“Whiteness”, decolonisation and dumping capitalism

Max Harris writes about Racism and White Defensiveness in Aotearoa: A Pākehā Perspective

More accurately that should be ‘one Pākehā’s perspective’.

I want to talk about an aspect of whiteness in Aotearoa New Zealand. And when I say “whiteness”, I’m not just talking about skin colour. I’m talking about the power, privilege, and patterns of thinking associated with white people.

I think that there are a wide variety of ‘patterns of thinking associated with white people’ – whatever ‘white people’ means.

Whiteness is connected to economic power and class — and is probably least understood by those it privileges. Most white people seem blind to its existence, while most non-white people are not.

Sweeping generalisations. Harris speaks for himself, fair enough, but not for ‘white people’. He doesn’t back up his ‘most white people’ and ‘most non-white people’ claims.

I think for those of us who identify as Pākehā, or grew up in Pākehā-dominant spaces, there’s a special responsibility to strive to be aware of our own advantages in Aotearoa New Zealand.

While I have no problems with the term Pākehā I don’t identify as Pākehā. I identify as a New Zealander. I don’t think I have any special responsibilities based on someone else’s pigeon holing of me.

White advantage is maintained in many ways: through intergenerational wealth, discretionary decision-making, and everyday racism.

Some people may take advantage of racial privileges – and not just ‘white people’.

One aspect of how racism is talked about in Aotearoa is white defensiveness in response to discussions of racism. By white defensiveness, I mean an anxiety, closing-down, and insecurity among white people and white-dominated institutions when racism is raised.

Perhaps some people feel some of those things. I don’t.

I see at least four types of white defensiveness.

First, there’s Denial: kneejerk responses that attempt to deny that there is racism, rather than taking claims seriously or considering its roots.

The second type of white defensiveness is Diversion. This is where, in instances in which facts about racism or colonisation are raised, the conversation is derailed through a claim that Māori themselves are guilty of some other wrong.

A third form of defensiveness is Detriment-centring. That’s where there’s a focus on the disadvantages faced by Māori, but without any acknowledgment of the advantages or protective factors which flow from being Pākehā.

The fourth form of defensiveness is the demand to Move on. This is where defensive demands are made for discussions about racism to end.

Let’s move on this discussion.

This discussion isn’t meant to demonise white people, or Pākehā, either. It’s about being honest and open about our advantages — and thinking about how to dismantle the system that produces them.

Dismantle the system?

Pākehā people can, and should, remain proud of our heritage and roots. But we also need to be aware of the injustices of the past and present, and how we may have contributed to them.

One very valid question is how all this relates to class and New Zealand’s system of capitalism.

Dismantle the system of capitalism?

We need to talk more about class in this country — to speak back to another lamentable and longstanding myth that we are somehow class-free. Fortunately, a new generation of activists in New Zealand is breathing fresh life into that conversation.

I think that class in a new Zealand perspective is a largely different different thing – I wouldn’t call it an issue.

There’s a need to support Māori-led efforts at decolonisation: the process of understanding and undoing the negative effects of colonisation, and recentring indigenous views.

Decolonisation? Harris doesn’t explain what that might entail.

We all must also push for a different economic order, given the way that the twin forces of capitalism and colonisation have amplified the power of whiteness.

He associates capitalism with whiteness – it is not just white people around the world who have benefited substantially from capitalism, and who continue to benefit from it, despite it’s shortcomings.

Harris seems to be suggesting dismantling ‘colonisation’ and capitalism.

Dismantling systems of oppression, including those based on race and class, is important for the powerful as well as the powerless.

While this is an interesting discussion there is a major omission.

Dismantling colonisation, capitalism and systems of oppression are a big deal.

But Harris makes no attempt to explain how this dismantling would happen, who would decide what is dismantled and how, nor what would take their place.

Many things in our world and our country are imperfect, but dismantling your house, or dismantling your country, must be retrograde steps unless you have somewhere else you can live.

It’s all very well to pile on ‘white people’ guilt, and to condemn colonisation and capitalism, but without any attempt at viable alternatives it seems to be a half cocked argument.

Like our form of democracy both colonisation and capitalism have some crap aspects, but they remain worse than everything but all the alternatives – unless perhaps Harris can suggest something better.

Check your privilege

Check your privilege

Privilege: Unearned access to social power based on membership in a dominant social group

_  Able-bodied physically and mentally

_  Access to education

_  Christian

_  Cisgender

_  Heterosexual

_  Male

_  Native English speaker

_  New Zealand Citizen (at birth)

_  White

Becoming Aware of Privilege should not be viewed as a burden or source of guilt, but rather an opportunity to learn and be responsible so that we may work toward a more just and inclusive world.

