Tuesday, August 23, 2022

"Coconut"? I thought New Zealand left that sort of language behind in the 1960s

Simon Wilson reports in the New Zealand Herald that Auckland mayoral frontrunner Efeso Collins, who is of Samoan and Tokelauan descent, declared at a public meeting: “I’m sick of being called a coconut”.

I doubt that I would vote for Collins if I lived in Auckland, seeing he’s endorsed by Labour and the Greens, but it’s shocking and depressing that such crude bigotry survives in New Zealand in 2022. I thought we had put it behind us.

I don’t know much about Collins, but this didn’t seem a deliberate play for public sympathy in the hope that it might win him a few more votes. The way Wilson describes it, he blurted out the words in a spontaneous show of emotion. “People like me have a right to do this,” a tearful Collins said of his run for the mayoralty.

Of course he does. For the past six years he has represented Manukau on Auckland Council. That’s a ward with a population of more than 164,000 people, of whom only 18 percent are Pakeha. More than half are of Pasifika descent, 27 percent are Asian and 16 percent identify as Maori.

Granted, race should never be a deciding factor in an election, but on simple democratic grounds the people of south and west Auckland are entitled to have a candidate who speaks for them rather than someone from the more privileged suburbs that civic leaders typically come from. On the face of it, he has more legitimacy as a candidate than Wayne Brown – an undoubtedly capable man who nonetheless has the disadvantage of looking like an outsider.

But while it’s despicable that people disparage Collins using language that most of us thought belonged in the 1960s, we need to consider the possibility that this is a predictable result when leftist politicians, bureaucrats, academics and media commentators relentlessly promote the politics of division and encourage New Zealanders to see racial groups as being irrevocably in competition with each other. It’s bound to bring out KKK-type instincts in the more rebarbative elements of society.

■ Also in the Herald today, more revelations from the admirable Kate MacNamara about the conflict-of-interest scandal swirling around Nanaia Mahuta. As I wrote in the latest Spectator Australia, Jacinda Ardern’s government appears supremely untroubled by the implications of rampant nepotism. 

The story originally came to light via online platforms and has largely been ignored by most mainstream media, so credit to MacNamara and the Herald for pursuing it. I don’t think I’ve read anything on Stuff about the disclosures,  which reinforces the suspicion that the government has bought immunity from hard questions by the simple expedient of making mainstream news outlets dependent on its $55 million Pravda Project.

For its part, Newshub dealt with the issue by excusing Mahuta’s conduct on the ground that nepotism was unavoidable in the small Maori world – and anyway, National Party governments had indulged in it too. Newshub even quoted “political commentator” Shane Te Pou as saying criticism of Mahuta was “racism and double standards”, conveniently failing to disclose (like RNZ recently) that Te Pou is a former executive member of the Labour party.

■ Speaking of Stuff, a friend who has had a long professional involvement at the highest level in the media emailed me yesterday noting that the Dominion Post that morning carried not a word about the impending protest at Parliament and police plans to deal with it. The Herald, on the other hand, contained a detailed report about the protest and its likely effects on Wellingtonians.

This was nothing new. The Auckland-based paper regularly carries Wellington stories that the Dom Post ignores or misses. Not for the first time, I wondered whether the paper that inherited the honourable legacy of the Evening Post and Dominion has a death wish – or whether it’s so preoccupied with hectoring readers over issues of identity politics that it has completely lost sight of its proper role, which is to inform people about matters of interest and importance to them.

Still, the Dom Post at least manages to entertain us occasionally, even if unintentionally. I pointed out to my acquaintance a headline on the paper’s website yesterday announcing Sparactus actor Ioane “John” King dies, age [sic] 49. I think they meant Spartacus.

The headline is still there now, uncorrected, a day and a half later. I think they’ve given up caring.





Russell Parkinson said...

"we need to consider the possibility that this is a predictable result when leftist politicians, bureaucrats, academics and media commentators relentlessly promote the politics of division and encourage New Zealanders to see racial groups as being irrevocably in competition with each other"

Thats it in a nutshell Karl. I'm umpteenth generation European New Zealander. My ancestors came here for the gold rush in the 1850's and we have been here ever since. Yet I'm being made to feel like an outsider in my own country. Only good enough to pay tax to support the people taking over the place.

Of course it makes me angry and as those responsible are making it about race its probably making me racist too.

I use to think that Maori should play a big part in how we move forward and that involved better education, civic duty etc, and the number of Maori elected on the general role or party lists would indicate that this was happening, probably quicker than many thought.

But now Maori are being turned into my enemy. Is that what they want?

Dame Anne Salmon has said that the use of the word Maori in the treaty means "the people" that is ALL the people, brown or white. That the forest and rivers and seas are kept for all people not just one group. There is no partnership, just democracy. One person one vote.

And that's before you even start discussing what a Maori is.

Trev1 said...

"Coconut" is an anachronism, dating from the 60s and 70s. I'm very surprised at its apparent reappearance in the Auckland Mayoral contest.

Kate MacNamara is one of the few remaining true journalists in New Zealand. Her article in the Herald on 3 Waters and "ownership" on 12 August was outstanding.

Owen said...

On the DomPost front page of my edition: "Wellington prepares for protest"

Karl du Fresne said...

Owen, was that today or yesterday? I was writing about yesterday's paper.

Karl du Fresne said...

To the anonymous, semi-literate commenter who criticised my use of the word Pasifika: as I’ve said elsewhere, I write what I write. No one’s going to agree with me all the time. But you’re not compelled to read me, and unless you do what some other previously anonymous commenters have had the guts to do – i.e. identify yourself – then I have no obligation to publish your comments, still less engage in debate with you.

