Some history of ‘White Supremacy’ in New Zealand

‘White Supremacist’ is being used to describe a radical fringe in new Zealand in the wake of the Christchurch Mosque massacres.

Last week Christ Trotter () tweeted:

He was referring to a post at Bowalley Road: What Is A White Supremacist? (edited)

THE TERM “WHITE SUPREMACIST” is rapidly replacing the more straightforward “racist” in mainstream journalism.

On social media, especially Twitter, the term is being used, anachronistically, to characterise the ideas of explorers and colonialists living in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. While it is not unusual to encounter such terminological misuse in the writings of radical post-modernists, it is worrying to see the mainstream media subsume so many different historical and ideological phenomena into this single, catch-all, expression.

The current misuse of the term “white supremacy” is also highly dangerous politically. By singling out this particular form of racism and misapplying it to famous figures from the past, as well as to people living in the present, the users of the term risk not only its rapid devaluation, but also the angry retaliation of those who feel both themselves and their beliefs to have been wrongly and unfairly condemned.

It refers, primarily, to the political regimes which arose in the southern states of the USA in the years following the American Civil War – most particularly in the decades immediately following the withdrawal of federal troops from the states of the defeated Confederacy in 1877.

These regimes were built on the bedrock requirement that whites must in all conceivable circumstances: economic, social, cultural, legal and political; be placed ahead of and above blacks. The poorest and most ill-educated white farmer had to be able to count himself better off, both subjectively and objectively, than his black neighbours. White supremacy wasn’t just a matter of personal racial animus, it described a comprehensive and internally coherent system of race-based rule.

A “white supremacist”, accordingly, is a person who not only subscribes to the principles underpinning the infamous “Jim Crow” system, but also – like the contemporary Ku Klux Klan – strives for its return. Obviously, the term may also be legitimately applied to the very similar systems of race-based rule erected in South Africa and Rhodesia between 1948 and 1992.

Simple racial chauvinism is very different from the conscious creation of a race-based economic and political system. If, however, the media persists in lumping together every Pakeha who takes pride in the achievements of western civilisation with avowed Nazis, like Philip Arps, or genocidal eco-fascists, like the Christchurch shooter, then not only will the charge lose all its definitional and moral force, but, sooner or later, those so lumped will come to the conclusion that they might as well be hung for sheep as lambs.

Those on the Left who are promoting the use of this term, presumably as a way of shaming Pakeha New Zealanders into acknowledging and renouncing their “white privilege”, may soon come to regret driving their boots so forcefully into such a large pack of sleeping dogs

Scott Hamilton ( responded on Twitter): “Just like South Africa & Australia, NZ deployed a mixture of segregationist & assimilationist policies towards non-white peoples in the 19th & 20th centuries. ”


In his new column my friend Chris Trotter argues NZ was never a white supremacist society, like South Africa or America. I think Chris’ case rests on a false dichotomy & on a denial of the historical record. I want to argue against him & post a few old documents.

Chris argues that NZ doesn’t have a white supremacist history, because white settlers sought to assimilate Maori, rather than segregate the races. But settler societies have commonly deployed both assimilationist & segregationist policies. The two can complement each other.

Let’s consider the case of South Africa, which Chris cites as the sort of white supremacist society NZ was not. Apartheid-era SA was notorious for isolating its non-white peoples. It had laws against miscegenation, & segregated toilets. But SA also practiced assimilationism.

The Soweto uprising of 1976 began as a protest against the attempts of South Africa’s rulers to assimilate blacks linguistically. Black schoolkids rejected the demand that they use Afrikaans, the language of their oppressors, in the classroom.

Australia offers another example of a settler society combining segregation with assimilationism. Before 1968 Aboriginals were isolated from other ethnic groups in Australia. Their movements were restricted; they could not participate in electoral politics.

But Aboriginal Australians also suffered from assimilationist policies. White administrators created a ‘stolen generation’, by removing half-caste children from Aboriginal mothers, & making sure they were raised in a white world. This policy was s’posed to ‘whiten’ Aboriginals.

Just like South Africa & Australia, NZ deployed a mixture of segregationist & assimilationist policies towards non-white peoples in the 19th & 20th centuries.

The attempts at assimilation, like the demand Maori kids use English at school, are infamous; the segregationism is not.

Although settler governmentsts allowed Pakeha to serve on juries considering cases involving Maori, the ban on Maori serving on general juries lasted until 1962. Maori were not considered fit to judge whites, just as SA blacks were kept off juries in that country.

Chris contrasts NZ with America in its ‘Jim Crow’ era, when both public facilities & private businesses often segregated white & non-white patrons. The segregated rest rooms of mid-century America are notorious. But few Pakeha know that NZ had the same facilities.

