Saturday, June 19, 2021

The whiting out of European forebears

There’s a story in The Dominion Post today about Simone Kaho, who has been named the 2022 Emerging Pasifika Writer in Residence at Victoria University of Wellington.

She’s described as Tongan, though the photos of her on the paper’s website show a woman of distinctly European appearance.

The story says Kaho’s Tongan father came to New Zealand in the 1950s. No mention is made of her mother, whom I would guess is/was white. She seems to have been erased.

A brief, passing reference is made to Kaho’s “Pakeha roots”, but it isn’t allowed to get in the way of the story’s main thrust, which is … well, I can only quote Kaho herself:

“I want to write about belonging in Aotearoa for Pacific diaspora and the relationship it gives us with Maori and non-white migrants, and what it feels like in the body when you’re in the environment,” she’s quoted as saying. (No, I couldn’t quite understand it either.)

Kaho, who’s been given a $15,000 stipend by Creative New Zealand for her three-month residency, goes on to say she wants to look at climate change [sigh], which she views as the “primary challenge to colonial western culture”.

She says her father came to New Zealand as a teenager and experienced a “brutally racist culture”. She wants to articulate things that are “bothersome and painful”.

I’m aware that in highlighting the whiting out (pun not intended, but appropriate) of Kaho’s European background, I’m exposing myself to the tiresome charge that I’m racist. 

It’s a label I repudiate. Kaho is entitled to identify with and celebrate her Tongan heritage. That’s commendable. But why must this be done, as is so often the case, in a way that suppresses recognition of the fact that she is also obviously European?

To put it another way, why are people so reluctant to declare that their white forebears were themselves supposedly the beneficiaries, if not the perpetrators, of racism?  

The reason is that this would conflict awkwardly with the ideology known as identity politics, which rests on the view that society is immutably divided between privileged whites and disadvantaged “people of colour”.

Proponents of identity politics and critical race theory, its ideological stablemate, hold that all people of Pasifika or Maori descent have experienced subjugation and have needs and interests that are at odds with those of the white oppressors. The aim is to secure political advantage to atone for their mistreatment, but unfortunately this can only come at the expense of social cohesion that benefits us all.

Denial of one’s European heritage is a necessary starting point, because otherwise those claiming to be descendants of the oppressed must confront the fact that they are also descendants of the oppressors. The proponents of identity politics don’t seem to have yet worked out a way to reconcile this dichotomy without weakening their claims, so they ignore it.

Do they, at the same time as they cry out for justice on behalf of their dark-skinned forebears, also experience paroxysms of self-reproach for the behaviour of their pale ones?

I doubt it. Much easier to shut out the problematical half of the equation.




Trev1 said...

The lady concerned appears to be acting entirely rationally in failing to acknowledge her European antecedents. Would she have won the Pasifika writers' award otherwise? Who knows for sure but it mightn't have helped her chances. It's entirely rational behaviour on her part, even if it might seem disingenuous to some pale, stale males.

The fabric of New Zealand society today is an ever-expanding honeycomb of such little "omissions". New myths are being created daily by a government consciously and deliberately promoting racial division. Dare I mention the Marxist race-baiting that is proposed as the New Zealand history curriculum? We have a government that offers incentives to opportunists on the basis of race, while relying on the cowardice of the public to keep turning a blind eye. I can't see how it will end well.

Kiwiwit said...

“[They’re saying] let’s help individual A by punishing individual B for what individual C did to individual D some years” ago ~ the late, great African-American economist Walter Williams on reparations

hughvane said...

Scripted, coached and rehearsed. Who do she/they think they're kidding?

CXH said...

She says her father came to New Zealand as a teenager and experienced a “brutally racist culture”

I am always surprised by these common comments. I have lived and worked in quite a few countries, had any of then treated me in such a way I would have quickly moved on. Why would her father have stayed and married a Pakeha women if the treatment was so dire.

Or is it perhaps an exaggeration played out in the knowledge that tales of victimhood receive the accolades and funding.

Andy Espersen said...

Thanks, Karl. An hilarious tale.

Neil Harrap said...

Karl's comment perfectly reflects what we all see happening in New Zealand at present. This view should be widely distributed within NZ and l intend to do my bit.
The situation couldn't be more clearly stated.
Thank you Karl!

Brendan McNeill said...

When is the 2022 Pakeha writer in residence award be announced?

Unknown said...

Oh but that's racist!!!🙄

Hilary Taylor said...

Yes, a joke and I wouldn't have got past the first few lines.
Taken for fools, R US.
(Listening to an RNZ interview on Sat, about the 'war on drugs, with a woman whose diction was dire, I tuned out after she thanked the host for naming John Ehrlichman, someone from the Nixon regime she had referred to in her remarks, but whose name she couldn't pronounce. Couldn't pronounce, and she was to be interviewed for the flagship Sat morning interview segment??? She couldn't pronounce it, hadn't looked it up, and so I couldn't take her seriously, turned her off).

Doug Longmire said...

This is just one more of these selective (i.e. race based) postures.
It is all one way traffic.
We never hear about a mixed race person, standing up to identify proudly as Ms.Xxxx (Celtic/Nordic). It's always the (very often minor) Pacific part of the bloodline that is mentioned and emphasized.