Sunday, 28 March 2010

not enough of a kiwi yet?

what does it mean when, in the middle of a discussion or debate, someone mentions the fact that they are a 6th generation nz'er? why would they even need to mention that fact?

i can only think of one explanation: that they think this somehow makes them a better nz'er than me. that this history means that their opinion somehow has greater weight than my opinion, simply because neither myself nor my parents were born in nz. maybe that this person thinks they somehow have (or should have) more rights than me.

there is only one context where time spent in nz might be relevant in a debate - perhaps in discussing aspects of nz culture that a new migrant may not be aware of. in that situation, a person who has lived here longer would have a better knowledge of local traditions and history. but even then, where their parents or grandparents were born would have no bearing on that.

and anyway, as someone who has lived in the country for 38 years, i think that length of time would be about long enough for me to understand local issues pretty well. so why would someone bring up their family history in that way, unless they meant it as a racist slapdown?

if anyone can think of a better explanation, believe me, i'm all ears!


sophia b said...

i think the only time i bring this up (5th generation i think), is when people make assumptions that i have some connection to another country, generally britian.
some people act like everyone here has a grandparent in england or something, or that we all feel a great connection to it. I'd say that as an example that i feel i don't have much connection to such places (this is relevent in some discussions, eg the nz flag).
I don't consider someone who does have a more direct connection to another country to be less of a new zealander, but i would consider them to be more of a memeber of another country as well, and i'm saying that isn't the case for me. I can see how it could come across as oneupmanship however. Is there a particularly good way to mention the way you feel on issues about family connectivity to other countries without sounding like that?

Sanctuary said...

I'm a sixth generation New Zeander, and perhaps if I am honest with myself I do feel a bit superior for that reason. You just can't escape the chronological cruelty that those who have been here longer will consider the first generation migrant to be somewhat wanting in provenance. It is an immutable thing that can only be rectified by future generations of your family.

Marianne said...

I mention that I'm fifth generation NZer only in conversations about NZ's colonial history - my ancestors received confiscated Maori land to establish their farms, chopped down NZ's native forests and profited in various ways from the colonial process. I think it's important for me to talk about that, as part of moving past the guilt I grew up with about it. It has nothing to do with being a better NZer, but to do with being a NZer with a particular kind of family history. One that I'm learning to make peace with.

But I can absolutely see your point and don't doubt that the topic is often raised in that context and with that intention. It's so good to speak about those underlying tones - time to look at them honestly and see if they are serving us as people and as a community. In this case, I'd have to say not.

Deborah said...

Hmmm.... I find this one hard to think about, because I'm about 5th or 6th generation, on all sides i.e. my grandparents' grandparents were New Zealanders. I suppose for me that its part of my narrative identity; it's the story I tell about myself, in much the same way that the story I tell about myself here (in Adelaide) is that I came from New Zealand, and we've been here for just over two years now.

But I do see how it could function in a racist narrative too. I guess that I might start with the presumption that the person is just saying something about themselves, but of course, I would do that, because I have that kind of privilege myself.

stargazer said...

sure, if we were discussing our respective histories in a "getting-to-know-you" kind of way, then i wouldn't have a problem with it. or if we were discussing nz history, then again, no problem.

but if we were talking about something altogether, say a political debate for eg, then it seems to me to have no relevance at all. to bring it up in that context is, in fact, highly questionable.

and sanctuary, i think this is something that can be rectified by yourself and your peers. your comments seem to imply that my future generations should feel superior to newcomers because of their history here. i just hope that i've brought up my children better than that, and that they are able to pass on such values to their own children and so on.

Deborah said...

but if we were talking about something altogether, say a political debate for eg, then it seems to me to have no relevance at all. to bring it up in that context is, in fact, highly questionable.

Yes, because in that kind of context, it would have very much the overtones of 'some NZers are more equal than other NZers'.

Anonymous said...

I'm kinda with sophia b here, I would describe myself as a 4th generation NZer mostly in terms of emphasising that I have no ties at all to "Mother England". To me personally it means that I am a Pakeha, not a 'Caucasian' or a 'New Zealander of European descent'. Also, pace Marianne, it would be of relevance in discussing NZ history and how it relates to myself amd my family.
However, as previous posters have said, using the term could well have negative connotations, so I;d say in thie kind of conversation you describe, you would certainly be able to challenge the speaker as to exactly the term means to would be interesting to hear their replies.


Carol said...

I don't understand the need to label inself as some number generation Kiwi. On reading this post and subsequent comments, I stopped and tried to figure out whicvh number generation I am - it's not something I carry in my mind or use in cinversation.

I have thought about the significance of my ancestors arriving in NZ in relation to colonisation - I know my lineage. But when I think of my connections and ties to NZ, it has more to do with MY past living here - the aqttachments I formed growing up here.

But I also have attachments to, and emotional investments in London/England from living there nearly two decades & acquiring dual nationality. And that is, in my mind, separate from my knowledge of my mainly Scottish ancestry.

Labelling oneself 1st,2nd,10th... whatever generation Kiwi is a very loaded use of terminology IMO.

portia said...

As an immigrant I must say I haven't heard this sort of remark very much. It's generally been in a non-judgmental context that makes me want to ask about the speaker's family story - a good outcome for me because I like stories.

I have run across a more overt example of racism. Every now and again someone will remark that I am the sort of immigrant NZ wants - and they clearly mean white and English-speaking. Ick.

Julie said...

I used to take some pride in being an nth (5th? 6th? I forget) generation New Zealander, but that was back when I used to write in "New Zealander" for ethnicity. These days I am happy to identify as Pakeha.

I think there can be a racism element to it, although it can be as others describe above.

