On Privilege and Discrimination

A few weeks ago there was a big thing here in New Zealand about a facebook page starting up. This page was called “The Pakeha Party” and after a few days it had racked up over 50,000 likes (because everyone knows that likes are totally a method of deciding the will of the people). For about a week it appeared that half of the country was arguing about whether or not a political party like this is really needed, with heated, misspelled words flying all over the place.

I kept half an eye on my facebook mini-feed so I could bask in the wonder that is internet arguing, as well as passing quiet judgement on which of my friends I might start quietly distancing myself, but apart from one comment on a whole heap of people forgetting their white privilege, I tried to keep away from the fighting. Hence why I left it a few weeks until I felt like posting anything up here about the whole debacle.

As I’ve mentioned before, and as I will have to disclose time after time on this blog the way I’m going, I am a white, male, heterosexual New Zealander in prime marketability age. Basically I’m the same as a huge proportion of the supporters of this page/potential political party.

What gets me though, is that a lot of people who talk about equality really don’t get what it means. Every time I hear someone of privilege go on about equality it makes my eye twitch. White males are rather commonly the type who will say “I’m not racist/sexist. I think that everyone should be treated the same, and no one should get hand-outs”. And that would work perfectly, if only people actually were treated the same.

What a lot of privileged “Champions of Equality” fail to realise, or even actively ignore, is that biases exist due to the power inherent in being born of the right gender/sexuality/race. Many people experience biases toward certain races, even when they don’t admit it or realise it themselves, as indicated in a study into reducing implicit racial preferences. People are always going to be inherently biased toward people the same as they are, and considering the large proportion of positions of power that are held by white males, there will always be privilege there when being given opportunities.

Now, I’m not saying that these biases lead to all the social ills for minorities, but they certainly don’t help.

Then we bring in the fact that statistics for minorities often paint a pretty bad picture. New Zealand’s unemployment rate in March 2013 was 6.2% across the board. Broken down by ethnicity, the rate for Europeans was 5.3%, while Māori had 13.9% unemployment. Youth Unemployment for Europeans at the time was 9.6%, while 22.2% of Māori youth were out of work and education.

Europeans even live longer. Māori males born in 2012 are expected to live to the age of 72.8 years, and females to 76.5. Non-Māori should live to the wopping age of 80.2 for males and 83.7 for females. The gap has narrowed in previous years, but it’s still pretty bad.

So, then we get Governments who are trying to get everyone onto an equal footing. Scholarships are set up to draw more Māori into tertiary education, in order to assist this group to go into higher level, and better paying jobs. Money is set aside for Te Puni Kōkiri (the Department of Māori Affairs) to promote Māori language and culture, as well as to assist Māori into representation in public affairs, and business, and to improve the quality of their lives. A portion of Benefit funding is set aside in the Whānau Ora programme which seeks to improve things for beneficiaries not at an individual level, as is traditional in European culture, but at a family level (and due to the name some assume that it is for Māori only).

All of these people supporting the Pakeha Party believe that Māori are getting all this free money, but I don’t know where it’s going. In the June 2012 quarter the median weekly income from all sources for Maori was $475, as opposed to non-Maori recieving $575. According to StatsNZ:

In 1996, Mäori were over-represented in the lowest two household income quartiles and under-represented in the top two quartiles. As the graph shows, the highest proportion of the Mäori population in any one quartile in 1996 was in the lowest income quartile which accounted for 38.5 percent of Mäori. In contrast, 12.6 percent of all Mäori were in the highest household income quartile compared to 26.9 percent of non-Mäori.

If things were really equal already without money being “handed out” wouldn’t you think that the opposite would be true?

What I’m really trying to get at here, is that thinking this way is inherently destructive. Here is a man who has managed to work up a storm of negative feelings toward a single race in New Zealand with a heap of stereotypes and inflammatory statements with no basis in reality. Just like the Men’s Rights Movement (Who I’m going to get to in a post real soon, honest), David Ruck is a guy with a carrot up his arse about others receiving institutional relief from the shitty hand the rest of society has handed them. And, he’s on his way to starting up an actual political party.

The hilarious thing about this party is the complete lack at the moment of anything resembling a workable policy. They have all of two policies right now, the first being to abolish any political advantage, as well as any funding advantage, based on race (not that I see Māori really getting a political advantage based on having 7 guaranteed seats in Parliament. They make up 18% of the population, and the current Parliament is made up of 17% Māori, which is in proportion, something that I would argue wouldn’t happen without Māori seats). The second makes me laugh the most:

See that all spending by Government and Crown into infrastructure that supports Maori claims and treaty settlements is diverted to all races within the New Zealand public via the public health and education systems. To my limited knowledge so far this equates to billions per year spent on Maori only causes.

To your limited knowledge. With a minute’s worth of googling I was able to find that in total, just under $1billion has been paid in treaty settlements between 1992 and 2008. Te Puni Kōkiri has a budget for the financial year of around $219million. I don’t really think this adds up to “billions”.

Add this to the possibility that the whole thing has been a marketing scheme (linking to Whale Oil does feel a little dirty, but the NBR article about it is behind a paywall) and it seems like a scam from an admitted criminal that has a possibility ofl doing plenty of damage to this country. Now the facebook page isn’t even linking to the party website, rather to 0199.co.nz (which has been all over stickers in the background of interviews with David Ruck, and to which I’m refusing to link directly to since it looks like a generic ad filled SEO service).

But hey, at least they have a snowball’s chance in hell of actually making it into Parliament. That will help us avoid a Tyranny of the Majority.

You can’t look at this as only a New Zealand problem though. Every February Twitter is full of white people complaining about how they should get a “White History Month” in the US. Marriage equality opponents constantly talk about gay marriage being a special right. Everywhere a minority gets a bit of a leg up, some props, something to help even the playing field, those with all the power call foul thinking that it’s devaluing their own privilege.

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