Thursday, August 05, 2010

An institutionalised racist

Professor Mutu said it was important that Mr Harawira's comments were taken in context. Her first husband was Pakeha and her mother is English and Scottish. But she defended the mindset of those Maori who continued to feel prejudice against Pakeha. "They know that when these [Pakeha] kids come in, they bring Pakeha attitudes. And not all Pakeha are bad - you'll always hear about a lovely Pakeha daughter-in-law. But when they first come in, [the Maori family] are suspicious - and those suspicions are grounded."
I don't mind so much about Hone Harawira. As the Mr Rudman observes, he is old and in the way, a relic of an unkinder past. As Mr George reveals, Mr Harawira and he have much in common.

No, it is Professor Mutu who bothers me. She has a real job, a position of responsibility at the University in which I have the honour of being a student. Had she been Pakeha, she would have been sacked for making similar comments about Maori. Professor Paul Buchanan was sacked (unfairly) for less.

Let's face it, Professor Mutu is a racist. Of course, many white folks will not face it. Instead they will contort themselves to avoid the fact, claiming (as some do) that it is only white folks who can be racist, or that we have to view such bile in some wider context that exonerates the Professor from responsibility. But no, she is a Racist. And something of a sexist as well - those lovely daughters-in-law. And what are the Pakeha attitudes to which she objects - the propensity to form relationships with people of other races, the unwillingness to preserve bloodlines? I think we should be told.

And she should be sacked. We don't want her kind around here.


HORansome said...


You're conflating two senses of "unfair" here; Paul Buchanan was sacked unfairly because he was not given adequate warning that his behaviour was abhorrent. From the moral perspective, sacking someone for treating a student of theirs so callously and off-handedly seems eminently fair.

Also, I'm also going to have to be one of those Pakeha who says Prof. Mutu isn't a racist. Of course, it helps that she has condemned Hone Harawira for his stance (something you don't mention; perhaps you haven't been following the news (MTS seem to the best source for this) and are only reading the selective quotations the Herald is serving up?). The quotes the Herald have served up are her ruminations on why a lot of Maori are quite, justifiably, wary of Pakeha and the persistent threat to Maori cultural identity they/we present. These are the attitudes she has been quite vocally critical of and, given the evidence, her arguments about such matters are warranted.

Also, don't you think you're going a bit far tarring her with the word "sexist" based on one comment about daughter-in-laws. It is beneath you to engage in such facile and underhand ad hominems.

Spitfire said...

Too true - it is codswallop and you should be ashamed.

Anonymous said...

I know nothing about either of the cases in question, but on the face of it, that quote needs some explaining as to how it's not racist (and sexist). And sorry, but how is it an _ad hominem_ attack to criticise someone because of what they say? _Ad hominem_ attacks are personal insults or irrelevant remarks about a person in order to discredit them.

Psycho Milt said...

Buchanan was sacked for potentially threatening the University's income stream from international students, rather than him not being very nice to the complainant. Mutu's not in the same league, having merely insulted Whitey - who'll keep coming to the University of Auckland no matter what she says.

Anonymous said...

Isn't there such a thing as "conduct unbecoming"? Can we expect academics to behave decently and inspire us, not drag us down?

Paul said...

I am with Milt on the motives for Buchanan's sacking. The internal politics of the Politics Department had a lot to do with it as well. But part of the claim against Buchanan was that he suggested the student had cultural reasons for her behaviour.

Mutu's comments elsewhere are not my concern. She quite clearly made the comments the Herald reported (or served up, if you will) and they are quite clearly racist. "Not all Pakeha are bad" is a racist remark, akin to "not all Jews are crooks."

Besides, her claim (and yours) that many Maori are suspicious of Pakeha is not backed by any evidence and is contradicted by the many Maori people who have formed relationships with Pakeha people, and have been doing so since Europeans first arrived.

My comment about the daughters-in-law is not an ad hominem. Her comment shows a patronising attitude towards the women and implies a hostile one towards the men.

HORansome said...

"Besides, her claim (and yours) that many Maori are suspicious of Pakeha is not backed by any evidence and is contradicted by the many Maori people who have formed relationships with Pakeha people, and have been doing so since Europeans first arrived."

