White Mother Fuckers & Kiwi Blokes: Racist Discourse in New Zealand
Throughout this presentation I will first introduce you to the key concepts of this discussion, then move on to discuss the two examples of racist discourse in New Zealand. Each text will be summarised and racist elements discussed and analyzed.
Day in and day out we are party to, overhear or engage in racist discourse in New Zealand, a country made up of dozens of different cultures. There is rarely a day that goes by that a prominent New Zealander doesn’t make a racist comment of some kind. Whether it be Hone Harawira calling Pakehas White Mother Fuckers, Paul Henry insulting the Governor General or an Indian dignitary, Andy Haden talking about rugby quota’s or Marc Ellis joking about ‘Big Freshes’ or ‘Bogans’. So what is racism? According to Van Djik it is a ‘social system of domination, that is, of a specific kind of power of one group over other groups’. Racist discourse according to Wetherell & Potter is discourse ‘which has the effect of establishing, sustaining and reinforcing oppressive power relations’. This presentation outlines two examples of racist discourse in New Zealand. The first is an article relating to controversial Maori Party MP Hone Harawira’s outbursts about Pakeha New Zealanders. The second text is an interview with March Ellis discussing his book ‘Marc Ellis’ good fullas – a guide to Kiwi Blokes’ which contains stereotypes about different Kiwi Men.
The cover story of the Sunday Star Times Focus section on the 26 th of September 2010 was titled ‘Mission Impossible?’ And is based on an interview with Hone Harawira around his controversial ‘white motherfuckers who have been raping our lands and ripping us off for centuries’ email in 2009, calling his critics rednecks and the statement he made about feeling uncomfortable if his children dated a Pakeha. The discourse places an emphasis throughout that Hone is not apologetic about his racist comments and that he doesn’t care what people think about him. Throughout the article the focus is on his pride in being Maori and what he hopes to achieve for Maori people.
By referring to Pakeha has ‘white motherf…ers’ raping ‘our’ lands Hone is distancing himself from the out group using pronouns to separate ‘them’ and ‘us’. By referring to those that are not Maori, and in particular whites, by using singular references to all, dismissing differentiation between members of the group. Hone also chooses to use derogatory ethnic labels when issuing some of his racial outbursts like calling his critics rednects and whites ‘motherf…ers’.
He tries to justify his stance in relation to his children not dating Pakeha by saying ‘A lot of fathers think that way about their daughters’ and the stances he takes he justifies that others ‘believe similar things to me’. By using a common sense argument he attempts to normalise his attitude. Hone also attempts to justify his actions by saying that he is the ‘one national figure consistently pro-Maori with everything I say, I become the lightning rod for anti-Maori people’ at the same time making his detractors appear to be the attackers. This also demonstrates over-lexicalisation, Hone is distancing himself and his people, separating them from the ‘norm’ of the dominant out-group – Pakeha. When speaking of Maori people it is always with pride in a positive manner – ‘pro-Maori’ ‘Maori title’ ‘be all things to Maori’, when he speaks of Pakeha it is with outright contempt ‘white mother…’ or indifference.
Hone is committed to his cause. Throughout this discourse he never tries to claim any connections with Pakeha’s, he goes as far to say that he doesn’t work on policies to win over Pakeha and he gives it no thought whatsoever. He does not try to soften or mitigate his opinion but at one point through the discourse he does say that he was told to ‘moderate the message and how he presented it’ which he is trying to learn to do and that he felt the statement he made about his children dating Pakeha as ‘mild’. He does not use any opting out statements, falter or deny that he is pro-Maori always and proud of his Maoridom. At no point does Hone admit to being racist during the discourse but he emphasises that he is proud of his stance and does not particularly care what others think about his point of view.
