Thursday, 12 April 2012

All the coolest people's ancestors came here by boat

What are "boat people"?

A.  People who like boats (in the manner of "cat people" or "dog people")

B.  People who transform into boats (there has to be an Autobot or Decepticon who does that already, surely)

C.  People who are made from boats (could explain the contents of some people's heads...)

D.  A good name for a band.  (Already taken I'm certain)

E.  Or a fashion label

F.  People who constantly wear boat shoes (more or less fashionable than crocs?  Hmmm)

G.  None of the above.

If you answered G you may want to read further.  If you didn't, well there's the whole rest of the internet for you my friend.

Most of my ancestors came here by boat, how about yours?  Does it really matter how people who immigrate to Aotearoa New Zealand get here?

Oh it's not actually about the method of transportation, it's about why they want to come. 

You mean because of the persecution and possible death facing them and their family in their home country?

Because that's why someone takes the incredible risk, and often puts their children in that situation too, of getting into a small boat, often crudely constructed and/or poorly equipped, and sets off to shores almost entirely unknown.  They have to trust total strangers who seem to care more about money than they do about their passengers, leave behind anything they had, face the perils of the journey itself, and, if they are aimed in the rough direction of Australia, the likely outcome of mandatory detention in awful conditions potentially for years.  They may even get sent back again, to wherever they were so desperate to flee from.

There is also no one Correct Way to be an asylum seeker.  Just as there is no one Correct Way to be a rape victim or a sex worker or a female Prime Minister or a feminist blogger.    It is indeed possible to be multiple things simultaneously; like an asylum seeker who is also an arsehole or a bit dodgy.  That doesn't make their claim for asylum any less valid.  We shouldn't have to like someone to want them to be safe.

I was really proud when Helen Clark offered to take some of the refugees who were on the Tampa and so cruelly misused by the Australian political system at the time.  Some of those people have settled in my own community, which is great.  Did that decision create a great flood of illegitimate refugees clamouring at Customs to get in, sneaking up the beaches and into the bush?  No, and neither did the eventual decision to allow Ahmed Zaoui and his family to live here.  But what a difference for those individuals, many of them children. 

Aotearoa New Zealand usually takes up to 750 UNHCR quota refugees a year.  To put that in context, over 5000 people immigrate from Britain to live here every single year.  

What's so scary about one boatload of asylum seekers?  Don't worry, it's unlikely they are wearing boat shoes.


Alex said...

I often find it insane how people assume that migrants want to come here to laze around on our welfare system. It completely ignores the fact that migrants, especially from poorer countries, have probably worked harder than anyone in the country just to get here. The motivation of migrants tend to be to continue to work hard, but in a place where they can earn more of the rewards for that work.

Why are there so many Mexicans putting up with racist policing, less than minimum wage and no job security in the USA? Because if they work hard they can earn far more than they could doing the same thing in Mexico.

On the subject of the other type of migrant that typically arrives here, the asylum seeker/refugee, I think our system can handle a few more of them. We only take 750 a year, the sky isn't going to fall if we let the Falun Gong practitioners currently in Darwin in.

Anonymous said...

that title is not funny it is fucking racist. whites didn't just arrive by boat you invaded by boat you weren't fleeing oppression you were delivering oppression. it is not cool. white people condemn raism by perpetuating racism.

'heads up'

Flynn the Cat said...

Anon; EVERYONE's ancestors came to NZ by boat. Or canoe. Or raft.

People coming here by plane is a very recent invention. The only people that statement leaves out is the children of recent immigrants who considers 'ancestor' to include their immediate family.

stargazer said...

um flynn, i think you missed the point "heads up" was making. the problem is no the type of boat or how they got her, but the impact of that migration. not all people who came here acted in a "cool" manner. reducing every migration to "we all came here by boat" really hides the (ongoing) impact of colonisation. but there are more implications than that, which i may write about when i get the time.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the title was racist, just very badly thought out. As is much of the rest of the piece. And Anonymous, a lot of white people were fleeing oppression - the fact that they often became oppressors on landing doesn't alter that.

I do wince at the thought of somebody being proud of the colonial government inviting people, however deserving, into the country they stole from others though.


Sam Buchanan

Psycho Milt said...

It's OK, heads up is just auditioning for a NZ remake of Four Lions.

Julie said...

Ouch. Ok I've clearly screwed up quite massively and I apologise.

Thanks for the feedback to date (both positive and negative). I am going to have a significant think and I do hope to come back to this sometime over the next few days. I do feel a bit defensive about some of the remarks made, and that's not the best place to be learning from, which is clearly what I need to do.

I sincerely welcome more comments, and stargazer I look forward to your post if you get a chance.

Lee S said...

Hi Julie, I haven't commented here before.

Fyi - from reading this piece and the comments I'm definitely coming from further to the right on the political spectrum.

Out of interest, is there a line you would draw with regards to refugees / immigrants to NZ? Or are you open to all-comers?

KiwiNZ said...

Nice post.

Bring them in.

Lee S said...

Hi Julie,

I commented on this piece as it was linked by NotPC, a libertarian / objectivist blog.

I'm neither a libertarian nor an objectivist but am interested in the convergence of libertarianism / liberalism on social issues like this.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry my comment was kind of rude, I was annoyed also by other things I read about racism in NZ last week. I didn't explain myself properly. I really agree with the other post about saying 'we
re all immigrants' it is another way of saying 'we
re all one nation', we're not. Also boat people are more an Australian panic in NZ most immigrants from Asia and the Pacific arrive by plane, white NZ wouldn't be suprised by the idea that they are less cool than the colonizers who arrived by boat. But I am sorry for over-reacting to the title, I do agree with the intention of the post. BTW I think think this is the first time I have even mentioned racism in NZ on a 'left wing' NZ blog without being accused of identity politics or 'reverse racism' so thanks :/

Julie said...

Hey everyone, apologies for not being back sooner, something I had kind of pushed to the back of my mind overwhelmed me a bit late last week and it's taken a while to deal with that.

What I'm going to do is re-write and re-post this, probably next week. I'm going to leave this here, and open for comments, because I think it's important not to hide my mistakes and my opportunities for learning. The re-write will be focused on the points I wanted to get across, rather than the device of "boat people" which I started this post with, and will hopefully create more discussion around the focus I intended.

My intention with all my blogging is generally NOT to offend people. So if I do offend someone (and clearly I have) then I haven't written very well and that is clearly something in my control. Please do feel free to call me on this stuff - either in comments or by email

The one exception I would make about offending people is that I think there is an important place for questioning existing power structures, and sometimes this can offend those who benefit (inadvertently or otherwise) from those. This doesn't have to be done through offending people but sometimes can be. I'm probably getting more polite as I age (and, to be honest, have more of a public profile). I don't expect others to have the same approach to this as me either.