(Adapted from OUIT)

 

 

 

Dunne being vindicated after Henry travesty

A comprehensive article that helps understand the situation and implications of the David Henry inquiry and the using of phone and email data – from Scoop editor Alastair Thompson:

The Privileges Of Parliament & Peter Dunne

It is hard not to conclude – in the wake of more than a year of half answers, miss-truths and outright lies around key aspects of the GCSB debacle – that we are now dealing with a rogue Government.

Now the latest monumental balls-up/gross abuse of power (you pick your description) has dragged the Speaker into the net and that has really opened pandora’s box.

On Dunne:

On the face of it Peter Dunne faced a trial by meta-data.

And he was convicted on that meta-data alone when he refused to give up what remained of his rights to privacy.

This of course puts the GCSB Bill which seeks to legalise the wholesale gathering, warehousing and mining of meta-data (which is not defined in the Bill) by the Government without warrant.

What happened to both Peter Dunne and Andrea Vance is deeply disturbing in a way that is not that easy to convey to the public.

And his summary:

Now the “Powerful” Parliament Privileges Committee will consider all of this and my guess is that it will come down very strongly on the side of Parliament.

This will hopefully restore the balance.

But the amount of damage that has been done here should not be underestimated and it will not go away quickly. The Press Gallery will remember this.

Coming on top of the months of obfuscation and outright lying and evasiveness over every aspect of this story from the Kim Dotcom raids and who knew about them when, to the illegal GCSB spying, to the appointment of a child-hood friend of the PM’s as GCSB Director and now the Andrea Vance and Peter Dunne affair – we will remember.

The damage will continue until this is dealt with properly, until the whole truth comes out, and until proper controls and protocols are put in place.

On the other hand Peter Dunne is gradually being vindicated after a travesty of justice and an attempted political hit job that is backfiring.

Speaker’s finding on Dunne privilege complaint

The Speaker’s ruling on the privileges complaint made by Clayton Cosgrove against Peter Dunne.

Privileges complaint 1-3 Privileges complaint 2-3 Privileges complaint 3-3

(The released document seems to have scanned pages that are not straight, hence the poor alignment)

Press release from Peter Dunne:

Dunne Hails Dismissal of Breach of Privilege Claim

UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne has welcomed today’s ruling by the Speaker that he did not deliberately mislead the Finance and Expenditure Committee when he denied being responsible for leaking the Kitteridge Report on the GCSB.

The Speaker has dismissed a breach of privilege complaint that had been laid by Labour following the Henry Report into the leaking of the Kitteridge Report, which led to Mr Dunne’s resignation as a Minister.

“I welcome the Speaker’s decision to dismiss the complaint and his ruling that my answers did not deliberately mislead the Finance and Expenditure Committee, nor were in contempt of Parliament.

“Although the Henry Report made no allegation against me, nor challenged any of my evidence, its excessive focus on circumstantial matters led to unfounded inferences and innuendos that have not only damaged my reputation, but also made it impossible for me to continue as a Minister.

“Today’s ruling that I did not deliberately mislead the Finance and Expenditure Committee effectively clears me, which I welcome, and it means I can now move forward with confidence once more and put this unfortunate whole situation behind me.

“The last few weeks have been extremely difficult for everyone affected by this case, and on behalf of my family I express my appreciation for the huge public support we have received,” Mr Dunne says.

Press release from Winston Peters

Rt Hon Winston Peters
New Zealand First Leader
11 July 2013

No Exoneration for Dunne in Speaker’s Ruling

The Speaker’s delay of 31 days to work out what the breach of privilege issues were in relation to questions asked by members during a hearing of evidence at the Finance and Expenditure Committee has got to be a new record says New Zealand First.

A breach of privilege complaint was laid with the Speaker on 10 June regarding questions from New Zealand First leader Rt Hon Winston Peters to the then-Minister for Revenue Peter Dunne.

“The complaint has been ruled out on the basis that my questions were out of order.

“They were not.

“First, I asked a number of questions of Hon Peter Dunne about secrecy issues in the IRD.

Then I asked him whether he was the leaker of the Kitteridge report.

“The chairman of the Committee found the questions in order. The Speaker, in contrast, appears to want to expunge the Committee record from history.

“Mr Dunne has resigned and there is no vindication for his behaviour in the Speaker’s ruling”, says Mr Peters.

Update: a legal opinion (Graeme Edgeler) “It was dismissed because the statement was made in circumstances where it didn’t matter whether it was dishonest or not. The other things included some of the reasons why it didn’t matter, I think.”