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Bloodline argument racist rubbish, says researcher

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Bloodline argument racist rubbish, says researcher

National Party leader Don Brash’s suggestion that Mäori are no longer a distinct indigenous people due to intermarriage is inherently racist, and intended to divide, says Massey sociologist Dr Avril Bell.

Dr Bell, who researches both Mäori and Päkehä identities, says that Dr Brash is being disingenuous when he acknowledges that many New Zealanders identify as Mäori, while arguing that Mäori are no longer a distinct people.

“While Dr Brash might claim to be just stating the facts, he is appealing to racist sentiments against Mäori. To state that there are few, or no, full-blooded Mäori left is not a simple statement of fact. The tenor of this kind of comment is to question the validity of claims to Mäori identity,” Dr Bell says.

The underlying assumption that to be a “real” Mäori a person had to be “full-blooded” is an inappropriate and archaic way to define cultural identity that smacks of 19th century race theory, she says.

“People don’t actually have different blood. It is our DNA that determines things like physical characteristics and skin colour. Within Maori culture, identity claims are based on whakapapa which, unlike the blood metaphor, works to include rather than to divide people. Having one ancestor with links to a particular hapü or iwi can be the basis of a claim to belong to that hapü or iwi. That claim isn’t diluted because the rest of your ancestors come from elsewhere.”

She says the racism inherent in this kind of argument is clear when you consider how it is used only against non-white peoples. “We never hear claims to Päkehä identity being questioned on the basis of their not being full-blooded. It is always used to question the identity claims of minority groups. You have to ask why that is.”


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