A friend of mine sent me the e-mail below, in response to my heated posts at what Hone Harawira said. He has given me permission to blog it:
Have thought long and hard about saying something after reading your blog on Hone’s comments at the weekend.
I too disagree with Hone’s stance (yet another legacy of his mother) but, please be careful not to guild the lily to prove him wrong. Things are improving rapidly in terms of people being colour blind in good old Aotearoa/NZ. However, my observation and own personal experience tells me this is has been more in the last two decades and most particularly the last 10 years.
It was the 40s when my grandmother was refused a bank account in Te Awamutu because she was Maori. A young pakeha lawyer found her outside in the main street crying and asked her what was wrong. She told him and they got talking. He asked her what her maiden name was – Guildford. He took her back inside and they let her open an account in her maiden name.
Later that decade my father – her oldest son – got strapped at school for speaking Maori.
It was the 60s when my Dad experienced tension and discomfort when my mum’s family there was general unease about Maori and Pakeha getting together. Mum and Dad were lucky that her wonderful parents came round. That then saw them commented about in suburban Christchurch. It was at this time that they were both at teachers college and Dad was told: “Only one thing worse than a Maori teacher. Is one that thinks he’s clever.” Well, he was. A straight A student, letters in piano, and a fine singer.
This is within the “50 years ago” that you mentioned, but the legacy of such things still linger is my whanau.
However, it was only the mid to late 80s when I was banned from going into Cathedral Square in Christchurch. The city I was born in. Because it wasn’t safe for Maori to do so. I’m hardly the darkest hori you’ll ever come across.
That morphed in the 90s into a lot of non-Maori creating different categories of Maori. On a number of occasions I got comments like: “You’re not like those Maoris…. Bloody Maoris… Oh, but we don’t mean you.”
Yes things are changing. For the better. Most of that change has been in the last 30 years and most of that in the last decade. Lets not over ice the cake.
My correspondent is right that it is more the last two decades, that has seen racism become unacceptable, than the last 50 years. I regard true prejudice as so illogical and stupid, that I probably do tend to minimise that it does occur. And also there is a difference between life in urban Wellington and other parts of NZ.
Of course I stand by my point that you don’t fight prejudice with your own prejudice.
I regard myself lucky to have lived in this generation. Not only do we get air travel, the Internet etc, but we also live in a time when human rights have never been stronger.
It is amazing that only 100 or so years ago women were not even allowed to vote. Up until the 1970s Maori could not vote on the general roll. The US still had segregation up until the 1960s. It was basically a criminal offence to have gay sex up until the 1980s. I’m living through part of the change. Future generations will look back with bemusement at our history.