In praise of a non-old non-white woman

Emma Espiner expresses things about the growing dumping on ‘old white men’ thing in a way that only a non-white non-old woman could (older white maler people are likely to be ignored or denigrated or dismissed as no longer relevant for saying similar).

From Newsroom – In praise of some old white men

I have felt uneasy about our Minister for Women, Julie Anne Genter’s, comments that “old white men” should make way for others since she uttered them. Nobody in my circle of friends is going to cry in sympathy for the old white men, but I do think of some of the mentors I’ve known and how they might feel hearing something like that.

I don’t have a problem with the sentiment of her speech – that the leadership of our country is skewed towards a specific group which no longer reflects (it never did) our diverse population. My problem is this: it’s now acceptable to publicly disparage someone if they have a specific trifecta of age, gender and ethnicity.

I believe we undermine the opportunity to bring everyone on the journey towards a more equitable society when we negatively single out anyone based on their skin colour or gender. If we believe that correcting harmful inequities lies in asserting an inherent malice and/or obsolescence in all people with a specific combination of age, gender and ethnicity then we have already lost the fight. 

The real enemy is the unchecked and uncontested power exercised through institutions, social norms and structures which privilege one group over another.

And in my experience your best allies – speaking from an indigenous perspective –  aren’t always the ones who preach the most about being allies. Occasionally the people who make loud noises about diversity don’t practice it or, they do only to the extent that it doesn’t jeopardise their own position.

The people who are happy to have Māori on their team but who will block Māori from stepping out of the brown box marked ‘diversity project’ and surpassing them. Making space for others if you really care about diversity is not a subtle, difficult to grasp concept. You open up the space and then get out of it. I know some old white men who do this very well, mostly very quietly.

I’m certain there are people out there who would think my perspective on this shows I’m ‘colonised’ and maybe blinded by privilege. That I’m invested in the existing system because it’s delivered for me and that I don’t get it. Kei a rātou tēnā – that’s up to them and we can have that debate. They’re criticisms I regularly test on myself.

Here’s the thing though. I’m telling my Māori daughter that nobody should ever judge her for her gender or the colour of her skin. How do I then turn around, and in the same breath, encourage her to look at her father who’s not far off being an old white guy, and tell her that she can judge him and everyone else like him for exactly those things.

Some very good points made there. I’ll resist commenting further for now and allow readers to make of it what they want.