a
national historical imagination.

Response to the idea “to join against the common enemy” being part of the problem.
That many of us are ‘the common enemy’. That we can’t just chop off bits of ourselves.
That maybe we need to ask how we can shift colonial mindsets of binary/dualistic/’us and
them’ ways of relating. How we can open our minds and hearts.

Comment about some positives of biculturalism being that there were very specific
demands and challenges made upon and to päkehä, whereas multiculturalism is a kind of
“everyone can just be who they are”. This means in this type of multiculturalism päkehä
don’t need to change the dominating ways they relate, nor päkehä dominating structures,
and can just carry on as they are.

Gay challenged and responded to Danny’s analogy of sexual abusers who don’t have, and
don’t know how to have healthy relationships. Gay said that sexual abusers do have
many heterosexual healthy functioning relationships, and they abuse.

Gay Puketapu-Andrews and Elizabeth Kerekere ran us thru an identity continuum
activity from the states that we critiqued together while sharing experiences along that
continuum. One of the activities premise was that identity is formed in a racist society.

Suzanne Menzies-Culling shared with us “freedom roadworks” journey, and alternative
living that is self-determining not just state opposing.

Teresia Teaiwi presented “niu means coconut: pacific ways of thriving as minorities
within dominant cultures”. She shared examples of self determining pacific countries, as
well as the importance of reserving the right to critically challenge your own
communities and peoples, so no one is silenced.

Mervin Singham discussed“a new paradigm for a multi-ethnic Aotearoa/NZ” which
presented many goals and ways in which government could see that process progressing
and the importance of that process.

Hannah Ho talked about “crumbs off a dominant table: some pitfalls of dots not joining
syndrome”, which address the need to examine the connections and overlaps between
different oppressions and privileges.

Discussion that followed focused on the governments role and motivation in heading or
initiating creating a national identity.

Question as to what government will do when there are divergent views that are opposed
to what the government thinks.

Challenge that the govt as a visiting and illegal government even thinks that it can put
this topic up on the table.

Concern that although the govt wont just make up a set national identity overnight, but is
proposing to provide a framework to manage and listen to what people are saying, it will
be little more than cooption, appropriation and lip service, with the danger of embracing
to dissolve.

Comment that it is very easy to talk about all of this, but is ultimately problematic as the
government has its own perspective and agenda and something to gain, or else it would
not be initiating this conversation.

Response that a national identity is not a ‘thing’ that the government is offering, but that
is created collectively and one in which the government is a player in. That outcomes
will feed into broadcasting, culture and heritage initiatives, and the (re)education about
Chinese and Indian peoples for instance.

Concerns that the government does not actually listen.

Comment of cultural marginalisation as it relates to national identity, and how will that
construct avoid homogenising diverse cultures in it.

Maybe we need to be asking “do we need to have a discussion on national identity?”
rather than “what is national identity?”. Is this a way in which the labour government
does not have to know who they are, and what culture and cultures underpin how it

Comment of the government is going to do it anyway, can we strategically feed it what
we want and get resources from it.

Comment that there isn’t acknowledgement from government about the ways ‘diversity’ hasn’t been dealt with especially with the Foreshore and Seabed act and Ahmed Zaoui.

Question about what will be the process of creating this national identity strategy?

Response that it is a Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet initiative, but within the Office of Ethnic affairs it will be consultation, discussion, report writing which will then be fed upwards.

Comment that it is interesting that while the rest of the world is moving away from a concept of nation state NZ is pursuing it. Note that it appears the govt is approaching ‘diversity’ in a managed fashion, and there is a great lack of trust about government integrity.

Question of how will stating diversity in a government setting actually deals with racism.

Request to elder peoples of “tips for young players”.

To know that things don’t happen today or tomorrow and to think about how to sustain ourselves for the long haul. To make decisions thinking 7generations ahead. Are we just working for change as a job or career? Do we actually want it? If we do then careful choices need to be made. Respect each other now, and generations to come after.

A idea that ‘culture will save us’ which can be a missionising concept that can lock young people into oppressive roles and structures and then are oppressed twice. Once by dominant cultures, and another within our own peoples structures. To fulfil obligations but always reserve the right to respectfully critique, to opt out where things are inappropriate for us.

When things become orthodox they have the power to oppress. The importance of self critique and self consciousness, asking what and why, so as to make sure we are not oppressing others.

That the politics of generosity and the oppression of scarcity and self interest is a massive difficult task and to just keep going.

Each generation has its own waka and own path to go. Your elders will always be there to help but it is our job as young people to be arrogant, to be the question askers, the pushers of systems.

To “follow your thoughts”. That the missionaries didn’t come to record culture, they came to destroy it. Colonisation freezes culture at a point, when culture is fluid, moving and changes. That not all tradition might be tradition. To have compassion for our elders and acknowledge their different journeys, which will aid understanding and enable us to understand young people and their needs.

Comment that the government cannot create a national identity for all of us, that identity is something we have to dialogue with our own about. The government approach is a house with a flash mäori carving on it, to which Asian paintings, pacific carvings, African sculptures will just be added in a ‘national’ identity, while the governments house is a given and will not look at its own house. The government will not do this so we have to.

Wong Liu Shueng summed up with some points.

The need for honesty in the dialogue that needs to happen. About when we are under pressure and in uncomfortable situation the need to speak up. The need to get over our scariness and how we scare ourselves, as if we don’t capture the fear in ourselves we will not be much good to anyone especially ourselves.

To remember how easy it is to erase history and people by simply not recording and passing it on. How we have to take responsibility for our own histories by telling them in many ways not just words.

About the benefits of working outside the system and creating alternatives. That governments its own cage and its invaluable to know how it operates.

Of new visions and the need to support new visions.

Of respect, self awareness, to seek opinions and keep dialogue going. Of forgiving ourselves and others, and listening to stories to create relationships and show ourselves as we are.

Of journeys as individuals and groups, together from place to place.

Peace. About ourselves and who we are, about what makes up that peace. The courage to change because we change, peace to seek understanding of each other. To welcome and look at our own fears. The less fear there is means the world is wider and bigger and less scary. Less fear means we can be open for more.

The end til July 2009....

Thursday, 31 May 2007

Registrations to "Sweet" conference closed

We are very sorry but we have to close registrations, because we have reached the 100 mark and that's all the hall holds.

We still have a small number of unconfirmed people so you can try your luck on the day/s, but we can't guarantee a place for you - sorry.

Thanks for your interest. The papers will be posted on this blog after the conference.

The organisers

Sunday, 6 May 2007

About the conference

‘Sweet As?’ Ethnic* and Pākehā New Zealanders talk identity and
dominance in a colonised land

9-10 June 2007, St Anne’s Hall, Newtown, Te Whanganui a tara (Wellington)

Cost: $25 low wage, unwaged, student: $55 decent wage:
$170 if your work is paying/government

This conference is about examining dominant culture:
  • how it works
  • how it affects the way we think about ourselves (whatever our ethnicity), and
  • how it impacts on ‘race’ relations in Aotearoa/New Zealand.
The aim is to create discussion across communities, community workers, activists and academia.

Some conference themes:

  • Kiwi identity: is our national narrative exclusionary?
  • The concept of the ‘indigenous Pākehā’
  • The political uses of national identity and race/ethncity
  • Tauiwi responsibilities – what are they?
  • Whiteness and white dominance in Aotearoa/New Zealand
  • Moving beyond ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘biculturalism’?

How did it come about?

This conference came out of a couple of workshops organised on Asian New Zealand experiences and Tiriti o Waitangi issues/tauiwi responsibilities. When a smaller group started to unravel the issues—things like the construction of Pākehā identity and how that influences everyone else, the national politicisation of identity and the lack of crossover between those working on Māori and Ethnic interests— we decided we needed a forum for more in-depth discussions.

Why are we doing it?

First of all, we want to talk about these topics with other people and get new ideas. Second, although the themes described above are very seldom talked about publicly, we feel they actually underpin the way race relations work in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

What do we hope to achieve?