It is not possible yet for me to give an exhaustive account of the segregation of rest rooms in NZ, but my research suggests that the practice was widespread. I want to offer a few examples, with the help of old newspapers.

In 1936 Maori inhabitants of Tauranga protested against their exclusion from the town’s rest rooms, & from some rest rooms that were being planned. In response, Tauranga’s mayor said that Maori wld have to donate some land, if they wanted to get their own, segregated, toilets

Hamilton was another town with whites-only rest rooms. In 1945 the Waikato Times reported the standoff between the city’s mayor & the Maori community. The mayor wanted Maori to pay for a segregated toilet; Maori rejected his request.

Maori had always resented the segregation of rest rooms, but by the late ’40s they were being joined by Pakeha. When Gisborne councillors announced plans for whites-only women’s rest rooms in 1949, locals of both ethnicities wrote angry letters to their local paper.

Kaitaia was another town that saw protests over segregated rest rooms in the ’40s. When the rest rooms were being planned, local politicians had happily broadcast their plans for segregation. Their insouciance tells us something about the prevalence of segregation at the time.

Rest rooms were not the only public facilities that local politicians tried to bar Maori from in early 20th C NZ. In 1921 the Waipa District Council closed Te Awamutu’s fledgling library, because it was being visited by too many ‘undesirable’ elements, like ‘Maoris’ & ‘dogs’.

Private businesses as well as public amenities often practiced segregation in NZ. A 1938 survey found that 26 of Hamilton’s 27 hotels & hostels refused to host Maori. Local politicians suggested building a Maori-only hostel.

It was not only Maori who suffered from segregation in 20th C New Zealand. Indian & Chinese migrants often found themselves barred from taverns, barbers, and swimming pools. In 1918 Hamilton’s Indians protested their inability to get a haircut.

Jelal Natali was a campaigner for the civil rights of Indian Kiwis for decades. In the ’20s Natali protested against the segregation of Auckland’s tepid baths, pointing that all but one of the facility’s pools were reserved for whites.

Sometimes segregation led to violence. On February 25, 1920, at a time when NZ troops were fighting Indian sugar workers in a turbulent Fiji, a group of Indians were ejected from a tavern in Te Awamutu. White patrons followed them onto the footpath, and a riot began.

Chris contrasts the US, with its Ku Klux Klan, with NZ. He appears not to know that the KKK was violently active here in the 1920s, when it formed in opposition to Asian migration. In 1923 the KKK took responsibility for attacks on businesses in Auckland & in Christchurch.

Chris might argue that the KKK was, in NZ, a short-lived & uninfluential organisation. He’d be right, but other, much larger & more powerful groups aligned themselves with the KKK. One was the Protestant Political Association, whose leader Howard Elliott praised the Klan.

The White NZ League was another influential organisation that shared the goals of the Klan. The League formed in 1926, & called for the deportation of all non-white migrants from NZ. It was endorsed by the RSA & by Auckland’s Trade Union Council.

The White NZ League was based in Pukekohe, & helped to enforce the segregation of South Auckland’s pubs, barber shops, & cinemas. In 1959 a major civil rights battle began when Dr Rongomanu Bennett tried to get a drink at Papakura Hotel, and was turned away.

Dr Bennett had many contacts in politics & the media, & he made sure Papakura’s refusal to serve him a drink was reported widely. The suburb was dubbed ‘the Little Rock of NZ’ by some journalists. PM Walter Nash eventually intervened, & the colour bar at Papakura ended.

How widespread, in the postwar era, was the sort of colour bar Rongomau Bennett encountered in Papakura? While researching my book Ghost South Road, I focused on the Waikato & South Auckland. But Noel Hilliard’s 1960 novel Maori Girl suggests it extended beyond the north.

Hilliard’s autobiographical account of a cross-racial marriage caused a sensation when it was published. Hilliard described the open prejudice of Wellingtonian business owners – hoteliers, for example – who refused Maori clients.

Of course, NZ was never a mirror image of the Jim Crow US, or South Africa. Maori like Carroll & Ngata rose to positions of power. Interracial marriages were never banned. But segregation as well as assimilationism is part of our history, contra what claims.

 

Don Brash championing Apirana Ngata, but…

Sir Āpirana Turupa Ngata (3 July 1874 – 14 July 1950) was a prominent New Zealand politician and lawyer. He has often been described as the foremost Māori politician to have ever served in Parliament, and is also known for his work in promoting and protecting Māori culture and language. – Wikipedia

From Don Brash’s Waitangi speech:

Let me make one other point about the dangers of dependence. Many years ago, at the advent of the modern welfare state, Sir Apirana Ngata, in my opinion one of New Zealand’s greatest Maori leaders – and a man I was privileged to put on New Zealand’s $50 bank note – warned of the serious damage which the welfare state would do to Maori society.