Frankly the only part of my family heritage that I can trace back to when my ancestors arrived in NZ goes back to Norman McLeod's bunch in Waihi. So not exactly the proudest history for someone who is a progressive leftwing feminist!

Your post reminded me of something that really grated on me when I was in the Alliance. I used to refer to it is foundingmemberofthenewlabourparty syndrome. People used to assert the value of their view by referring to the fact that they joined NLP when Jim Anderton formed it, as if somehow that made their opinion more valid, more valuable, than those who were relative newcomers. Which is just crap. I used to often introduce myself as Not A foundingmemberofthenewlabourparty.

Luddite Journo said...

Hey Stargazer,
I take your point, and your concerns, and it reminds me of living in the UK with it's huge race/class distinctions and racially charged senses of belonging "ain't no black in the union jack".

But - I think Maori ideas of belonging and whakapapa, which are all about tracing lineage etc etc add a different dimension to this in NZ. Part of colonising another country is "forgetting" where you came from - this is something Maori have challenged Pakeha on for a long time. Part of placing (my)self as a Pakeha in a colonised land is owning where I came from and when. It's about making my whiteness less invisible and destabilising my ability to be a "New Zealander" just cos I'm white.

I think saying "I'm a blah generation NZer" could absolutely function to close the gates behind newer migrants here - particularly newer migrants of colour of course - but I also think it can function to destabilise white privilege. That would certainly be my intention in using it.

Personally, I say I'm Pakeha of Scottish and Canadian descent, and go into those descent lines some more if people are interested.

Moz said...

Luddite, interesting point. I wonder how much the need to know your whakapapa has bled into pakeha culture?

I grew up with a fair knowledge of who my grandparents and great-grandparents are, but beyond that I'm not entirely sure exactly how many generations of my family have lived in NZ other than "only a few".

I do recall visiting Dunedin at one stage and that count was a serious social marker in the set of local varsity students I saw. Much as the high school you went to was in Christchurch. So there may be elements of that too. "oh, my family came on one of the first four ships, dahlink".

Anonymous said...

I proudly identify myself as being a sixth generation New Zealander and my son being a seventh. But it's not to say I have more claim than someone who is a first or second generation migrant in being here. My sons placenta is buried here and we have Maori whanau but I'm a Pakeha not Tangata Whenua. We're also pretty big on our family tree in our family and I'm proud that I can recite my whakapapa back to my greatgreatgrandparents who first came here.
I think that my acknowledgment of my forebears and knowing their stories of migration actually helps me have a lot of empathy for new migrants.

stargazer said...

thanx for your comment, luddite journo. that's an aspect that didn't occur to me, mostly because the person who made the point wasn't maori (and i suspect doesn't have to much sympathy for all things maori). i can see the importance of whakapapa in the context of colonisation, and the struggle for indigenous rights.

on the other hand, the british situation is something else altogether. the POC who reside there were often bought over (i'm thinking a few hundred years ago) to do the menial work for little or no pay. more recent arrivals came under the immigration laws put in place by governments voted in by the residents. so it's rather hilarious that some elements of the british population think they've somehow been hard done by or had something taken away.

as regards my own ancestry, i'm reminded of a post i did last year, where i wrote this:

as an aside, it was the strangest feeling visiting waitangi earlier this year. as our guide retold the history that i'd studied all those years ago, i really felt like it was my history, my heritage, even though actually my ancestry is so very far away from here. i felt so disconnected, belonging yet not belonging; but knowing in my heart that this soil is where my roots are even if my ancestors lie somewhere else.

Random Lurker said...

That last comment reminded me of this:

People seem proud of themselves and their adopted history. Not long ago, I was walking past the Canadian war memorial in Toronto with a young woman from Afghanistan. That's a bloody big memorial for a titchy little disaster like Dieppe, quoth Fisk. "Yes, but we lost a lot more at Vimy Ridge," the woman replied. Note the "we". The dead of Passchendaele were now "her"' dead – even though her great-grandfather would have been fighting the Brits on the Khyber Pass a year after the end of the 1914-18 war.

(The Independant)

Christopher said...

I'm fifth/sixth generation.

I often point this out in the context of Maori/Pakeha relations. To me, the relations seem to be worst between 1st/2nd/3rd generation and Maori, and while not glowingly positive for 4/5/6th generations, respectable enough that as a 6th generation kiwi I have enough knowledge about Maori, and how my forefathers treated them, and the wider context that I'm very relaxed about 'uppity' Maori. I don't have a problem with
"the Maori". I was perplexed by the Foreshore and Seabed Act, and viewed it as a 1st/2nd/3rd generation thing, being anxious about Maori claims on their identity.

In the context of someone not born here, nor having forefathers here, they have less claim to the country by virtue of not having 'time' here. I have more claim to Aoteroa by virtue of being 5/6th generation. If someone thinks that is racist, so be it. The weird thing is that their descendents 5 generations from now will probably feel the same way as I do now. As Sanctuary said, you can't escape chronology.

I would also point out that Maori treat me as 'not having a claim' here as well. They are oh, how many generations here?

I also think there is a reason for my feelings - I KNOW more about Aotearoa than someone who immigrated here, or is 1st generation. How I know, I don't know but I do. I know more about the land, the geology, the sense of place, the relationships betweent people and place, the history, the context, the whole complexity of being Kiwi in Aotearoa.

stargazer said...

sorry christopher, but i find your comments to be outright racist - i mean "uppity" maori? really??

i'd challenge you on knowing more about nz history than me, but let's see. i studied nz history in 5th form & 7th form, which included a field trip out to the main sites of the "nz wars" back in the 1860s. i'd say that gives me more of a grounding than many, many 5th/6th genration nz'ers and it sounds like i "know" more than you. and i also know how i know that.