Although we don’t expect this conference to come up with any solutions or grand plan, we do hope it will start more people talking, thinking and writing about dominant culture issues and their effect on Māori and ethnic communities and interests.

We also hope it will be an opportunity for different groups of people, ethnic community workers, those working in the Pākehā anti-racism movement, academics, and government officials, to hear each others ideas.

* "Ethnic" is used to describe those of a non-Western European ethnicity, excluding Māori. (This is the current standard usage and is used in that context.)
** Note that we've had feedback about our use of this term. See the discussion thread Use of the word "ethnic" for the comments.

For more information email

‘Sweet As. . .?': a report for Wel-com - Suzanne Menzies-Culling

On 9th and 10th June, St Anne’s Hall Newtown was the venue for one of the best conferences I have been to in the last few years. Organised by a small group of Wellington based Pākehā and NZ born Chinese, we were given the opportunity to explore what it is to be a New Zealander and how we identify ourselves and each other.

Over the two days, we were treated to three keynote speakers and a series of panellists. On Saturday we heard about the construction of NZ’s national identity and how race influenced that, issues of whiteness in pursuing justice in Aotearoa, and “Native Pākehā” - where Pākehā indigeneity is a useful foil to Māori indigenous rights.

The first keynote speaker, Avril Bell set the tone for the morning, speaking about Dominant culture and the construction of Pākehā identity, as over the years since colonisation began we have not only been able to outnumber the tangata whenua, we have been able to forget where we came from. We now have a situation where to be “kiwi” is synonymous with being White/Pākehā/European and where being white means it is assumed that you are a kiwi.She talked about the Politics of Disappointment and challenged us to address our historical amnesia, and she also made the point that it is us Pākehā, the political descendants of the colonisers, who have come to see ourselves as “The” people. The problem for us is that we are not “the FIRST” people!

In the afternoon Wong Liu Shueng spoke about growing up in small town New Zealand and about the her growing awareness of racism, of how prejudice learnt early is never re-examined, and how experiences of life have been the motivation to work on issues of racism, minority groups , power relationships etc. As a fifth generation New Zealander, she raised the question of “How long does it take before we are considered NZers?”

The afternoon panel dealt with white privilege and dominance and featured two women panellists who were immigrants to New Zealand, both activists who asked searching questions about where we are heading as a society and we were also treated to poetry read by poet Alison Wong who was the 2002 Robert Burns Fellow at Otago University.

Underlying the whole day for me, from both all the speakers and panellists was the “longing to belong” The Sunday was headlined as “Beyond dominant culture: creating new dynamics” and Moana Jackson Ngati Kahungungu, Ngati Porou titled his keynote speech “The Politics of Identity”. He spoke of Māori having whakapapa which determined relationships. ( Papa.. being a foundation, whaka to make or build upon.) For Māori, identity was not a racial or an ethnic classification but was a definition based on relationships. When Pākehā arrived, they were a different people who didn’t fit into the Māori world and relationships, so words had to be devised to describe these people. These were a different set of relationships that grew from a different place.

The panel that followed also continued the theme of identity, including the politics of multiculturalism and minorites, challenging the connection of ethnic with the exotic -asking “What’s in it for me?” and about Pākehā becoming open to what they don’t know and not needing to know everything.

One speaker talked about the need to separate the nation from the state. The point was made that the dominant culture decides the rules of the game and decides who are insiders and who are outsiders.

The afternoon opened with on exercise run by a couple of Māori Women counsellors who got us to critique the North American models of counselling that are now being used here to train students.

The final panel was titled “Ways Forward - envisioning future paths” where the four panellists shared information and experiences of how to build to sustain struggle, about Pacific minorites thriving in other dominant cultures, a new paradigm for a multi - ethnic Aotearoa and a warning of what can happen if the “dots don’t join” in creating models within a dominant culture.

All in all, our bodies minds and spirits were well cared for much with good food, good information and inspirational speakers who shared with openness, good humour, and patience. It was a time to rekindle old relationships and initiate new ones, and it was a privilege to have the opportunity to participate in such a ground breaking conference, one whose time has well and truly come.

Suzanne Menzies-Culling

First published in Wel-com, a Catholic newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North dioceses.

Politics of multiculturalism and the minorities - Sekhar Bandyopadhyay

In an age of globalisation, ironically, but not unexpectedly the focus of attention is once again on national identity. This is because the idea of nation is tangled with the notion of nation state – the expectation is that a nation has to have a well defined identity, it needs to speak in one voice and that voice can give legitimacy to the nation-state. This notion was the product of a particular historical process in Europe in late eighteenth–nineteenth centuries and was later universalised by imperialism.

But this created problems as well, because political boundaries often did not coincide with ethnic boundaries in the new states created by empires. Anthony D. Smith therefore writes:

‘…states, nations and nationalisms do not often coincide. … it is the aim of all nationalists to create the conditions for a greater congruence between state, nation and nationalism. In this quest they have been only partly successful; but this serves merely to spur nationalists to greater efforts.’

It is such efforts that lead to periodic debates on ‘national identity’ within almost every nation-state. And recently as consumer goods and labour travel more freely across the national boundaries and threaten to homogenise our consumption cultures and complicate the ethnic structures of national communities, there is a renewed focus on reinventing the ‘congruence’ between the nation, nation-state and national identity. The current debate on national identity in New Zealand is an indicator of that new focus on nationalism. This debate started in the mid-1990s because of increased Asian immigration since the 1987 shift in immigration rules from sources to skills. A Massey University survey conducted in 1996 revealed that 60 percent of New Zealanders believed that there were too many immigrants from Asia and the Pacific countries. A National Business Review survey in October 2002 revealed that almost half of all New Zealanders believed that there were too many Asians in New Zealand, whereas the number of other ethnic groups was just about right.

New Zealand is certainly no exception. In the countries of the global south similar debate has been caused more by the flooding of goods and cultural artefacts from the north and in the north it is more the influx of labour from the developing countries that has unsettled the established cultural boundaries of nations. Cultural and political anxieties created by such globalizing trends leads to renewed debates on national identity. Because nations are not naturally given entities – they are political constructs. And they are constructed by the dominant ethnos on the basis of certain core values. It is an inclusive as well as an exclusive process, because the dominant group gradually incorporates the minorities. But who are to be included and on what grounds depend on the dominant ethnic group.

So far as New Zealand is concerned, historically the Māori were included as indigenous people of the land, although that inclusion process was never without conflicts, but the Asians were not. And that created problems in the late twentieth century when there was greater influx of Asians as a result of global economic factors. Multiculturalism is often believed to be an appropriate way to incorporate the new minorities; but multiculturalism can also look like a homogenising exercise, pushing the minorities into ethnic pigeonholes conveniently located at the periphery of the nation-space. Their distinctive cultures are recognised, and even celebrated within a restricted social space, but the mono cultural core values of the dominant group prevail in all state policies. I will try to explain it with a few examples about the Indians in New Zealand

Historically speaking, the Indians in New Zealand are not a new immigrant group. The first Indian came to New Zealand in 1809 and then from the 1890s more and more of them started coming here. They expected to be treated well because they were coming from another part of the British Empire. But they were never welcome here and those who settled down have never been recognised as parts of the New Zealand nation. In all textbooks on New Zealand history there is on average only one entry for the Indians and that briefest reference is in the chapter on immigration. This means, their arrival is noted, and then they disappear and never become parts of New Zealand’s national history.

This absence is rectified through a government initiative that introduces the notion of multiculturalism into the discourse of nation. And this is Te Ara: Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Here we find detailed history of the migration, settlement, struggles and contributions of the Indian migrants. However, this is how it defines the Indians:

New Zealand’s Indians are people native to countries in the Indian sub-continent, notably India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and their descendants. After the Chinese, they are the country’s largest Asian ethnic group. New Zealand has many different Indian communities, distinguished by place of origin, language, religion and caste. Often these differences have not been well understood by other New Zealanders.