He believed that readily available welfare would erode the proud tradition of independence which most Maori had. And I believe his warning has been amply borne out, with a disproportionately high proportion of those on the unemployment benefit, and on the single parent benefit, being Maori.

Decades after he gave that warning, when I was Governor of the Reserve Bank, I met with a prominent kuia at her request. She wanted to talk about Maori unemployment. After a very long discussion, I finally asked her what she would want me to do if by some chance I found myself in the position of a benevolent dictator. Without hesitating she replied “Abolish the dole with effect from the first of January”.

I thought at first she was joking, and asked her to explain herself.

She said that “Unfortunately too many of my people don’t have many skills. They can’t live well on the dole but with three or four of them in the same house all getting the dole, and a few under the table cash jobs, they can live adequately on the dole, and that’s a disaster.”

She was deadly serious, and in a sense was simply echoing what Sir Apirana Ngata said 80 years ago.

Scott Hamilton (via @SikotiHamiltonR):


During his speech at Te Tii, Don Brash invoked Apirana Ngata. For Brash & other conservative Pakeha, Ngata has long been a talisman. They see the famous leader as an advocate of assimilation & opponent of statism & race-based policies. But how accurate is such a view?

Again & again, Brash has insisted that Ngata opposed state funding for Maori-specific projects. It seems that Brash has never heard of the ambitious Native Lands Development Schemes, which Ngata created & monitored after he became a minister in the Forbes government elected in 1928.

 

For decades Ngata had been trying to consolidate Maori land holdings. After winning his cabinet post in 1928, he was able to acquire govt funds to pay for the development of consolidated Maori land. One iwi after joined his schemes. Weeds were pulled, fences built, stock bought

From the beginning, many Pakeha politicians were suspicious of Ngata’s land development schemes. They complained of money being aimed at Maori. Ngata pointed out, in response, that for many decades Pakeha farmers had enjoyed subsidies & infrastructure spending denied to Maori.

The land schemes were just one part of Ngata’s quest to revitalise a nation devastated by war & land theft. He also worked hard to restore his people’s culture, founding a school for carvers & teaching dance to young people.

How would he feel about Brash’s denigration of haka?

Brash & other Pakeha conservatives have praised intermarriage, which they see as diluting Maori identity & thereby bringing them into the ‘mainstream’ of NZ, aka Pakeha, society. Ngata didn’t share their enthusiasm. Fascinated by eugenics, he wanted to keep Maori marrying Maori.

Brash & his ilk have a record of denigrating pre-Christian Maori spirituality, & of wanting it kept out of public ceremonies & off public sites. Ngata felt differently. As Ranginui Walker’s biography shows, he believed in the old gods & spirits, & awaited their signals.

Ngata talked of the ‘amalgamation of the races’ in NZ, by which he meant the entry of Maori into the institutions of the colonial state, & a role for them in governing that state. But he did not take this position because of the sort of fondness for colonialism Brash evinces.

Ngata accepted the NZ colonial state & opposed Maori separatism only because he believed the defeats in the wars of the 19th Century irreversible. When he became minister responsible for NZ’s Pacific colonies, he argued loudly against attempts to Westernise Niueans & Samoans.

In his speech at Te Tii, Brash presented colonialism & Westernisation as unqualified goods, & conditions for technological & material progress. But Ngata fought against attempts to export capitalism to Samoa, Niue, the Cooks, & defended those islands’ traditional economies.

If Brash wants to find precedents for his views in, then he should look not to Ngata but to the men who destroyed Ngata’s land development schemes. In 1932 papers condemned the scheme as separatist; in 1934 an all-Pakeha commission agreed. Ngata resigned from cabinet.

Last year, during an interview with Kim Hill, Brash invoked the myth of Moriori as a pre-Maori people. He was swiftly rebuked by Hill. Shouldn’t our journalists behave the same way when Brash egregiously misrepresents the facts about Apirana Ngata’s life & opinions?


It was actually December 2017: A play-by-play of Kim Hill’s medium rare roasting of Don Brash

“You see Māori as just another ethnic group?”

“Of course. Why are they not?”

“Because they’re tangata whenua.”

Don Brash disagrees with this, and brings up the Moriori, because at this point in every argument of this kind, where the racism is about as thinly veiled as a bride at her fifth wedding, someone brings up the Moriori, and every right-minded person listening to this screams at whatever listening device they’ve had to hear it from because that is a bullshit addition to every argument of this kind, and is intended not to continue the argument but to send it off the rails entirely.

