A young Maori women defends old white men

A smart column by Emma Espiner:

Old white men have been responsible for many of the opportunities I’ve been fortunate to have. Most of my jobs have come courtesy of mid-vintage and well-cellared white men. They’ve been generous with their support, encouragement and importantly their willingness to push me forward into leadership positions.   

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.  

This is key. Most people are supportive of greater and the benefits that flow from that. But you have a sub-set of New Zealanders who use old white men as a term of abuse and sneering.

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. 

Well said.

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. 

Guyon isn’t old – he’s younger than me!

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