According to Neil Reid, Hone Harawira has been described as by some ‘as the most divisive politicians in New Zealand’ and a ‘hot-headed Maori radical’ but what is clear from this discourse is that Harawira is passionate about Maoridom, discrimination, Maori rights and injustice. The discourse outlines his history including promotion of Maori language reivival in the 70’s, protesting at Bastion Point and the springbok tour, refusing to assist voters unless they are on the Maori electoral role and his resistance to the foreshore and seabed legislation which he believed was a stance for all New Zealanders, not just Maori, to protect their land from sale to overseas interests. According to sociopsychologists Wetherell & Potter racism can ‘produce a cohesive, effective and even powerful platform as Maori people recognise crucial joint interests’
The second text to be covered was in the focus section of the Sunday Star Times Focus on the 15 th of August 2010 and was titled ‘Bloke Spotting?’ The article is an interview and review of March Ellis’ latest book: March Ellis’ Good Fullas – A guide to Kiwi Blokes. The author Adam Dudding describes Ellis as an ‘amateur anthropologist’ who along with his co-author have written a book classifying Kiwi Blokes based on their quirks and stereotypes including ‘Brogans, Dalmogan and Offcuts’ or in Maoris, Dalmations & feral sub-species respectively and ‘Big Freshes’ – ‘Fullas of Polynesian or Melanesian descent and, by virtue of their name, very large and usually very hungry. Big Fresh are loyal to a fault, love to laugh but demand a close eye when on the turps’. And the ‘Funny Whaka’ – ‘A carefree and jovial Maori Fulla who spends most of his time chuckling, chortling, giggling and cackling.’ The book takes a stab at just about everyone including a gag about Asian penis size and gays and is full of caricatures including an overweight Polynesian with an afro and a bucket of KFC.
Ellis’ book is based on stereotypes. It includes overgeneralisations about certain ethnic groups such as Big Freshs being large and hungry, and as the picture demonstrates with a bucket of KFC. The purpose of these kinds of generalisations is to create self esteem and pride by classifying others negatively and further highlight the differences between the dominant in-group and subordinate out-group. Ellis includes stereotypes from many ethnicities in New Zealand in what appears to be an attempt to display the solidarity fallacy by including himself and other dominant culture stereotypes such as the ‘scarfie’ and ‘wodgewick’ in his book. To lighten the particularly un-PC nature of the discourse Ellis comes across as a good kiwi guy who is just one of the fulla’s – a ‘practical joke loving Henanigan’ who has met many ‘weird and wonderful people’ in New Zealand. His stereotypes are also full of mitigations aimed at softening the stereotype, such as Big Fresh being ‘loyal to a fault’ and the Funny Whaka (who they were originally going to call the ‘Happy Hori’ as ‘chuckling, chortling and giggling’. When discussing Asian penis size they go on to decry the anti-Chinese laws of the 19 th century and then celebrate Asian contributions like sushi, two dollar shops and half–priced massage.
As discussed earlier the discourse is littered with derogatory ethnic labels symbolising negative stereotypes in an attempt to be humorous, from a racial perspective this is effectively ridicules the target. These kind of labels rob the target of individuality and insults the entire group. What Ellis and his co-authors do best during this discourse is acknowledge they are being ‘un-PC’ and they are just ‘taking the piss’, Ellis chooses to maintain his humorous approach throughout the discourse saying that ‘you need to put a smile on people’s faces… so if you take offence up yousr really,. The illustrator, Donovan Bixley, says that he felt guilty with some of the images that he created but ‘they’re just stereotypes, but there are people out there like that’.
These two discourses contain many elements of racism. Whether it be overt accusing whites of being mother fuckers and rapists or covert veiled in stereotypical humor each discourse contains elements such as mitigation, denial, stereotyping and derogatory ethnic labels. What does this say about New Zealanders? Are we all like Hone Harawira and Mark Ellis, racists in different ways but racist non the less? This question will be analysed further in the final assignment and will include texts based on the latest Paul Henry debacle and how everyday New Zealanders react to confrontational and offensive discourse, perhaps proving one way or another if New Zealanders are a bunch of racists or if we deserve the label of being a proud, multicultural and tolerant society.