Nov 20, 2013

Living in the age of racism without racists: Andrew Shaw and TVNZ part II

Are the "Yes" voters absolved of their racism because
they didn't intend to be racist? On TVNZ's definition - yes
H/T The Jackalman

The shovels are out at TVNZ and they’re digging deeper and deeper. But the question is who or what do they throw in the hole? The defendant Andrew Shaw, the spokesperson Megan Richards or TVNZ’s conscience and credibility? Pacific Eye Witness reports:

A TVNZ Spokesperson says they are horrified that people have interpreted what Andrew Shaw said to be “taken to mean something that was never intended – that’s why Andrew has apologised to anyone who may have been offended either at the event or after.”

Regan Cunliffe is right: how can you be “horrified that a joke about race was interpreted as being racist”? The answer is easy, but hard to swallow. We live in an age of “racism without racists”.

There’s a sting in being labelled a racist. New Zealanders want to avoid that. But too many don’t want to change their behaviour. Instead a culture of excuse making has developed and TVNZ is perpetuating it.

It goes like this: there are no racists because intent is a safe word. But if that's accepted - and it shouldn't be - then suddenly the struggle for equal rights isn’t about effects, but the intent of the abuser and, you know, 'why can’t we sort this out over a beer because you might be a reverse racist for accusing me of being a racist'. 

But no. Just no. Intent is never the full story. Intent doesn't define what racial bigotry is. Intent doesn’t absolve racial bigotry itself. And when that racial bigotry goes unchecked it helps reinforce racial oppression. 

Intent doesn't matter when a person actively discriminates against Polynesians. And that's what Shaw was doing - actively perpetuating Polynesian stereotypes. There's a history of bigotry against Polynesians - especially Polynesian immigrants - that Shaw is now a part of. 

New Zealanders are desensitised to racism against Maori and against other Polynesians. It’s encoded in our colonial memory and it holds us back. And it’s going to keep holding us back until we get over intent as a barometer of racism. Because there can be no such thing as racism without racists.

Post script: is anyone else unhappy with the silence over this? I mean, Whaleoil is pushing this issue harder than many on the left or in the media. Politicians have weighed in – h/t Sua Sio, but other than that the silence continues. And is anyone else utterly, utterly fatigued with people getting away with bigotry and casual racism? I am. Lastly, here's something of a backgrounder on racism without racists.


  1. Good morning "... bona fide and respected Maori commentator Morgan Godfery..." :)

    1. Heh. Good evening. Does this mean I've hit the mainstream :)

  2. Can't believe Shaw was stupid enough to say that, Auckland is a sh#*hole but not because of Polynesians!
    Unacceptable comments, if you are white you cannot say anything racist (no one should ever )but if your Hone or co you can throw white m@#*%f&%-*er in anywhere.

  3. Not just New Zealand. Look at the current controversy in the Netherlands, where many people are defending an overt racist caricature ('Black Pete' - a sort of Santa Claus servant/slave figure, played by white people with faces painted black and golliwog wigs, who traditionally features in Christmas parades) on the same grounds: they have no nasty intentions and it is all a bit of fun.



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