Andy Espersen said...

"I doubt that I would vote for Collins if I lived in Auckland, seeing he’s endorsed by Labour and the Greens ...."

I love that casual remark from you, Karl. That's it, in a nutshell, these days. We all yearn and crave just for ordinary, conservative government - and I am so optimistic we will get it - come the 2023 election. And Auckland will now show the way - not just by picking a conservative mayor - but by picking conservative councilors.

Sanity oozes out of your article, Karl - thank you. And conservative candidates for the Auckland mayoralty (there are several) will easily pull ahead of Collins. Hopefully the bottom conservative vote-pullers will assist by withdrawing from the finalists in good time.

Owen said...

You're right, it's today's paper.

Anonymous said...

Collins has been playing the race card Karl.... And earlier story about racist road rage incident. The race must be getting tight so Collins is looking to mobilise his vote

Paul Corrigan said...

I was astonished when I read that by Efeso Collins. I have not heard 'coconut' in more than 30 years.

As a teenager in 1960s small-town New Zealand I never heard Islanders called 'coconuts' except when I went to the cities - Auckland and Wellington (Porirua and Lower Hutt). Also 'boongers' was common.

I lived in Christchurch in the 1970s and 80s. I can't remember ever hearing 'coconuts'.

I came to live in Lower Hutt in the late 80s and I heard 'coconut' from a parent at my children's school. A Maori, I might add, who objected to their child being in a class of 'little brown coconuts'.

But it wasn't common.I haven't heard it for years.

Last year I read a story quoting Matthew Tukaki about how he had been racially abused as he walked along a Wellington street.

My immediate thought was that the abuser must have been hellishly reckless because Mr Tukaki is a big fella who looks as if he's more than capable of physically looking after himself.

Anonymous said...

At the time I'm writing this Reuters on line version reported on the protests outside Parliament but RNZ had nix on line. PM said that she "welcomed" peaceful protests, I'll be interested to hear if the protests were (1) peaceful & (2) welcomed. Oh yes, and if RNZ ever drags their backsides around there to report

Anonymous said...

Simon Wilson stated he interviewed Efeso Collins at a public meeting in Pt Chev in his opinion column in the Herald yesterday. However an earlier online report described Simon Wilson as being the MC at this "public" meeting which in fact was a campaign rally for Collins. Clearly, Wilson is a supporter of Collins for the mayoralty and this explains his deliberate take down in his previous opinion pieces of any candidate for the mayoralty he deems a threat to his man. In his opinion piece yesterday he said at the end of the interview he asked Collins if he had anything else to say and this led to the comments about racism experienced by Collins. I may be cynical, but it all looks a bit too stage managed to me.

Gary Peters said...

As far as I am concerned Collins is again playing the race card which he has done twice before and each time he was shown to be less than honest.

I have dealt with many maori and polynesians over the years and have heard the word coconut many many times and almost always from their mouths. Probbably much in the way that television shows and movies show American negroes calling each other nigger. I think there are two reasons for it. On the one hand it defuses the word when people use it themselves but it is also used pejoratively when used to demean someone who is perceived as brown on the outside but white on the inside. Much like willie jackson's slur "not maori enough".

Initially the comments on the story inferred that it may have been one of his pacifica constituents that used the term.

Expecting the media to act like media these days is much like expecting santa to get your present right when you haven't even written him a letter.

Anonymous said...

The Mahuta nepotism matter is about as corrupt as it can get, yet the comparative silence on the issue is almost deafening. Any claim that the Maori world is small and such conflicts are inevitable is nothing but patent bollocks! Having your husband/first cousin and other immediate relatives providing paid advice to the Government on issues that you are directly overseeing, and they have no apparent expertise in, is nothing short of a rort. And the appointment of her sister to pivotal, related roles is audacious and corrupt in the extreme and could only be pulled-off by hiding behind the race card and the PIJF. Anyone that endorses this by voting Labour, or is in msm and deliberately fails to report it, is either ignorant, or corrupt ‐ alternatively, both.

Anonymous said...

Collins has a history of making these sorts of allegations up. Indeed it was alleged he abused a woman himself at Auckland airport! I simply don’t believe him.

Trev1 said...

The New Zealand media: cowardly, complicit, craven, corrupt.

David George said...

Yes to the other commentators doubting the "coconut" story. It's rarely used these days, even privately within circles inclined that way. Collins' claim that he gets called it to his face often enough to be "sick of it" sounds like BS for political reasons. He does have a history of weaponising race in this way. Simon Wilson would have loved it, of course.

D'Esterre said...

I'm also sceptical about this story. Many years ago in the late 70s to mid-80s, I worked in Auckland, in an area with many Maori and Pacific Island people. That term was rare even then. When I did hear it, it was often used by Pacific Islanders about each other (possibly for the same reasons that blacks in the US use "nigger"). I occasionally heard Maori use it. I can't recall pakeha using it: they were more likely to use "boong", though by the end of the 70s, even that had largely fallen out of use.

This looks suspiciously like an attempt by Collins to garner the sympathy vote. A stunt of this sort has also been pulled recently by a WCC Councillor. It was no more plausible in that case than it is with Collins.

Anonymous said...

That has been used for many years.....why it is a problem now ?

Anonymous said...

Why read what Wilson writes in the NZ Herald? He always writes left leaning tripe and supports Ardern come what may.

Karl du Fresne said...

It's true that Simon Wilson is a dyed-in-the-wool leftist; has been since his days as a Maoist student radical at Onslow College and Victoria University. It's a very rare day when I agree with him, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt on this occasion.