Racism in Aotearoa/NZ

class struggle not racist scapegoating chch

by Byron Clark

On March 23rd Christchurch witnessed the spectacle of a white pride demonstration. In a Saint Albans park, with plans to march down Papanui road, approximately thirty people gathered. Mostly young men, they wore military style garb, many of them adorned with swastikas. Organisers of the demonstration advertised it as a family friendly outing, advocating “white rights” and pride in one’s ethnicity, but the rank-and-file of the white nationalist movement didn’t want to leave their neo-Nazi regalia at home, and couldn’t resist the temptation to make sieg heil salutes.

The local community was out in force to oppose racism, around a hundred people gathered in a counter demonstration. Many of them residents of St Albans who wanted to make it clear that racism is not welcome in their community and the white pride demonstrators did not represent their views. In a fact that should embarrass most of this city’s residents, Christchurch is only city in Aotearoa with an active white supremacist movement. The Te Ara encyclopaedia entry on the city notes that a white supremacist subculture emerged here in the 1990s, and members of it would periodically attack ethnic minorities.

Although many of the people on the demonstration would have been just children at that time, white supremacy is still a violent movement today. In 2010 white supremacist Shannon Brent Flewellen was sentenced to life imprisonment in a Christchurch court for the brutal murder of South Korean student Kim Jae-Hyeon. The judge noted that Flewellen “regarded [the victim] as not deserving of the same dignity and respect as a white person.”

There was no outright violence at the recent white pride rally, although one of the demonstrators was arrested at the beginning of the demonstration for a prior incident, and near the end a carload of white supremacists grabbed a sign from one of the counter-protesters as they drove past yelling “white pride!” injuring the woman’s arm. It’s no surprise that few people from ethnic minority groups joined the counter protest. While they would have agreed with its aims they would have been putting themselves at a greater risk than the Pakeha protesters.

Counter protestors successfully cut the white pride march short, blocking the footpath making the white supremacists change direction and return to the park. The action has solidified a core group of anti-racist activists, who have since held meetings to plan further anti-racist activities. It’s a big  task, opposing racism means more than just opposing  the Right Wing Resistance, the group behind March’s white supremacist rally.

No one is born racist. We need to be asking ourselves what it is about our society that has allowed a white-supremacist movement to grow in this Christchurch. Part of it is demographics. While in other cities the working class is made up largely of Maori and Polynesians, Christchurch still has a predominantly white working class. With unemployment high, and the state of many poorer suburbs following the earthquakes, it’s unsurprising that working class Pakeha are feeling abandoned, looking for something to join and someone to blame.

Understanding Racism

Groups like the Right Wing Resistance, and its forerunner the National Front, take racism to its most horrific extremes. But the road to white supremacy is paved with a softer racism that is more tolerated.  No working class Pakeha would consider joining a neo-Nazi organisation if they had not already been indoctrinated with the myth of “Maori privilege” and a fear of outsiders.

The idea that Maori are privileged, at the expense of Pakeha, is perpetuated by many of the opinion makers in this country. The Late Paul Holmes wrote that Maori “seem to exist in a perfect world of benefit provision…no one has to have a job and the Treaty is all that matters.” Adding that “we’ll end up paying the usual millions into the hands of the Maori aristocracy”

In reality, while Maori are particularly dispossessed by capitalism and colonisation, the average beneficiary is Pakeha. Dispossessed of land and resources, most Maori have not benefited from Treaty settlements, which make up a tiny percentage of government expenditure. Yet the meme of the privileged Maori has spread though talkback radio and the comment threads on Stuff.co.nz and no doubt reaches the ears of future white supremacists.

Racism in parliament

Anti-immigration views are aired in mainstream. For all Right Wing Resistance’s talk of “white rights”, white people actually have more rights in New Zealand than immigrants from predominantly non-white countries. Yet xenophobic rhetoric around immigration would have us believe otherwise. When NZ First Richard Prosser called for Muslim men to be banned from planes, his party leader would not endorse his views, yet as recently as 2005 Winston Peters was whipping up fear against Muslim immigration. In a speech titled ‘The end of Tolerance’ he said;

“In New Zealand the Muslim community has been quick to show us their more moderate face, but there is a militant underbelly here as well…Underneath it all the agenda is to promote fundamentalist Islam – indeed these groups are like the mythical Hydra, a serpent underbelly with multiple heads, capable of striking at any time and in any direction,”

At election time, the white supremacists have in the past endorsed New Zealand First. While they are not responsible for what groups endorse them, it says something about New Zealand First that white supremacists can comfortably call for a vote for them. While Right Wing Resistance is a fringe group, New Zealand First is supported by 1 in 20 New Zealanders, and promotes policies that RWR supports. Those voters need to think about the impact giving a platform to xenophobia is having.

