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Unpacking Race Based Politics

Everyone knows that the politics of race can, has, and will impact on the mood and sentiment of voters heading to the polls.

In a previous column, I provided a Māori view of the politics being deployed by Judith Collins and the National Party.

Her campaign to have a debate that her party has controlled since its inception is a crass play in terms of the politics of fear and division based on identifying a victimised White majority versus a preferred Brown minority.

Collins’ politics are clumsy, overt and crude. Many of her own see them for what they are. That is a good thing and demonstrates a growing awareness and maturity amongst white New Zealanders.

Act Leader David Seymour plays a far more insidious, sophisticated and covert form of race-based politics.

How does his race based politics play out?

Seymour will assert that the Reserve Bank has spent close to $400,000 on an art installation of Māori forest god Tāne Mahuta, now on display in its front lobby in Wellington.

He called the work an "overpriced monstrosity.”

If the art work had been by an acclaimed white artist like Colin Machaon, whose worth in value has been set and determined by wealthy white New Zealanders, it would have been an inspired purchase, an outstanding contribution to the views of the majority culture that controls everything that opens and shuts in this country.

I value Māori art and no one called David Seymour has a right to devalue my peoples art work, their creativity or the price that we should be paid. We are not second class citizens. Our art work is not a monstrosity.

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At no time, has any Māori leader bagged the art works of a Picasso, a Leonardo Divinci, or a modernist like Andy Warhol.

Māori respect and honour white artists and their creativity. Always have and always will.

Seymour celebrated the rich man’s Americas Cup losses in the tens of millions of dollars slipped under the carpet – but let’s just say covid ate all the money?

Really? Can you imagine a Waka Festival losing thousands of dollars being swept under the carpet by Seymour.

Seymour disguises his form of racism by way of a seemingly innocent attack on Māori people through relegating our art work as a monstrosity, whilst looking past the entitled Americas Cup funding.

The cunning thing about Seymour’s race-baiting is it is always two times removed.

For example the Act Party’s attack on gangs and on beneficiaries - lumping them both together - is a mean spirited attack on vulnerable beneficiary communities.

Seymour knows that regretfully one third of all beneficiaries are Māori and that we over populate gangs. What he is asking for is that they be punished for being poor that they need to be regulated because they are all affiliated with a gang.

Today, as you read this article, 4000 Māori aged 14-24 in West Auckland are not in employment, education or skills training. In south Auckland, that number jumps to nearly 15,000.

Seymour and his colleagues know and we know where they reside but the politics of Mr Seymour and Ms Collins is to attack vulnerable communities rather than fix them.

These young people have nowhere else to go but to Organised Crime because the policies of Seymour and company have built the one way road for these young people to go nowhere else.

Seymour comes from the politics and beliefs that all individuals are born equal, and all individuals can make a go of it as a consequence. If you are born into a well off white community, if you have never suffered discrimination, he is right.

Both he and Collins know that we are not all born into communities that are equal.

No matter how well loved or supported Māori children are, if they go to a decile 1-4 school, 7 out of 10 will not gain university entrance.

That says more about Seymour’s schooling than it does about our young people and their parents hoping they get a fair shot on a school campus.

Māori leadership desperately wants to stop the traffic heading into gangs and prisons, but we have multiple non-Māori agencies feasting off our failure.

We can turn the traffic around with our young people heading in the wrong direction but we can’t do it because too many white New Zealanders make too much money managing our failure.

Whānau Ora has shown after 7 years that investing in Māori belief in themselves and communities leads to self-management, self-determination and positive progressive citizenship.

Whānau Ora is provided zero point zero zero eight percent (0.008%) of the government’s budget.

Can you imagine what we could do with 10%, noting that the Māori population sits currently at 17%?

Collins and Seymour should think about solutions rather than victimising and dividing people.

John Tamihere is a former Labour Cabinet Minister and Chief Executive of West Auckland Urban Maori organisation Te Whānau o Waipareira

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