Is it okay for oppressed minorities to evince blatantly racist attitudes, claiming, for example, that they are “genetically superior to other groups”? (Needless to say, the claim I’m discussing here is not backed by evidence.)
I’d argue that no, dismissing entire groups as inferior based purely on stereotypes is wrong, whoever does it. But it’s even worse when the racist is a co-leader of an important political party in a Western nation. And what’s triply bad is that the national press and government of that country, which happens to be New Zealand, fails to call out the racist.
That is, of course, because the racist is Rawiri Waititi, a Māori who is co-leader of Te Pāti Māori (TPM): the Māori party in New Zealand’s House of Representatives. And the report, which I can’t find elsewhere, comes from the World Socialist Website (click below to read). On the other hand, the racist quote seconded by Waititi comes from The Northland Age, part of the New Zealand Herald, the country’s most widely read newspaper:
Here’s the new excerpt, and the bolding is mine:
In an interview with TVNZ on Sunday, Rawiri Waititi, co-leader of Te Pāti Māori (TPM, the Māori Party) defended the blatantly racist statement: “It is a known fact that Māori genetic makeup is stronger than others.”
The statement was made to the Northland Age in September 2020 by TPM candidate Heather Te Au-Skipworth while outlining the party’s call for a $100 million fund to invest in “Māori sport.” It was then added to TPM’s website and was only removed last year after the far-right ACT Party complained about it.
TPM did not issue a public retraction or apology. Now, with an election approaching on October 14, Waititi has doubled down on defending the claim that indigenous Māori are a superior race.
His comments reveal the utterly reactionary character of Māori nationalism, a form of racial identity politics that is dressed up as progressive by the New Zealand political and media establishment. They highlight the sham being perpetrated by liberal commentators such as the Daily Blog and pseudo-left groups like the International Socialist Organisation (ISO), which are supporting TPM as a “left-wing” party.
Speaking to TVNZ interviewer Jack Tame, Waititi defended the comment by stating: “How can it be racist when you’re trying to empower a people that are climbing out from the bottom of the bonnet [sic] of colonial violence for the last 183 years?”
He continued: “We’re trying to rebuild our people… [after] years and years of colonial violence on our people. And so why can’t we call ourselves magic? Why can’t we call ourselves proud? Why can’t we believe in ourselves? And why can’t we say to our people that your genetics mean something, that you can be proud of that?
Umm. . . yes, of course the Māori can believe in themselves and empower their people. Yes, they can be proud, though calling themselves “magic” is a bit too close to superstition for my taste. And of course your genetics does “mean something”, like which group you’re most closely related to (I’m betting on Polynesians).
But what you can’t say is that your group has a “stronger genetic makeup” than other groups. The term “stronger” is meaningless here, and is not used by geneticists to compare genomes of different groups.
The original statement was apparently meant to refer to sports, as seen in the quote below from Heather Te Au-Skipworth, but then she extended it to intellect as well. Here’s the statement from the 2020 NZ Herald:
“Exercise has been a big part of who we are, how we came here and how we would traverse the lands of Aotearoa,” TeAu-Skipworth said.
“Māori invented many sports prior to European arrival – running, swimming, fishing, waka, hunting, kī o rahi, taiaha/mau rakau/te whare tū taua, to name a few – all examples of a tūpuna mindset, an ancestral way of being and acting that we call Whānau Pakari…
To interrupt, I doubt that hunting, swimming, fishing, and running were literally invented by Māori. This cannot be true because people were doing these things all over the world well before the Māori came to New Zealand about 800 years ago (e.g., the Olympics in ancient Greece). Hers is just a dumb statement that is not at all specific to the Māori.
Te Au-Skipworth continued:
“There is much to be taught and learnt from the navigators of our past and how we can use that mātauranga to sail and paddle our way into a future frame by Whānau Pakari.
“It is a known fact that Māori genetic makeup is stronger than others. When there is commitment, dedication and great support around Māori to achieve a high standard in sport, it is guaranteed that Māori will thrive.
“Our ancestors were not just athletic, they were also strategic thinkers with intentions to survive. This all required stamina, resilience, endurance, speed, agility and logic.
It was racist when she said it, and it’s racist when Waititi says it. As the anonymous Kiwi who sent me this link said:
Surprisingly (or not), neither the media nor the Race Relations Commissioner has shown any interest.
If a white New Zealander said that “colonialist genetics were stronger than Māori genetics”, it would be all over the Kiwi news as an arrant example of racism, which it would be. So it’s telling that when a big-time Māori politicians says something equivalent, it’s ignored by the press, the government, and the public. That is what is known as “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” and all decent Kiwis, whether Māori or “colonialists”, should be demanding retractions and apologies.
Don’t hold your breath. It would be considered racist to call anything said by a Māori “racist.” That’s how far the fear has spread in New Zealand.