In other words, the Te Ara not only describes, it also defines: a minority ethnic category of ‘Indian’ is created and the Bangladeshis and Pakistanis are pigeonholed into it for easier understanding by other New Zealanders. Their culture is then celebrated through publicly funded ‘Diwali’ festivals in Auckland and Wellington. The website of the Asia-New Zealand Foundation, which sponsors the festival, describes its purpose in this way:

Diwali Festival of Lights gives the Indian communities the opportunity to share this much-loved cultural tradition with other New Zealanders and their families. This event celebrates not only the traditions of Diwali, but also Indian culture as a whole.

In other words, it is not just for Indians, but also for ‘other New Zealanders’. Such official endeavours to implement multiculturalism thus identify and define minority ethnic groups and offer the majority community an understanding of their ‘culture’ by reducing it to certain easily identifiable markers. The potentially subversive culture of a minority community is thus recognised, offered a limited space for autonomy and thus safely contained within a social plane.

But in the political spheres what David Pearson has defined as the ‘monocultural core values’ remain enshrined. These include British colonial heritage, the concept of individual citizenship and most important of all, its monolingual (or perhaps nominally bi-lingual, given the official status accorded to Te Reo Māori) foundations.

There is also another side of it. The immigrants, and these include the Indians since they have been coming here from the late nineteenth century, are also parts of the colonising process, even though there was hierarchy within the settler society. The immigrants have a natural tendency that they want to start from a ‘clean slate’, i.e., they would like to believe that nothing happened in this country before they arrived. And this is true as much for the old immigrants as the new. So there is a marked reluctance to understand the historical tradition of the land and the rights of the indigenous people. And this is not helpful either.

So how do we resolve the tensions between the past and the present in the life of a nation? We could do it perhaps by disengaging the nation from the state, or to go back to Anthony Smith, by abandoning our endeavour to find ‘congruence’ between nation, state and national identity. In stead of looking for a homogenised essentialised identity, we should look for ‘New Zealand Identities’, as a group of scholars have done recently.

Becoming Pākehā: Dominance and its costs - Dr Avril Bell


Pākehā have been called the 'empty centre' of New Zealand biculturalism. 'Emptiness' has both its privileges and problems. In this paper I will discuss this notion of Pākehā 'emptiness', outlining its relationship to Pākehā privilege, and discussing some of the ways in which emptiness and privilege block Pākehā becoming.

Becoming Pākehā: Dominance and its costs

I don’t know that much about my ancestors. There have really been very few stories passed down through the family. Just a few names, dates and facts. I don’t know why any of my ancestors came here, but I know when some of them arrived.

The earliest I know about is my mother’s great grandfather, who was apparently at the signing of the Treaty as one of the British Royal Engineers present at the occasion.I know he was there because I read it in a book. It’s not something I’ve ever heard mentioned in the family. I have also read in books that - quote - ‘he was a warm friend and sympathiser with the Māori race, and was opposed to the Māori war and to the policy which involved the confiscation of their land’- unquote - was apparently influential in getting Wiremu Tamihana to agree to a peace after the invasion of the Waikato, and was for a time an MP. I don’t remember hearing any of this spoken of in my family. He eventually returned to England and died there, but left behind a number of children, whose families for generations lived in the Auckland region.

On my father’s side, both his paternal grandparents landed in Christchurch from Northern Ireland in the 1860s. They met, married and farmed in Canterbury before a depression in the late 1800s drove them off the land penniless, with nine children, and they moved to Taranaki. There they ‘took up Māori leasehold land at Puniho - no capital required’ as the family history records it - not so much a family history, as an annotated family tree of the Bells in NZ.

I’m not sure if anyone in the family other than me has ever stopped to think about what that sentence says. This economic opportunity to ‘take up’ free ‘capital’ - ie land - allowed our grandfather and his brothers and sisters to grow up healthy (if not wealthy), at the direct cost of the dispossession and impoverishment of Taranaki iwi. Again - although the facts are there in this case - I have never heard anybody in the family mull this over or reflect on what this says about our family’s direct relationship to colonisation in this country.

My grandparents on both sides ultimately moved to Kaitaia, where my parents grew up, met and married and my generation were born and raised also.

So, I’m a classic Pākehā in many respects - born & grew up here, ancestors came here from England and Ireland, and have been here since the 1800s.

My parents weren’t Pākehā though. That’s something I’ve become - primarily from developing an awareness of my position here relative to Māori and from having my consciousness raised over the years - an ongoing and lifelong process of learning and unlearning that began for me in the 1980s at teachers college and then university.

I remember about 15 years or so ago, doing the dishes at home with my Dad and discussing politics - as we liked to do, since we agreed on most things. I’m not sure what the topic was, but I remember saying something about us being immigrants and my Dad being nonplussed by that idea. My Dad was a New Zealander and I was raised to consider myself a New Zealander. In defence of my Dad, he was a very politically progressive white New Zealander. I always remember him defending Māori protesters and so-called radicals against my more conservative uncles. He definitely wasn’t a redneck. But he was the product of his times, as we all are. So he was a New Zealander.

This idea of being a New Zealander - our Pākehā nationalism - allows us to forget the fact that we originally come from elsewhere. We are a migrant people and our migration took the form of colonising settlement. We are the ‘second settlers’, as Stephen Turner says. And arguably Chinese New Zealanders should be considered second settlers also, in the sense that Chinese history here goes back almost as long, but that, as well, is forgotten in the face of Pākehā dominance and Pākehā nationalism. Chinese New Zealanders have never been allowed to forget their origins. Pākehā New Zealanders have done their best to forget theirs.

[T]he pervasive effect of contemporary settler culture in New Zealand ... [is] a problem of living in the present, or living without history .... [T]he will to forget the trauma of dislocation and unsettlement has taken the form of a psychic structure.-Stephen Turner, 1999, p.21

So, in my family we don’t remember why our ancestors came. That would be to remember that they did come. And we don’t remember how their coming and being here was at the cost of the tangata whenua. We just came and made ourselves at home and did our best to raise our children to prosper in this place and to think of it as ‘ours’. In this sense, my family narrative is ‘empty’ and the collective Pākehā narrative is equally empty - I take this terminology from Malcolm MacLean (1995), who describes Pākehā as an ‘empty alterity’ and the ‘silent centre’ of biculturalism. In my family and in the Pākehā collective narrative, the tales of our becoming are very thin or non-existent - few of us remember stories of displacement and loss from the mother country, stories of the struggles of settlement, there is little in the way of narrations of profound relations to place, little recounting of formative relationships with Māori friends and neighbours. Just the pragmatic effort to survive and ‘get ahead’, the past being continually put behind us from generation to generation, the migrants’ desire to look forward, to build a better life, compounded by the colonisers’ desire to forget.

It doesn’t matter whether your family has been here as long as mine, or arrived far more recently. We all, all non-Māori that is, share what is fundamentally the same relationship to this place and to Māori as the tangata whenua. We are all tangata tiriti. We are here as the direct result of colonisation and we have the colonisers to thank for our lives here - ‘Thank you very much for the property rights, the infrastructure, the legal system’ - all of which they set up and all of which frames our lives and positions here today. The colonisers are our ‘political ancestors’, to use a phrase of Australian philosopher, Raimond Gaita - himself a first generation Australian, outlining the political connection between himself and the original colonising settlers.

This is our privilege and our burden.

However, my brief today is to concentrate on Pākehā - and by that term I mean the white New Zealanders who make up the dominant cultural group - the white settler people, the self-styled national people. And us Pākehā are, of course, the particularly privileged (and burdened) group in relation to our colonial story.

Pākehā claim for themselves the name ‘New Zealanders’ - kindly letting Māori and more recently tagata pasifika share it with us, although we’re still not too sure about the rest of you! Around half of us don’t like the term Pākehā at all and don’t use it to refer to ourselves. But when I use it here today I use it to mean all of this category of people - self-identified or not.
Over the last 100 or so years - since around the time my Dad was born - we have developed this sense of ourselves as a national people. (Back when James Cook came here and in the early 1800s, in contrast, Māori were ‘the New Zealanders’, so our becoming New Zealanders represents quite a shift over that time.)