When New Zealand First was in government we witnessed the bizarre spectacle of a Minister of Foreign Affairs who had built his political career on a hatred of foreigners. But the two major parties in parliament are not without blame. In the 1970’s the Labour government led by Norman Kirk began the “dawn raids” where Polynesians who had overstayed their work visas were rounded up at dawn and deported. These policies were continued and escalated significantly under the following National government led by Rob Muldoon. At the time, the majority of overstayers were not Polynesian, but British.

In more recent times we have seen the imprisonment without trail of Algerian political refugee Ahmed Zaoui under the last Labour government. The current government has made a deal with Australia to take 150 asylum seekers per year; on the surface a progressive policy, though that 150 will come out of the quota of refugees New Zealand takes anyway, and those people will still have to wait for years in Australia or in an offshore centre under the “no advantage policy”. By making this deal, New Zealand has given an endorsement to Australia’s brutal policies toward refugees.

ACT should also receive a mention, while their sole MP arguably has less influence than the other parties mentioned, John Banks told The Nation that “If we continue the bankrupt response of just paying young Polynesian, young Maori men in South Auckland, the dole to sit in front of TV, smoke marijuana, watch pornography and plan more drug offending and more burglaries, then we’re going to have them coming through our window”

ACT’s largest donor last election was the multi-millionaire Southland property developer Louis Crimp who gave the party $125,520 to do something about Maori, who were, in his words “either in jail or on welfare”. Crimps attitude shows that racism is hardly a working class phenomenon.

The recent appointment of Susan Devoy as Race Relations Commissioner, a woman who has previously argued for scrapping Waitangi Day and criticised boycotts on apartheid South Africa, also shows that racism has mainstream ruling-class approval.

Racism in the media

Of course no discussion of mainstream racism is complete without addressing the role of the media. Paul Henry, The ‘controversial’ broadcaster once asked John Key if then Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand (born in Auckland to Indian-Fijian parents) was a New Zealander or not, then asking “Are you going to choose a New Zealander who looks and sounds like a New Zealander this time?”

What Henry was saying, was that real New Zealanders are white people, and we shouldn’t have someone who doesn’t look and sound like a white person in one of the country’s highest political offices.  Henry always presented himself as an anti-establishment figure, flying the flag of the white male who had lost power to women and ethnic minorities. While actually a conservative, he appears as a rebel. Michael Laws with his talkback show fills a similar role.

Imagine now the unemployed Pakeha man in East Christchurch. He has learned that Maori are living the high life at the expense of the tax payer, too many immigrants are coming here and some of them might be terrorists and the country is now being run by people who don’t even look and sound like real New Zealanders. RWR leader Kyle Chapman didn’t tell him those things; he learned them from people in parliament and the mainstream media.

Everyone has a right to free speech, but the right to free speech is not the same as the right to a platform for that speech. There is good reason that Kyle Chapman doesn’t write a column in The Press, yet ideas not dissimilar from his own are given a huge audience. If we want to end racism, we need to start at the roots, and that means no longer giving space to racist views in the media, and opposing the racism of government and others in parliament.


  1. The root of racism is not the views expressed in the media or parliament. Using the media or parliament to express these views shows that they exist outside these forums.

    Racism would come more from a lack of knowledge and open communication between people and the fear that the way of life people are used to will be changed by others as well as the thought that there is some unfairness or injustice between groups.

    If you want to get closer to the continuation or propagation of racism it is from parents to children mixed with ignorance.

    This is not just some property found in your beloved pakeha

    And remember “but” negates everything before it.

  2. Hm, I can’t help but note that any alleged connection or endorsement of NZ First by the Right Wing Resistance is (thankfully) very much a thing of the past.

    Please see, for instance, Kyle Chapman’s comments here:

    Apparently, “NZ First going to the Commie dogs” meaning Chapman “must create a true Patriot party.”

