Waitangi Day is almost always blighted by entrenched racism that much of the country pretend doesn’t actually exist every other day of the year. The stories grabbing headlines are almost always those that attempt to deny Māori their indigeneity, deny Māori never ceded sovereignty or, in general: deny Māori realities.
The Māori privilege meme serves the purpose of confirming racial bias in favour of Pākehā New Zealand. The veiled message: Māori people are so privileged with their Treaty settlements and their parliamentary seats. It’s as if somehow Pākeha are uncompensated when the government takes their land, or that Pākehā have no seats in the political institutions they designed and imposed on Māori.
So I turn to this brilliant comedic piece by Aamer Rahman, who nails the illogic of reverse racism.
In light of Rahman’s epic effort, if you struggle with empathy this Waitangi season, then below is an attempt (borrowing much of Rahman’s framework) to help you understand the stupidity behind claims of Māori privilege and Māori as reverse racists.
Reverse Waitangi Day: Māori privilege
Let’s first borrow Rahman’s hypothetical time machine.
Imagine Māori went back in time to before New Zealand was colonised and convinced all the independent iwi to join together and to colonise the territory of Great Britain and treat the Pākehā inhabitants as a sub-human species.
Ships full of Māori arrive on their shores rape Pākehā women, pillage and burn Pākehā homes and villages, and introduce diseases that decimate the Pākehā population within decades of arrival. Māori leaders then proclaim that the Pākehā ways are far too savage and lawless, thus allowing them to justify their colonisation because of their superior culture.
To really entrench their power, Māori design a Treaty in two languages that contain entirely different terms. Māori induce Pākehā to sign the Treaty making promises and guarantees about what Pākehā retain. But the Māori representatives had their fingers crossed the whole time, so no “real” promises were ever made. The majority of Pākehā sign the English version because they don’t really understand the Māori language version. But it doesn’t really matter which one they sign because Māori have another trick up their sleeve. Māori intend to establish a system that favours Māori at every social, economic and political opportunity. This means Māori and all the Māori settlers to come, get to determine which Treaty version has precedence and non-English speaking Māori will get to be arbiters of what Pākehā understood about what the Treaty meant to Pākehā. Oh and Māori decided never to give that Treaty any status as an actual law to abide by anyways.
For fun, Māori confiscate almost all Pākehā land and resources and encourage more Māori settlers to come to Great Britain and take land and resources from Pākehā. More Māori arrive and raise families, expand their population, most of whom contribute to the demonisation of Pākehā.
Māori get sick of not being able to understand the Pākehā they colonised and want to maintain the power they have gained, so they decide that Pākehā should conform to the Māori way of life now. They pursue a cultural cleanse by banning all English speaking and the practice of any system of values and beliefs Pākehā have established over centuries so that Pākehā lose every sense of hope of self-determination
Every decade or so, Māori churn out some story about how Pākehā weren’t the first people to live in Great Britain. And despite Pākehā overrepresentation in all the statistics determining social and economic outcomes, Māori insist it’s an issue of personal responsibility alone. Worried the message is losing its grip on the majority, Māori businesses and elites fund different information outlets to lead written assaults on how Pākehā have all this privilege. Those Pākehā Grievers.
Māori then prove their generosity and the equal platform Pākehā share with them by compensating some families with a massive 1% of the total value of their loss of land and other resources. They even gift Pākehā 7 of the 120 seats in the House of Representatives.
As a matter of goodwill, Māori eventually recognises English as an official language. But it turns out pronunciation is unimportant to Māori. So they create a culture that makes it okay to mock the English language and those who speak it.
After almost two centuries of this we could say that Māori privilege exists. That Māori get preferential treatment. That Māori have too many seats in Parliament. That Māori have more rights than everyone else. That Māori are more likely than any other group in New Zealand to succeed because of the institutional framework that favours their interests.
So, if Māori could go back in time and reverse every injustice inflicted on us as a people so that it were inflicted instead upon Pākeha then we could say Māori privilege exists. But none of that is true. And nor do Māori wish for it to be so.
But let’s acknowledge what Māori privilege actually means. Before invoking the meme this Waitangi Day, why not pause and actually think about what you’re saying rather than parroting the views of those reacting to what they perceive as a threat to their own privilege.
If your reaction is immediately a defensive ‘…but [insert historical fact about invasions on British territory]’ then you have missed the entire point of the post. So let me spell it out: Previous invasions of one country DO NOT justify colonisation of another.