This renders Kim Hill briefly speechless, she cuts the interview off with the most curt and savage:

“If only Sir Michael King were here today, thank you for your time, Dr Don Brash.”


Apirana Ngata (1874–1950), of Ngāti Porou, was born at Te Araroa on the East Coast. He graduated from Te Aute College, and later completed an MA and a law degree. He was the first Māori to complete a degree at a New Zealand University. He returned to the East Coast and became involved in improving Māori social and economic conditions. – NZ History

Sir Āpirana Turupa Ngata (3 July 1874 – 14 July 1950) was a prominent New Zealand politician and lawyer. He has often been described as the foremost Māori politician to have ever served in Parliament, and is also known for his work in promoting and protecting Māori culture and language. – Wikipedia

 

More on Aotearoa New Zealand name recognition petition

Yesterdays post on the petition calling for renaming the country Aotearoa New Zealand – Should New Zealand also be called Aotearoa? – was done in a hurry and put up as something I though worth discussing. here is more information about it.

It was published on 23 May 2018 so has been going for some time. It has just received publicity via Facebook and NZ Herald. It is an official petition on the Parliamentary website:


Petition of Danny Tahau Jobe – Referendum to include Aotearoa in the official name of New Zealand

Published date: 23 May 2018

Petition request

That the House of Representatives pass legislation requiring a referendum, to be held during the term of the current Government, on whether the official name of New Zealand should change to include the name Aotearoa.

Petition reason

Official documents of national identity, birth & citizenship certificates, passports and money-notes have Aotearoa and New Zealand together as the names of the country. Only ‘New Zealand’ has official status. Both names together will officially confirm/enhance nationhood and uniqueness in the world.

Closing date: 28 Feb 2019 NZ Time

Number of signatures: 2345


As far as petitions go that’s not a lot of signatures.

A Facebook page Petition for Aotearoa New Zealand was started last June. It has been liked by 520 people and has 529 followers.

It includes this information showing how widely Aotearoaa is already shown alongside New Zealand.

Image may contain: bird and text

 

No photo description available.

No photo description available.

On country names and renaming:

Aotearoa New Zealand isn’t a long name!
Check these Country short and official names out, some will suprise you,
but first, heres three;

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
The Unitied States of America
The Federative Republic of Brazil
The Democratic Republic of Congo

Aotearoa New Zealand – not long at all.

http://www.fao.org/countryprofiles/iso3list/en/

Also, Country name changes, they happen more than you might think:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geographical_renaming

A petition run on Facebook. As of 29 January:

  • 52.4% want some form of change, Aotearoa to used in one form or another as a name of our Country
  • 47.4% want no change
    – 2,792 respondents.

Some  thoughts on the petition from Scott Hamilton:


I support the spirit of this petition, but I wonder its creators have thought through what they’re advocating. They want the name change to be a decolonising gesture, but it could lead to some strange & uncomfortable formulations & titles. Let me give two examples.

In addition to her various other titles, QE2 is officially known as the Queen of New Zealand. That sounds bad enough to my republican ears, but under the proposed name change, she’d ipso facto become Queen of Aotearoa New Zealand. Given the use of Aotearoa by anti-imperialists like Tawhiao, ruler of the Waikato Kingdom, in the 19th century (Tawhiao named his bank, for example, Te Peeke o Aotearoa, & used the name on his currency), allowing QE2 the title Queen of Aotearoa seems like a rather unfortunate move.

There’s also the fact that New Zealand is not just the name of a nation state, but of a rump Pacific empire. The Realm of New Zealand is defined as the entire area where the Queen of NZ is head of state – that includes Tokelau, Niue, the Cooks, & NZ-administered Antarctica.

Would it be any better, from the perspective of decolonisation, if the Realm of New Zealand, with its parcel of old colonies, became the Realm of Aotearoa New Zealand? The name wouldn’t seem any more representative, for Tokelauans, Cook Islanders, Niueans.

It’d be good to amend or abolish the name New Zealand, with its colonial history, but it seems hard to understand how such a change could make much sense except as part of a constitutional package that involved the ditching of the monarchy & a new r’ship with the Pacific.


As Scott suggests, I think that a name change won’t happen on it’s own. It is likely to be included in monarchy/republic and constitution discussions and possible changes.

I think that eventually New Zealand will be officially renamed as Aotearoa. I’d be happy for that to happen, but I don’t know if I will see it happen in my lifetime.

In the meantime Aotearoa and Aotearoa New Zealand are being increasingly used as alternatives, and I think this de facto change of name will continue to grow strength.