Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Harawira shelters behind a double standard

I regard Maori Party MP Hone Harawira’s comment that he would feel uncomfortable if one of his children brought home a Pakeha as infinitely more offensive than the email that caused such a stir last year, in which he ranted about “white motherf**kers raping our lands and ripping us off for centuries”.

That email merely expressed a one-eyed interpretation of history, one that is not uncommon among radical Maori activists, and I was surprised at the outrage it provoked.

But Harawira’s latest statement in an interview with the Weekend Herald was something else. It expressed a deeply personal and divisive form of racism that we normally associate with white rednecks.

Harawira seems to be saying that no one with white skin is good enough for his children. This is racism by any definition. It promotes a racial separatism that is alien to our culture and history.

Imagine the reaction if a white politician made a similar statement about Maori. As ACT MP David Garrett said on the TV3 News last night, his political career would quickly be at an end.

But as happened last year, Harawira’s statement is being laughed off. Oh, that’s just Hone sounding off again, his protectors in the Maori Party tell us. When is someone going to make the point that Harawira is being given a degree of latitude that would never be extended to a white politician?

And what of our staunchly even-handed Race Relations Commissioner? True to form, Joris de Bres reportedly tut-tutted that Harawira’s statement was “unwise”, but added that the fuss would soon blow over. Oh, well that’s alright then.

I invite anyone to contrast the commissioner’s breezy tolerance of Harawira’s exercise of his right to free speech with the zeal with which de Bres pursued the newspaper editors who dared publish the Mohammed cartoons several years ago.

Readers of this blog will know that I believe in free speech, even when the views expressed are contemptible. Better out in the open than hushed up, I say. But free speech is abused when double standards allow a bigot like Harawira to mouth off in a fashion that no Pakeha politician would dare emulate.


Richard McGrath said...

Having read your recent column in the Dompost (which, incidentally, I thought was brilliant, and which I have commented on in Peter Cresswell's blog Not PC), I would venture to say Hone Harawira's words were "inappropriate"!

Hopefully his children will be open minded enough to make their own minds up about who they choose for friends.

scrubone said...

Well, I found Pita Sharples' comment most disturbing:

"I think it's just not divisive at all. It's a viewpoint."

The man is a former race relations conciliator!