Friday, 12 March 2010

HRC on hone harawira

the race relations commissioner has reported back on the racially-charged email outburst from hone harawira last year, which you all probably remember seeing as how it called so much outrage. i wrote about it at the time here.

at the time, this is one of the points i made:

there's one point though, that these complainants may be missing. the impact of mr harawira's speech will, in actual fact, have little effect on them other than the emotional distress it causes them. no-one will hurl abuse at them in the streets as a result of that speech. they will not face barriers to employment, nor find it difficult when trying to get a rental house to live in. they won't face fear or restriction in their daily life....

what mr harawira said was wrong. but it's not the same. it's will never have the same effect as public speech that denigrates a minority group. and a minority group will never have the same ability to speak back in the way that the majority group does.

and this turns out to be one of the findings in the report:

Were the comments racially divisive; did they excite racial disharmony?

The comments provoked an angry response from many Pākehā, but they were also deplored by many Māori, including the Māori Party. They were potentially divisive in the sense that they were negative about Pākehā. Rather than provoke widespread hostility against Pākehā, however, they attracted criticism of the author and expressions of anti-Māori sentiment.

The relevant sections of the Human Rights Act, s61 and s131, which relate to racial disharmony and exciting racial disharmony, have a high threshold given the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. The effect of the comments was to attract hostility rather than to excite it against the group criticised. It is not a breach of the Human Rights Act to use offensive language.

it will be interesting to see the reaction, if any, to the whole report, and whether there is any pressure to change the laws around hate speech. i have to say that i'm secretly hoping there will be, because i'd love to see the greater protection for minorities that would result. but in the end, the report shows that for cases like this, changes to the law aren't required. there was public censure, there was action taken by the maori party, there was a futher apology from mr harawira.


Brett Dale said...

You want greater protections for minorities, how about greater protections for all people?

stargazer said...

brett, i think your reading skills are a little lacking here. what i said, effectively, was that greater protection for all people would be especially beneficial for minorities, simply because they suffer more when hate speech happens.

Hugh said...

It has to be said, though, although apologies were given and action within the party was taken, there doesn't seem to have been any change on Harawira's part - he has all but retracted the apology.

Brett Dale said...

They suffer more when hate speech happens????

Everybody suffers when hate speech happens.

Why would minorities suffer more?

stargazer said...

read the post brett. your question has been answered there.

Brett Dale said...

It wasn't really a question?

You cant say minorties suffer more over racisim.

Why should I be less offended??

stargazer said...

you shouldn't be offended at all when presented with the truth. it appears to me that you haven't lived as a minority, which is why you can't see it.

and if it wasn't a question then it would be helpful if you didn't put 4 question marks after your statement, because that makes it really hard to tell.