Nationalism, here as everywhere, involves two claims - a claim to be the people of a particular place, and on the basis of that claim, a claim to sovereignty, to the right to be self-governing

The white Canadian looks at the Indian. The Indian is Other and therefore alien. But the Indian is indigenous and therefore cannot be alien. So the Canadian must be alien. But how can the Canadian be alien in Canada? - Terry Goldie, 1989, p.13

For Pākehā, the claim to be the people has always been a tricky one. Usually that’s done through the telling of histories, the celebration of language, religion, cultural traditions, and through a romantic identification with the national landscape.

The difficulties for Pākehā nationalism can be summed up as

  1. having derivative, rather than original cultural traditions - they aren’t that different from those of the other anglo-celt settler peoples in particular
  2. As I’ve already discussed - not being able to cherish and build our history, since we can’t allow ourselves to remember it
  3. And what I want to talk about a bit more - Not being the first people. There was always another people here before us, another history that predates us, another, prior relation to this place - the ultimate problem for Pākehā nationalism.Māori are both a block to Pākehā becoming and the anchor on which our becoming relies. On the one hand we want Māori difference to disappear, so we can get on with being at home and with asserting our singular status as the national people.

    ‘he iwi tahi tatou’ - we are all one people ‘Pākehā are indigenous too’ ‘Māori are migrants too’ ‘What about the Moriori? Māori are colonisers too’

    All these are ways in which Pākehā try to elide the differences between themselves and Māori to claim that we are effectively one people of equal and identical belonging and - in the case of the latter argument about the Moriori - to claim that we are of equally dubious moral standing

    On the other hand, being derivative and culturally rather ‘thin’ ourselves, we rely on notions of greater Māori cultural depth, authenticity and difference to ‘flesh out’ our national narrative, our cultural symbolism and our national imaginary - from Te Rauparaha’s haka through to the Air NZ koru and the hei tiki on the 10c coin - Māori culture is what gives ‘New Zealand’ culture.

    This contradictory position was beautifully illustrated by Don Brash’s infamous Orewa speech, in which, on the one hand, he questioned the ongoing existence of Māori people - there are no full-blooded Māori left - and denied the validity of any political recognition of Māori as a people, while, on the other, he said that Māori culture was important to NZ and would always be cherished

The classic Pākehā nationalist stance is thus to feel positive towards Māori cultural expression, but uneasy about any suggestion that our relation to Māori people should come with any accommodation of political claims for rights, recognition, redress, and uneasy about the idea that Māori might be different to us in some ways - and even more anxiety-making - that they might want to be different. ‘What’s wrong with us?’ is the anxious question that springs to mind in the Pākehā psyche.

Biculturalism it seems to me, is just the latest version of this nationalist project - one that attempts to respond to the stubborn persistence of Māori and their claims to recognition as a distinct and first people and claims to reparation for colonial injustice, but without giving too much away.

The rhetoric of biculturalism is that there are ‘two founding peoples’, Māori and Pākehā, different and equal - two cultural wholes, complete in themselves, to be celebrated, making up ‘New Zealand’.

This is a handy rhetoric for Pākehā, legitimising our right to be here as tangata tiriti - and handy too, to a degree, for Māori in providing some acknowledgment of Māori culture and existence and providing some ‘space’ for Māori-ness to be, although it’s not a very big or very autonomous space.

And in that regard it’s not surprising that Māori increasingly reject biculturalism and talk in terms of nationalism with its rhetoric of sovereignty

My family has been in New Zealand for 150 years, on both sides of the family. I have no claims to anything in Britain, and there has been no Māori blood in the family, so I have no identity.- Ewan Gilmore, in Bain, Dominion, 2000, p. 11

We argued that there was no Pākehā identity as such. Pākehā had co-opted an identity as New Zealanders … So the exhibitions became New Zealand identity from a Pākehā perspective. - Jock Phillips 1996, p.115on exhibition conceptualisation at Te Papa

But, there’s also a number of problems with biculturalism...Firstly - there is really no second culture in biculturalism. No attention is given to Pākehā cultural identity. Go to the national bicultural museum and see if you can even find the word ‘Pākehā’. I’d be interested if you can find it. I’ve never been able to - and the quote from Jock Phillips gives me some insight into why that might be.

Secondly - Biculturalism doesn’t really encourage engagement or connection between Māori and Pākehā. Mostly it’s used to encapsulate issues to do with Māori relations with the Crown. It separates rather than connects Māori and Pākehā. This has had its benefits for Māori - some space to get on with being Māori, with cultural survival and recovery. But it also lets Pākehā off the hook and allows us to continue to ignore our colonial history and what that might tell us about ourselves and our relations with the tangata whenua.

Biculturalism is effectively underpinned by the fantasy that colonisation didn’t really happen, or at least that it didn’t really do any harm - that there are two ‘whole’ and healthy cultures founding contemporary Aotearoa New Zealand, rather than two traumatised, truncated and damaged cultural groups, both intertwined and interwoven, as well as maintaining their distance and distinction from each other

There is another source of Pākehā ‘emptiness’ as well - not only our migrant origins and colonisers’ historical amnesia. In addition to those we have the privilege and problem of being of modern western origins. When James Cook came here it was as part of a scientific expedition. It was an Enlightenment expedition and Pākehā are a culture of Enlightenment ideals.
There are two problems that arise out of Enlightenment thought that I want to highlight.

Firstly, the Enlightenment was the era in which a scientific approach came to dominant western thought. It involved a very utopian orientation to the possibilities of knowledge, and the scientific was thought to offer the means to come to understand the whole world and everything in it - and the universe beyond.

Secondly, the possibilities of scientific study and knowledge accumulation was also applied to humans. This was an era in which the unity of humanity was assumed - we were thought to be one species - and our differences were the puzzle to be explained. Those differences between peoples came to be seen as a matter of lesser or greater development, of primitivism versus civilisation, with the European cultures of the Enlightenment being of course, the most developed, the bearers of the universal standards of civilisation.

Thus, that we consider ourselves ‘normal’ - if not straight-out ‘superior’ in terms of our values, beliefs and ways of life, in comparison with other (non-white) peoples - is part of our Enlightenment heritage. And this idea was solidified and hardened in the nineteenth century by the development of race theories that divided human groups even further.

This Enlightenment mindset, of course, was handy to the colonisers. It meant our ancestors could cloak their violence in the rhetoric of the ‘civilising mission’ that would ultimately improve the lot of Māori and bring them from so-called savagery to so-called civilisation by teaching them to be like ‘us’.

We still struggle with the idea of there being one universal human standard and us being it. Hence, we don’t have culture. We are just normal and right. The normality we feel at being the dominant, national culture, is reinforced by our inheritance of the white, western heritage of Enlightenment thought.

As westerners, Pākehā have over generations become so comfortable with their dominance that we generally cannot see it, and even with the best intentions relate to others and have expectations that unwittingly work to maintain and reinforce that dominance.

This isn’t news to those of you in this room who are not Pākehā/not white. But it might still be news to some of you who are.

It’s so difficult for us to see that I want to spend a bit of time discussing Alison Jones’ work that powerfully exposes some of the unconscious workings of our comfort with dominance.

Alison & her colleague, Kuni Jenkins, taught a feminist education class at the University of Auckland - one that attracted a culturally diverse set of students, and importantly about half of them were Māori and Pasifika students. They were interested (as a Māori and Pākehā teaching team) in teaching biculturally and in emancipatory pedagogy - in education for social and political change - and sought to achieve this via dialogical engagement between groups in classroom.

The students kept journals that were handed in as part of the course and, despite all their great intentions about cross-cultural dialogue, the Māori students expressed their dissatisfaction with the class. They said that the views and interests of the Pākehā students and teacher continued to dominate class discussion.

