Not in a Darth Vader way. But sadly, I don't believe Dr Brash's views are so way out we should just laugh at the stock photos on a website featuring a gallery of old white people.
I'm also not convinced that this is pure Pauline Hanson style racism. For some of the people involved, sure. You don't have to delve too far into the Hobson's Pledge website to feel bigotry stirring, and for many Pākehā, Dr Brash's words provide the scaffolding for not just supporting institutional racism, but for feeling bold enough to be viciously, personally racist to children.
The lack of acknowledgment of colonial history or ongoing negative impacts of colonisation has been slammed with ease by Louisa Wall and Asians Supporting Tino Rangatiratanga. Many journalists have asked Mr Brash how his analysis makes sense of the negative statistics for Māori around health, education, violence and the criminal justice system. He's been clear he doesn't want to go there.
Don Brash is my father, and these are conversations my father has in the pub he's been drinking in for 45 years, with men who used to work in the freezing works or factories of the Hutt Valley. Dad says his pub mates, some of whom are Māori, don't believe in people being treated differently. The consensus, according to him, is that treating everyone the same is the way to stop racism.
There's a simplicity to this which is deeply compelling. It makes sense, in the kind of teachings small children receive about fairness inside the Pākehā world, that sharing something means we all get the same amount. This is the part of Don Brash's argument that most needs addressing, because this is the reason, I believe, we see these arguments resurface, over and over again.
Aotearoa was colonised late, so late that Home Office instructions to Hobson acknowledged Māori sovereignty and insisted that Māori should agree to a British colony. This was not the approach towards indigenous peoples taken earlier in British and other European colonisation. The meanings we can take from Hobson saying "we are all one people" are many. He could have been signposting that colonisation would deliberately suppress Māori cultural values, ways of organising, language and social systems. He could have been warning people that understandings of mana whenua would be supplanted by British concepts of ownership, already entwined with capitalism.
He could have been saying that he firmly believed, in line with (racist and sexist) Enlightenment thinking on progress, that equality meant everyone being treated the same.
This simple, liberal, individual rights based argument underpins the conversations in my father's pub, and underpins many white people's approach to behaving well in the world now. My father is aghast when we argue and I describe his views as racist. He doesn't recognise that view of himself, because he honestly believes that treating everyone the same is the way to everyone having a fair suck of the sav.
This simple, liberal, individual rights based argument underpins anti-racism work in the UK - and it works better there, to challenge why say, white immigrants from New Zealand are treated better than Black immigrants from the Caribbean. When this argument is marshaled to insist on equity with indigenous people who are in control of their land - as is the case in the UK - it can acknowledge the historical context and ongoing impacts of colonisation and be used to challenge racism. But when it is marshaled to deny the historical context and ongoing impacts of colonisation, it stops being progressive in any way, shape or form.
Countries that have been colonised need different kinds of anti-racism than coloniser countries. Unpacking colonisation here actually means tino rangatiratanga - not equal rights. We need to shift what feels intuitively fair to us - and I'm talking to other Pākehā here - because colonisation has caused deep harm, trauma and dislocation which can only be repaired through tino rangatiratanga. To draw another comparison with fairness and children, when I visit Marama's house, we eat food she has, play with her toys, her family decide what time we go to bed and where, what kinds of games we are allowed to play. And when she comes to my house, my family provide for and make those decisions for us. These are the kinds of concepts of fairness Pākehā need to explore to shift this repeating conversation.
|Photo from Asians Supporting Tino Rangatiratanga|