Let’s talk about white supremacy

This is a difficult topic but we must confront it. We have heard a lot about ‘white supremacy’ recently, and there is a lot of misunderstanding about what the term really means. I abhor the way it is being used to beat up innocent New Zealanders simply because of the colour of their skin.

First of all, the definition. This from Wikipedia. quote.

White supremacy  is the racist belief that white people are superior to people of other races and therefore should be dominant over them.

The term is also typically used to describe a political ideology that perpetuates and maintains the socialpoliticalhistorical, or institutional domination by white people.

In academic usage, the term “white supremacy” can also refer to a political or socioeconomic system, in which white people enjoy a structural advantage (privilege) over other ethnic groups, on both a collective and individual level. end quote.

Modern referencing to white supremacists uses the final definition, but that is incorrect. In New Zealand, white people do not enjoy any structural advantage over other ethnic groups. Everyone has the same rights and opportunities. Children of all races, for example, are required to go to school. Everyone gets the same opportunity: that of an education. If some members of certain ethnic groups choose not to take advantage of that opportunity, that is not structural racism. That is merely an individual choice: a decision not to participate in the system offered to all. It is not a step back to the days when white and black students were segregated.

Members of many racial groups are represented at local and government level, Maori in particular. There are 29 MPs of Maori descent in a parliament of 120. If we were in a system of structural racism, there would be only white MPs. Think South Africa in the 1960s. We are nothing like that.

Europeans were once guilty of ‘structural racism’, but those days are long gone. It is time to stop beating white people for the mistakes of their ancestors. Time to look forward, not back.

New Zealand is guilty of ‘casual racism’. Maybe. So is every other countryand every other race in the world. Not only white people are guilty of racism. However, only white people are called to account for it.

Let us think about that ‘casual racism’. Have you ever made a joke about a brown person? Yes, I have. We all have. A fair few Maoris do it too. Think of the beloved Billy T James. We are not allowed to make those jokes any more because we are told that they are racist. But there is an important point that is being missed here. Teasing people is treating them inclusively. If we are not allowed to joke with people, we are not allowed to treat them as equals. We have to treat them as if they are special and that does nothing for inclusiveness.

After all, think about all the Paddy jokes, mostly implying that the Irish are stupid. What about jokes implying that all Scottish people are mean? What about jokes about British people being insufferably unemotional? What about jokes about Maori car aerials? The first 3 are fine. The last one is racism. That simply can’t be right.

When I wrote this article last week, I had a glimpse of what people understand ‘white supremacy’ to be, and often, it is wrong. A young Muslim woman was upset at white women wearing the hijab as a gesture of solidarity. She described this as being ‘part of the pyramid of white supremacy’. This gesture displayed extreme ignorance and a fundamental lack of sensitivity and cultural understanding, however it was not an act of white supremacy. No actual white supremacist would wear a Muslim hijab. I can see why she was upset though. The lack of understanding of the significance of the hijab was seen by Muslims as patronising in the extreme. It wasn’t intended that way, but that is how it looked.

Just because our system of governance is based on the British system does not make New Zealand a hotbed of white supremacy. Our freedoms are available to all; our rights and privileges are available to all.

Just because one ‘white supremacist’ ran amok does not make all white people guilty. In fact, it was the universal abhorrence of his evil act that brought us together initially, in shock and grief. Please do not let the act of a lone madman change our way of life. Everyone will lose if we do that.