So the next year Alison and Kuni decided to try something different. They split the class by ethnicity for 3/4s of the course - Māori & Pasifika group and ‘the rest’ (dominated by Pākehā). The curriculum was identical and the teachers moved between the groups.

This time it was the Pākehā students who expressed their dissatisfaction in their journals. Alison identifies two causes of discomfort for her Pākehā students. One issue for them was that they didn’t like being separated from their Māori and Pasifika classmates. They wanted to learn about their cultures and worldviews and to learn from them - how could they do that if they weren’t together?

Such a stance seeks sympathetic and helpful attention from the other, reassurance from the comfort of being taught and learning, that the violence of colonization and privilege happens only “over there” or “back then”, or among other people - not us, not here and now, where we are all implicated, where there is mud on all our boots. - Alison Jones, 1999, p. 313

Alison argues that this desire to be with their Māori classmates represents a desire for redemption - a desire to be reassured that they/we weren’t seen as those nasty colonising types.

This might seem a bit harsh as an assessment, particularly in the context of a society that sees dialogue and understanding as the key to harmonious co-existence. However, the second kind of discomfort that Alison identified amongst her Pākehā students suggests that there is a limit to the kind of learning they wanted to do, that their expression of the desire to learn by being together is not simply a desire to learn about difference. There were some things about difference that they didn’t want to know.

A few excerpts from her students’ journals...

The introduction to the lecture was in Māori, which even though it was obviously appropriate, was disappointing as I could not understand it ... I was brought up to believe that speaking a language your guests or audience could not understand was rude [....] This is I know a cultural difference, but my reaction was that perhaps I should just leave the class now and let everyone else get on with it (Maree, cited in Jones, 2001, p.279).

It felt to me like [the Tongan lecturer] was talking to the Māori and Pacific Island students and the rest of us were just there to listen ... I know our cultures are different, but I found this really disrespectful for the rest of the class and it made me feel personally that I wasn’t part of the lecture (Karen, cited in Jones, 2001,

The activity [talking about a carving in the wharenui at the university marae] ... made me feel extremely uncomfortable and stupid. I thought it served to emphasize rather than diminish my status as an ‘outsider’. The activity assumed a prior knowledge which I did not have ... I left shortly after the end of this activity, having decided that I had been told in a subtle way I did not belong. (Barbara, cited in Jones, 2001, p.282).

Basically, these students expressed a sense of discomfort and unhappiness in the face of the rare experience (for them) of not being centred in, and central to, the learning environment and in their cross-cultural engagements. They find it so uncomfortable that they want to leave - and in one case do leave.

While they clearly expressed their interest in learning about cultural difference, they expected to do so on their own terms. They expected to be enriched - and reassured in their liberality - by this new knowledge. They weren’t prepared for the experience of being put in a context that didn’t already begin from their own knowledge and that suggested to them that there were significant bodies of knowledge that possibly they couldn’t know, or shouldn’t expect to know. This was just a completely unfamiliar and unexpected experience. Jones argues that this expectation of being able to know represents a colonising desire for mastery - ‘The (White) fantasy of absolute knowledge’ (Jones, 2001, p.284) she calls it.

Jones’ students and her analysis offer very powerful insights into Pākehā/white/western subjectivity as colonising/dominant subjects. Her work points to:

1. our absolute comfort with occupying the centre, with our own ‘normality’ and with occupying a position of power - and which we don’t even see is one of power. It is not an individual failing of these young women, or of any of us, but an orientation sedimented into our way of being in the world as the descendants of a colonising and dominant culture.

2. our ongoing Enlightenment belief that we should be able to know anything and everything, that Māori cultural knowledge should be available to us, that we can and should be able to make it ours via intellectual absorption in some way, to incorporate it within our own worldview.
But Māori don’t want that. Māori know what assimilation is like and what it does and how problematic it is to be enveloped in Pākehā understanding.

Against these desires on the part of Pākehā, Jones argues that...

Faced with the seemingly inevitable entanglement of benevolence, desire, and colonization, liberal and radical Pākehā have little choice but to engage in the hard work of learning about their own and our own histories and social privileges in relation to ethnic others, and to embrace positively a “politics of disappointment” that includes a productive acceptance of ignorance of the other.- Alison Jones, 1999, p. 315

Here she suggests something of what might be gained from working against our sedimented comfort with colonising dominance. If I were to try to express in one word what these concepts of a politics of disappointment and the productivity of ignorance are getting at, it would be ‘humility’.

We can’t help but practice politics, to have political views, but for those of us seeking progressive change, like Jones herself, she suggests a certain humility towards those political aims - a disappointed orientation, that involves a recognition that no politics is perfect and all have their costs. All involve exclusions - people left out or hurt by our agenda - and all have unintended consequences. To practice a politics of disappointment is to keep ourselves open to learning about the inevitable imperfections of our political schemes, and thus open to the possible need to modify those politics.

Similarly, the productivity of ignorance, suggests a certain humility towards our possibilities of knowing, to what we might accumulate by way of knowledge. It does not mean that we embrace ignorance, that ‘ignorance is bliss’, but refers to an orientation towards knowledge that sees it as an ongoing, never to be completed, process - a process without arrival. An orientation that has given up on the desire for clarity and finality in thought - that sees the path of knowledge as a matter of coming clear, not never being clear. This means not to give up seeking to know, but knowing that we can never come to a final set of knowledge or a final judgement about anyone, or any thing.

This is a stance of wisdom, I would argue, rather than a stance of mastery

By taking on these stances of humility and narrowing our scope down from universal ambitions, we might allow Māori to ‘be’ - to be different, to be apart, to be our neighbours, lovers & friends, but not absorbed within ourselves, our vision of ‘New Zealand’ and our ways of being.

And when I say this I am reminded of an exchange between Moana Jackson and a Pākehā audience member at a foreshore and seabed hui, when the man in the audience asked - how would tupuna title fit in with our (Pākehā) system of property rights and Moana said that it wouldn’t and that that was one of our problems, wanting everything to fit together into some kind of seamless whole, to be resolved, to be unified. That is the ultimate colonial desire, and that, I think, is what these ideas of a politics of disappointment and the productivity of ignorance can help us guard against.

When our ancestors - political or biological - came here, they were largely fixated on the land - getting it, working on it, putting it to use, prospering on it. The cost of that land acquisition remains an anxious site of forgetting. And to forget this cost we also have to deny the ongoing importance of Māori relations to place - waahi tapu, taniwha and so on.

It seems to me that the key to Pākehā becoming in any sense of moving forward from this colonising past is via a turn from concern with our relationship to the land - and Pākehā claims to indigeneity, for example, always seems to emphasize this relationship to the land - and a turn towards concern with our relationship with the tangata whenua.

There is a tension in what I am suggesting in regard to this relationship - a tension we need to live with, not to seek to resolve. One the one hand, I am saying we need to address our historical amnesia over our past relations with Māori and the costs involved. And we also need to pay attention to our relationships to Māori in the present to try to construct a different future. On the other hand, I have suggested that we need to accept a necessary distance between ourselves and Māori - a gap, a space in which Māori difference can flourish.

One way I think about this mix of engagement and distance is in terms of the notion of ethical proximity - a kind of closeness that also leaves a space for difference. A proximity in the sense that Māori concern us, Māori matter to Pākehā. But a proximity that allows for distance and difference - in forms of knowledge, in ways of being. Ethical proximity, the politics of disappointment and the productivity of ignorance, are, I think, useful guides in our ongoing process of becoming Pākehā.


Bain, H. (18/5/00) Bogans! In Dominion. p11.

Goldie, T. (1989) Fear and Temptations: The Image of the Indigene in Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand Literatures. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press.

Jones, A. (2001) Cross-Cultural Pedagogy and the Passion for Ignorance. Feminism & Psychology, 11(3):279-292.

Jones, A. (1999) The Limits of Cross-Cultural Dialogue: Pedagogy, Desire and Absolution in the Classroom. Educational Theory, 49(3):299-316.

Phillips, J. (1996) Our History, Our Selves: the Historian and National Identity. New Zealand Journal of History, 30(2):107-23.

