|Maori women challenging racism in the early feminist movement|
H/T Te Ara
Don’t act surprised. From RNZ:
"The Government is rejecting suggestions Maori are being unfairly targetted in the police or corrections systems the Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell has described as institutionally racist.
A visiting United Nations delegation says the Government needs to investigate why a systemic bias against Maori is evident in the country's criminal justice system.
The delegation, which reports to the UN Human Rights Council, says any bias against Maori leading to their incarceration more than other New Zealanders constitutes arbitrary detention and is illegal under international law.
Police and Corrections Minister Anne Tolley says she has seen no evidence of institutional racism in either police or Corrections.
"Quite the reverse in fact; there's a lot of work going on. The police are turning the tide and we're very impressed by that work and of course in Corrections the work that's going on to reduce reoffending."
It’s easy when you have the privilege of detachment – and, of course, the authority of objectivity – to deny that racism exists. But even then, Tolley’s remarks are neither a full denial nor a proper admission. Her response is bureaucratic: “the police are turning the tide and we’re very impressed by that work”.
What does that even mean? If the police “are turning the tide” is that an admission institutional racism did exist? Or is “quite the reverse” a denial that institutional racism ever existed? Does it matter? Unfortunately it does.
Tolley’s position doesn’t change the facts: Maori adults are 3.8 times more likely to be prosecuted than non-Maori and 3.9 times more likely to be convicted of an offence. Maori young people are more likely than Pakeha to be apprehended and prosecuted for committing the same offence. This is the reality of the racial hierarchy: the apprehension, prosecution and conviction gaps. But add the health, wealth, education, employment and housing gaps too.
But if Tolley denies that this is the product of institutional racism, she doesn’t have to do anything substantive about it. Her response can be bureaucratic: we are doing [insert glib policy] in hope of achieving [insert rosy outcome] for [insert folksy platitude].
Tolley’s position is profoundly ahistorical. Settler colonialism is based on the denial of indigenous systems and culture. You can’t complete the colonial project – namely to import the capitalist economy and recreate the architecture of liberal democracy - while allowing an indigenous system to co-exist.
The New Zealand experience is no different. In the 19th century Maori were invited to assimilate under the Treaty. In 20th century New Zealand Maori have been invited to integrate under the Treaty settlement process. But under neither regime were Maori offered full membership of the state. Institutional racism made assimilation and integration conditional - sovereignty had to be transferred, discrimination tolerated and wrongdoing (eventually) forgiven.
Indulge me for a moment and imagine if we started setting some conditions like, say, extracting a genuine commitment to do something about institutional racism. But perhaps a commitment from government isn't necessary. Iwi, hapu, whanau, community groups, national organisations and individuals - of different ethnicities - are doing their best to turn the tide. In many areas, it’s working. Maori do have better access to housing and education than a century ago. But I’m suspicious of the government’s claim to be turning the tide. Here’s why:
“You don't stick a knife in a man's back nine inches and then pull it out six inches and say you're making progress ... No matter how much respect, no matter how much recognition, whites show towards me, as far as I am concerned, as long as it is not shown to everyone of our people in this country, it doesn't exist for me”. – Malcolm X