    I’m sure I speak for many in NZF when I say “Good riddance, and wtf was a white supremacist doing supporting a Maori-led party anyway”

    • just this year though, we’ve seen the Islamophobic comments from Richard Prosser, who was already established as having thoroughly conservative views on immigration. Others in New Zealand First may disagree with these views, but he still gets a platform.

      • Yeah, and you also saw Prosser made to apologize and his views repudiated by the party. We haven’t removed him as an MP, no (although given how well our previous attempted-removal went…), but I am given to understand that his contributions to Investigate have ceased, as have some of his more … curious pronouncements on an array of issues including immigration.

        If he’s got a “platform”, then it’s a platform that has most assuredly been pared back to what we actually believe, rather than his own extremist “innovations”.

  3. so in terms of what is acceptable in NZF. Recently Winston Peters criticised the government for not having a “colour-blind” policy, by favouring Chinese parents.

    Agreed that they don’t have a colour-blind policy; Pacific immigrants are mainly targeted for over-staying, while Europeans make up the majority of over-stayers. However instead of criticising this racism, Peters drums up Yellow Peril concerns.

    • We here in NZF are certainly cognizant of the importance and contribution Pasifika migrants have made to our society, and would note that this is arguably reflected in both the size and prominence of the Samoan contingent to both our membership and our Parliamentary Caucus.

      And yes, you are correct to note that Winston has pointed out the anomaly surrounding the application of the familial “center of gravity” policy for the purposes of reconciliation.

  4. “National Front says it backs NZ First” New Zealand Herald, September 1, 2005 http://www.webcitation.org/6FrIO8NJf

    Kyle Chapman’s views on Maori seem eclectic, while he fire bombed a Marae in his youth, in recent years he has spoken in support of the Kerry Bolton’s theory that Celtic people were the first to settle Aoteaora, and that Maori are their descendants

    Bolton of course is a fascist himself, holocaust denial and all.

    The far right in Europe has adopted the idea of indigenous rights- defending the indigenous white people and their culture against immigration, eg the British National Party’s Nick Griffith talking of “ice age Britons” etc. For the far right here though, that argument doesn’t work unless theories are created to make Maori ‘white’.

    Although he is Maori himself, Peters is one of the people railing against ‘Maori privilege’ “New Zealand First is suggesting all New Zealanders pretend to be Maori to get special privileges under the law.”

    And that was as recently as last September; http://www.3news.co.nz/Peters-Lets-all-say-were-Maori/tabid/1607/articleID/267976/Default.aspx

    • Yes, and if we were going on historical endorsements, then “Keith Locke says he backs Khmer Rouge & Pol Pot” would seem to be a fairy logical riposte. (except we’re aware that both Locke and Pot have moved on)

      I’ve already supplied you with a far more recent (as in, last week) source (Chapman himself) which states that the far right in New Zealand has considerable distaste for the “Commie Dogs” of New Zealand First.

      I would thus surmise that your article from 8 years ago is quite out of date as to who Mr Chapman is choosing to endorse – in point of fact, the Right Wing Resistance et al are presently attempting to put quite some distance between themselves and NZ First.

      • I’m actually not sure if Kyle Chapman has ever endorsed NZ First, this was after he left the National Front to to go found his survivalist group that he was into for a while, Sid Wilson was in charge then.

        I’m not disputing that NZ First has moderated its views on immigration since 2005 (I actually amended the article to say “in the past”). Its a smart move, the party will die if they don’t adapt, its hard sell xenophobia to generations that grew up with friends and neighbours from all over the world, and the generation that grew up in a monoculutral New Zealand are dying out.

        I would still argue they whip up more xenophobia than any other party in parliament

  5. Don Franks says:

    “Yes, and if we were going on historical endorsements, then “Keith Locke says he backs Khmer Rouge & Pol Pot” would seem to be a fairy logical riposte. (except we’re aware that both Locke and Pot have moved on)”

    That particular smear against Keith Locke is long standing .
    It is complete and utter shit.
    Back when Pol Pot was leading the Khmer Rouge I used to support Pol Pot. I thought then, from the information I had, that he was an honest anti imperialist, now I know he was not.
    Keith Locke never ever backed Pol Pot, back in the day we used to argue about it.
    It’s way past time for the Keith Locke supported Pol Pot lie to be chucked in the bin.

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