Turner, S. (1999) Settlement As Forgetting. In Neumann, K., Thomas, N. and Ericksen, H., (Eds.) Quicksands: Foundational Histories in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. pp. 20-38. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press.

White Dancing - Danny Butt

[Adapted from a talk to the Sweet As? Conference, June 2007)

It was a great honour to be invited to speak at the conference, to such a great bunch of people. I really enjoyed the discussion. I’d especially like to acknowledge two people who I treat as teachers through their work. It was a great honour to speak following Moana Jackson , whose reputation extends to the international environments I occasionally work in, such as the United Nations Development Programme. From Moana I learn to get to the bottom of the issues in this colonised land; and the value of persistence and determination. From the work of Teresia Teaiwa, I learn that getting to the issues in the Pacific is sometimes less important than showing a way to get there, and the way she uses a shared vocabulary of moves from Santa Cruz, which she knows directly and I only know through books, helps me understand how to orient myself toward teachers in Hawai’i, Samoa, and Aotearoa.

I would like to extend my gratitude and appreciation for the hosts, Hannah, Kate, Kirsten and Nigel, for the invitation, the hospitality, and the commitment.

I’d also like to thank the anonymous commenter on the Sweet As blog, who suggested I get dropped with Russell Brown in Ruatoria for a kind of “Pākehā Survivor.” I assume that the commenter didn’t know something funny, which is that I spend time in Ruatoria when I’m out in the Waiapu region as I have been every summer for the last six years. But I don’t want that experience to be seen to justify my comments, as I spent some time familiarising myself with indigenous issues and ways of thinking before I ever went into a Māori context, and that showed me that knowledge and experience is actually not that important when working with the culturally different. Rather, it's about having genuine curiosity to learn and openness to new ways of doing things. In doing collaborative work, I think the most important thing that Pākehā need to develop is not our knowledge but our imagination, to be able to empathise with what it might be like for an indigenous environment to engage with us across our vastly asymmetrical histories.

I want to talk a bit about myself, not just because I’m an egomaniac, but because I don’t want to create an abstract model for Pākehā or anyone else. These never work. Also, if I talk about my experience, you can just decide what parts of it are like your experience and what parts aren’t and this can be the basis for us to talk about our differences.

“Australians don’t dance or sing.” says Scully, the protagonist in Tim Winton’s book The Riders. I was born in Australia and identify as Pākehā- I’ve lived in Aotearoa for nearly 15 years, and in many ways the reason I call Aotearoa home is to escape Scully’s prescription for me, a fate worse than death. But although I was brought up with the classic white settler belief that you can turn yourself into whoever you want, yet increasingly I realise that we only really grow up once, and that creates who we are. Of course, who we are is not a static, unchanging thing - we’re always moving, always trying to make ourselves and our environment different, but we can also recognise ourselves in the past.

So we are constantly becoming who we already are. But we do this by hybridising ourselves with things that are not ourself. We are kind of genetic engineers of the self - we’re the same species as we've always been but we mutate new strains of who we are, and see what grows. So I’m trying to work out how to be a white Antipodean male, when the way I was taught to fulfil that identity is obviously not sufficient. I want to be able to dance and sing. I want to offer hospitality to those who are different from myself. I want my friends’ struggles for social justice to begin to be achieved in my lifetime. Very little in the broader cultural environment I grew up in prepared me for that, so I’ve had to find it from other places. Already, I have to look elsewhere to find who I am.

As it turns out, it’s a good thing I came to make my home in this country, because from Māori I’ve learnt values such as whakawhanaungatanga, manaakitanga, and kaitiakitanga which - despite my very limited understanding of their true historical function - have become central to how I think about my life. And through my work with Māori I’ve developed relationships with tangata whenua in the places I was born in Newcastle, Australia, in Awabakal country; and where I grew up, in Gombemberri country on Queensland’s Gold Coast. As I’ve developed all these relationships I’ve learnt more about what it means to live in a place. And the people I work with do, I hope, learn something from me.

This is why I have no anxiety when confronted by tino rangatiratanga. Some of my own freedom is found in the indigenous struggle for self-determination. If the values I mentioned were also central to the New Zealand national identity I’d probably feel more comfortable with that. Whether this makes me qualified to comment on New Zealand identity or not I don’t know, but let me start by telling a story. As Thomas King says, the truth about stories is that that's all we are. So this is my story but I think it's also a Pākehā story, at the same time.

I’ve recently returned from China, taking an exhibition of three New Zealand artists (two Pākehā and one Māori) to the International Science and Art Exposition in Shanghai. Predictably, the Māori artist wasn’t able to attend in person because she was too busy at home, which I’m beginning to understand is typical of indigneous artists internationally. This turned out to be a bit of an issue on our sightseeing day to the ancient canal village. The clutch on the bus gave out on the ride home, leaving us stuck in the middle of the motorway in peak-hour Shanghai traffic, and we waited for 45 minutes for a tow truck to arrive.

Our young guide, Wendy, felt obliged to try and entertain us, so with our encouragement she overcame her shyness to sing a song from her homeland in the north of China. The song itself came from an ethnic minority in that area, but even as a Han majority person she felt proud to share that song with us, and our Shanghainese companion knew a few moves of the accompanying dance to help out with the improvised cultural performance.

After Wendy had finished she asked for someone on the bus to take a turn with the entertainment, and was met with silence from the New Zealand, French, Bulgarian and Japanese guests. She then said that as the supposed leader of the group I should take responsibility for this and handed me the microphone. Now my musical experience is in experimental noise and punk rock, so let’s just say that I’m no tui. I’m not a natural performer at all, and I wasn’t quite sure what the appropriate response would be.

If I was to mirror Wendy’s example, I could probably get through Tutira mai nga iwi unaccompanied, and maybe Paikea with the help of some of the New Zealanders, but that didn’t feel right. On the other hand, dipping into my own cultural heritage for material from the likes of Jimmy Barnes (I worked as a roadie for him in work experience during high school) didn’t seem like it would quite work either. And so I just took the mic and went into talking about how I was feeling in that moment, and how one of the most important things I’d learnt from indigenous cultural contexts was understanding that when you’re a guest and it is appropriate to behave in a certain way (singing for example), this is more important than whether you feel like doing it or not or are good at it or not, and that’s quite liberating. You don’t have to worry, you just do it. That’s why I’ve never understood why people are so scared of the Māori context because they’re scared of doing things wrong. Everyone usually knows what to do and there’s always someone prepared to tell you. It’s much more hospitable than the Pākehā institutional environments, where as we heard yesterday you’re expected to know everything in advance. That’s what I grew up with, and it’s stupid. That’s why I also think it’s dangerous for white people to do whiteness studies. Because we just end up needing to know more about whiteness than everyone else as well, when what we really need to learn is that we can just relax and let other people know more than us, and this is simply an efficient way of distributing information around the community. Letting other people to know more about us than we know ourselves is a great relief.

Anyway, I'm just trying to learn how to tell stories about my intercultural experiences that feel legitimate to me and to my friends of all cultural backgrounds. This is what I would like to near from Pākehā more than anxiety about our identity. I don’t think the anxiety helps anyone. When Pākehā talk about our identity we’re usually in this mindset where we’re being forced to do it and we're waiting for a hug from the ethnic others to make it OK. This isn’t going to encourage other Pākehā to think about these issues, there’s no upside in being forced through the wringer. For me - despite going through the wringer once or twice- discussing my cultural location, understanding that it's national identity is less important than its genealogical relationship to the land it comes from, is not a source of anxiety, but a source of learning and growth. And I think we can sell this better on the white left, and if we do then everyone will benefit.

"Native Pākehā": desire and power at work in dominant constructions of ethnicity - Will Christie

So, are Pākehā native to Aotearoa New Zealand? No, not if you’re using the word Pākehā in its most common form, first used by Māori and taken up recently by many descendents of European settlers. If Pākehā culture is indigenous for the reasons often given - because it’s specific to this place, formed in relation to original inhabitants and the landscape – then by the same logic Afrikaans is the second indigenous language in South Africa. I’m not here to debate definitions of the terms Pākehā or indigenous, although discussing what we really mean when we use words is an important part of the work we can do here at ‘Sweet As’. I’m interested in tracing the development of claims of Pākehā culture being indigenous, why this idea is used, who by, and the kinds of work it does. The idea shows up some limitations and blindspots in Pākehā identity, things that have to be addressed before the desires that motivate Pākehā claims to indigeneity can begin to be realised.

Issues of belonging, of striving to be local and settled, repeat through Pākehā history. This long-standing Pākehā desire used to be worked out in opposition to English identity – a collection of essays from the 1950s, Distance Looks our Way, is a great example. Claims to Pākehā indigeneity are relatively recent. Michael King’s later work is vital in putting forward the idea of ‘Pākehā’ as a specific, local white identity. King edited a collection of essays, in which Being Pākehā is seen as an ongoing process of decolonisation, cultural pride and a sense of social responsibility. This and other writing in the nineties went a long way to normalising Pākehā as an ethnic label. It was King’s Being Pākehā Now - Recollections of a White Native that staked a claim for Pākehā indigeneity most clearly. That was in 1999. Three years ago MP Trevor Mallard said that Pākehā are indigenous, and the Prime Minister’s response was that she, at least, was a New Zealander. MP Jerry Brownlee had a public art showdown with Tame Iti in which Brownlee claimed to be a native New Zealander. MP Nandor Tanczos took a very reasonable position, one laid out by Treaty workers – that Pākehā are not indigenous but allowed to be here under treaty which we have to then honour.

What we see here is a lot of fighting over what a couple of words, which could be fixed just by giving them strict enough definitions. I’m not interested in joining the argument. I am interested in what gives the idea of Pākehā indigeneity its currency and power and what effects the use of the idea has in the world. Discourse is the set of things that can be said about something. King’s claim to be a white native, backed up as it was by his respected position in both Māori and Pākehā worlds, became available to others to explain their personal feelings or to make political points. When MPs and writers discuss ideas, they are staging a public conversation, trying out what can and can’t be said, using phrases and ideas that will be picked up by others. Discourse is as much about what is not able to be said in certain contexts – for example people get away with saying “Māori were thought to be a dying race” in a school text book but not with saying “Māori suffered a holocaust” in a political debate. Why, and who gets to say? Attention to discourse can highlight areas of active suppression that allow the status quo to go on unchallenged.

Why is Pākehā indigeneity an idea with currency now? For Brownlee’s purposes, claiming to be cultural too uses the work done by Māori to have indigenous rights recognised, in a way that devalues the power of tangata whenua status. But most people I’ve encountered claiming to be native Pākehā have no conscious intention to disempower Māori; only a great desire to feel at home. Many Pākehā are sick of guilt and work they associate with dealing with Māori political demands and want resolution. Some, like those in King’s collection, have spent their lives working on local, and often explicitly decolonising, issues, and saw this as a vital form of self-recognition. For others, Pākehā identity needs protection from global development, and seeing Pākehā as native offers renegotiating relationships to the land, to the social world against increasing globalisation, capitalism and development. It offers a Pākehā identity that is locally focussed and no longer Eurocentric.

These claims show a desire for identity, belonging, and yet miss an analysis of historical and continuing power structures. When I was thinking what I was going to say today I met a Pākehā man I knew and told him my topic. He got excited and told me about his feelings for where he grew up, the mountain he identified with, fishing for eels, his spiritual engagement with the land, his research into his ancestry, and how that had made him feel settled and had a place here. I asked him, what is the history of the particular piece of land you grew up on? How did it come into your family’s possession?He didn’t have an answer. My question was not one that Pākehā usually ask themselves, though I’ve heard his statements many times in different forms. Pākehā may consider themselves native because “Pākehā have nowhere else to belong”, because “Pākehā culture is formed out of relationship to Māori”, and because the person speaking has “as strong an attachment to the land as any Māori”. In these statements it’s what’s missing that’s important. How did we get here, what’s the nature of the colonial project? What is the relationship of Pākehā culture to Māori, not just symbolically but in terms of power, now and historically? Who gets to say whose land it is and how was it secured? If my ancestors were often cogs in an imperial machine, this makes an understanding of the machine more important, not less.

What’s apparent in Pākehā discourse is an active amnesia about colonisation. The modern European nation state imposed itself upon Aotearoa with legal, religious, educational and economic systems intact, as a part of the British Empire. The institutional structure has developed in line with other Western states ever since. European culture as it was established here is inherently mobile, designed to replicate itself with little change. This is done by spreading and keeping control of discourse thru media, and political and religious institutions. One of the ideologies was that of European progress and Enlightenment, in which Pākehā had nothing to gain by taking on influences from Māori, which effectively prevented Māori challenges from being heard in Pākehā public sphere. The discursive suppression that propped up the empire is what has historically prevented a local post-European ethnicity forming. To be native is to be born in and formed by a place but Pākehā power structures continue to use Western ideologies to authorise themselves to control resources, to run institutions, changing not so much with local demands as in line with global developments.

The contemporary New Zealand state presents itself not as primarily Pākehā, but as an objective, acultural modern state. This is part of a general trend in Western democracies. The breakdown of traditional mode of political domination – which claims that European cultural superiority gives the right to rule – is replaced by the image of Pākehā culture as separate from the interests and structures of the state and state-backed institutions. Pākehā culture is naturalised as New Zealand or Kiwi culture. An example is the foreshore and seabed legislation, which could be described as Pākehā using Pākehā institutional structures to protect the Pākehā tradition of going to the beach (not to mention retaining the right to develop and exploit it), but was claimed as a democratically elected government protecting the rights of all New Zealanders. In this way Pākehā culture is hidden, and Pākehā interests present themselves as natural, apolitical and inevitable.

The seeming objectivity of institutions that now hides Pākehā power also motivates Pākehā desire for a visible culture or ethnicity. The old European idea that to be cultured means to be in touch with a tradition of high art and Enlightenment thought has been replaced with the idea that being cultured means possessing ideas, feelings and beliefs that have not been broken down by the nihilistic force of capitalism and scientific materialism. In this light, it’s not possible to be objective and acultural and also be fully human. Traditional European modes of subjectivity have lost their authority but Pākehā culture has not been independent enough to work out new ways of being. At the same time, the State and the Pākehā mainstream have had to become more open to the importance and validity of non-European cultures, especially that of tangata whenua.

Culture-based challenges to Pākehā institutional dominance push Pākehā to search for identity, ethnicity and belonging, but this is held back by a Pākehā public discourse that has few ideas of history, of power structures or colonisation. Claiming to be native is one of a number of ways that Pākehā attempt to get distance from the spectre of white supremacy. Articulating personal family experiences of oppression under British Empire is another common way Pākehā respond to issues of colonisation. Another is to point to other ways in which you are minoritised, on the presumption that if you can’t dominate then you are innocent. Other ways of dealing emotionally on a personal level with colonialism are cultivating a strong interconnection with Māori, or an anti-individualistic drive to identify at local level against state, European traditions and globalisation. Desire for resolution often causes a personal approach to complex political issues.

Personalising the issue through claiming to be native is dangerous because ‘Pākehā’ means the institutions, ideologies and discourse of dominating New Zealand European systems as much as it indicates a personal project of decolonisation. There is a slippery area between ‘Pākehā’ as Māori have often used the word, to mean a non-Māori person, and how it’s been taken up by Pākehā who are committed to local issues. Many people identify as ‘Pākehā’ to show that they’re taking on decolonising political responsibilities as part of being at home here, but another side of ‘Pākehā’ culture is state reaction to Māori treaty claims – well-intentioned but balking at the point of handing over power. A redefinition of Pākehā ethnicity to come to terms with colonisation and white privilege is not a widespread project. Claiming Pākehā indigeneity ends up making Pākehā institutional power seem natural, by giving us a vision of two native groups, one of which just happens to be in control of most of the resources.

Pākehā claims to indigeneity reflect a warming desire to be local, but without deeper questioning of Pākehā power and colonial history they stay limited at best. What’s needed, as Avril Bell has said, is not resolution. It’s to continue the process of saying what hasn’t been said, of changing mainstream discourse, of getting better ideas. Investigations into the cultural specificity and history of Pākehā power are necessary. It’s great that Pākehā are inspired by Māori discourse around land, family and belonging to find ways of being more responsive to the local, more social, more resistant to new global forms of imperialism, but that’s not enough. The reality of being here and being Pākehā is the need to face up to colonial history and continuing white privilege.

Crumbs off a dominant table: some pitfalls of “dot not joining” syndrome - hannah Ho

I once read somewhere, that it’s real hard to refuse crumbs off a table when you’re starving. There are many conceptual crumbs. Dominant crumbs. Enough to pacify. Enough to keep us from complaining and rioting. But not enough to feed us from the roots, to nourish our beings and communities. Sometimes when we’re beat down and on our own buzz, our own focus, we can forget to join the various dots.

Multiculturalism: crumbs off a dominant table

Multiculturalism is a funny term that means way different things to different people. I think it’s also a sneaky term. It’s like the cherry on top of the cake that people fight over, forgetting that the real substance is actually the cake.

For ethnic peoples / non-päkehä tauiwi, multiculturalism can be an offering, seen as a life raft in a racist sea. This is the place where you have no place, where people continually ask where you’re from in a way that assumes that this is not your home, where cars drive past trailing shouts of “fuck off home chink”. It’s where talk back radio blames all society’s issues, not on neo-liberal capitalist reforms or dislocated individualism, but on skin colour, eye shape, an inferior culture or way of life.

A place in a multicultural society sounds real sweet. So sweet that often we forget to ask who’s offering and why?

I’m wary of talking about multiculturalism for a number of reasons. I don’t like how it’s used without any acknowledgement of past racism, or any commitment to address current racism. I also don’t like how it is used to dismiss Mäori claims of sovereignty, rights and tino rangatiratanga. When multiculturalism is pitted against indigenous rights, you set ethnic minorities against Mäori. The upshot? Dominant Päkehä culture gets to keep its comfy spot on the couch.

Second, that offer often has fine print. The fine print is one of assimilation. It's no longer ok to demand that all New Zealanders be white. But it is still okay to demand that everyone here should live in the “Kiwi way”, take on “Kiwi values”, speak “Kiwi”. You can't change your skin colour, so that’s not your fault, but you can change your culture and try to fit in. In exchange for our tolerance you be the ethnics we want you to be.

We've been so good and tolerant and big: don’t muck it up by stepping out of line, or it will piss us off. (“And this is how they thank us?!!") This kind of "generosity" recalls something like a Victorian Christian missionary approach: One that reinforces the status quo.

While multiculturalism may be partly founded in good intention, it is at the same time underpinned by globalisation and a market-driven economy. One of the arguments you hear in support of multiculturalism and increased Asian migration, is that it increases our global trade connections, and brings economic benefits to the country. There's no doubt that this true. But I guess I'm asking, "is that the only reason they want us Asians here? Do they only want us for our money? Our investments? Our fee-paying students?" How come new migrants from traditional source countries never have to prove their economic contribution?

If economics is the basis for our presence here, that doesn't really make us feel valued as human beings. And if the motive for supporting multiculturalism is economic, then I think us "ethnic" people need to be very careful of how much we buy into the concept.

Joining the dots

If you've worked on social justice issues for any length of time. you'll know the contradictions that exist between and within "sectors" (decolonisation, sustainability, race, gender, sexuality, disability, class etc).

There are Asian business people, interested in anti racist stuff so they too can have equal access to a market that exploits, and puts profits before people.

Within queer spaces here and worldwide, we struggle with tensions of assimilation and mainstreaming. There are mainstreaming gays and lesbians that want the law changed so they too can get married and partake in the mainstream middle class, never mind that the rights espoused under "marriage" (rights in hospital, access to children, assets), might be extended wider than the binary/dual intimate relationship, and not limited to a certificated relationship.

Within the general western/white left, there are those who think they know best for the poor starving incompetent masses overseas. They do so without looking at the impact of the Western lifestyle, their country’s economy and their ecological environment. Never mind the fact that aid can perpetuate dependency, while we feast on righteousness and their cash crops.

There are many more examples. Those working on race will often neglect to examine class privilege, both here and internationally. People working within gender and sexuality will often not confront skin colour or race privilege. Class movements will often downplay gender and sexuality as a site of oppression.

These dynamics are detrimental to how we want to work and the change we hope to make. I once attended a queer youth support group and had to sit through queer white boys making racist comments, all while going on about how homophobia really sucked.

Having major blindspots and denying diverse and complex experience and subject positioning, alienates people. It makes the change we are trying to make, in the groups we are working within, seem exclusive, insular, small minded, and almost cultish.

The question to ask is "who benefits?" Something I reckon we non-Päkehä tauiwi, should keep an eye on is the whole divide and rule thing. If established migrants diss out new migrants for being too loud, Chinese bag out Mäori for being lazy and asking for handouts, working class päkehä blame the Asians for buying all the houses and taking all the jobs, the rich Asians - as opposed to the more numerous poor -- continue to buy houses and write-off class challenge as racism, then the dominant power structure is maintained.

Challenging and connecting

As peoples who are working for just change, we need to start acknowledging the interconnections between our issues.

If we are serious about social justice, it is because all injustice is oppressive. It has serious implications for those negatively affected by it, as well as those of us who practice it, benefit from it and partake in systems that reproduce it.

The question is, how do we make those connections?

1. It's "and" and "and": not "either/or"

Most of us enjoy privilege and power in some way. And we know that when power is challenged, it will most probably be met with resistance. The binary, either-or way of thinking, can be seen in most groups. Challenges to sexism in Asian anti racist movements have been met with a “you’re selling out, dividing us. The fight is against whiteys and now you are demonising your own brothers." Or sometimes challenges within white dominant queer spaces have been met with a "i'm oppressed and queer, I'm not racist, you think that race is more important than being queer”. The same old "you're with us or against us" mentality.

In our dislocated western environment, we tend to think about things in isms, theories and compartments. I think that's the problem. We need to explore a larger, more generous, way of viewing and living. That means not getting caught in the binary, either/or way of thinking. It also means taking a holistic view, one in which healing, love, relationship and spirituality, have their place.

I admit, it's hard to see that you're not working holistically, especially if you think you are. It's hard to see you're missing bits of a picture, when you think you're seeing the whole thing.

I think the safest thing, is to assume you aren't seeing the whole picture - that in fact, not only are you not seeing the whole picture, but there are actually multiple pictures that you aren't even aware of.

You just have to go on what you have, and be thankful when someone fills in a bit more of the picture.

2. You don't have to be right all the time

There is an arrogance that comes with righteousness. Most of us are guilty of that at some time or another. Acknowledging that on a continual and ongoing basis is a good start to really getting past the binary approach. We are, after all, products of an imperfect world - so we shouldn't beat ourselves up over imperfections.

We only have to look at our own social justice history to see imperfection. The first wave of feminism, for example, has been widely criticised as a white middle-class movement that failed to address wider injustices in society. History may judge us like it has them - both the good with the bad.

The way I see it, change, and social change, is a continual process. We chip away at it - maybe our whole lives - and pass our projects on to the next generation of activists (if our projects are still relevant).

We do this because we are serious about social justice: because all injustice is oppressive.

Finally, with the social justice-y kinds of things we are all engaged in, in varying ways - it pays to keep an eye and an ear out. An eye and an ear out for our own hypocrisies. We all have multiple identities, genders, class, sexualities, nationalities, ethnicities, backgrounds and ancestors. So that means we can have multiple oppressions and privileges.

In our critique and deconstruction, let us remember to heal, as well as leave room for creation and construction.