In what way have you contradicted what I said? I said "a lot", which entails not all but merely strongly suggests the proposition that Maori are suspicious of Pakeha. You present "many have formed relationships..." as evidence that counts against the strength of my inference, but given that you do not (and presumably cannot) make the required "All..." claim which would contradict my argument, you have, at best, stated something which is contrary to it; in no way have you contradicted me.

This is made especially clear by the fact that the claim "Maori are suspicious of Pakeha" and "Maori form relationships with Pakeha" are in no way mutually exclusive. Both propositions can be true at the same time; the truth of one does not negate the truth of the other. Indeed, in some cases the truth of the former will result in the truth of the latter; Maori who partner up with Pakeha may come to distrust Pakeha for because of the results of such a partnership (for example, some of the land loss Maori suffered under colonial rule was due to Pakeha forming relationships with Maori and then "inheriting" land from hapu when such relationships came to an end (rather than accepting that the hapu granted land use rather than land ownership). There is an awful lot of literature on this.

"My comment about the daughters-in-law is not an ad hominem. Her comment shows a patronising attitude towards the women and implies a hostile one towards the men."

So, from one seemingly off-hand comment you can infer that she is sexist? That's a pretty big claim based upon one sentence. Can you back this up? Otherwise, you really should admit, that's a big inference based upon very little evidence. I mean, I could take a quote from you, like:

"And she should be sacked. We don't want her kind around here."

and infer that you do not like stroppy Maori women. I would like to think that would be an unfair assessment, but it's actually a better inference, based upon the rest of your "argument" than your inference that Mutu is sexist based upon a single mention of "daughter-in-laws."

As for your agreeing with Pyscho Milt about the sacking of Paul Buchanan, I would recommend you look at the letter he sent to the student; it's still freely available on the 'net. He actually engaged in conduct unbecoming and in a way that, if you think Mutu was being racist with her remarks to the Herald, was clearly being racist as well.

zed said...

In defense of Buchanan, he apologised immediately for the intemperate email and allowed the student to hand in the assignment 10 days late, before disciplinary procedures (such as they were) began against him. His strict no-extension policy was known throughout the department and reiterated several times in every class he taught. The student in question was exactly as he claimed: completely unsuited for graduate study in Politics. So his email was rude but on target, and he bent over backwards to accommodate the student after his initial outburst and before she (or better said, her friends) made a complaint and took the case public.

In the employment relations authority hearings it was revealed that the student never did provide evidence of her alleged excuse (father dying), and in fact no medical certificate or written complaint about Buchanan was ever presented by the student to any university official. Nor did the university ever accuse him of racism (the student and her friends did so for reasons that are on the face of it laughable). The formal reasons given for firing him was that he violated the University email policy (which the student and her friends also violated when they released the email to the media) and that he failed to exercise "pastoral care" of the student (as if she were 17, not 27 years old).

Which means that PM may be right about Buchanan, HORansome is full of shit and Paul is correct with his post: Mutu is a very open racial separatist who openly preaches her divisive beliefs without sanction from the University that employs her as a full professor even though her academic accomplishments are, to say the least, quite meagre.

Paul said...

Your strong suggestion that Maori are suspicious of Pakeha is contradicted by inter-racial relationships, although it is not refuted by their existence (nor would I claim it to be). I at least have some grounds for believing that many Maori are not suspicious of Pakeha. You have none for your contrary claim, only the word of Mutu. That such relationships may have led to unhappiness in the colonial past is hardly relevant to the very different circumstances of today. If those grounds were acceptable, I could be suspicous of French people for what their ancestors did to my Hugenot forebears.

I think the daughters-in-law statement is enough. I would be very suspicious of someone who said "not all Chinese are bad; some of the daughters-in-law are lovely." I would know that person to be racist and suspect him to be sexist. I can think of no good reason why a daughter-in-law should be an improvement on her kinsfolk, an exception to their alleged badness.And whence comes your "stroppy Maori woman" inference? My argument was about racism, not race, manner or gender.

I read Buchanan's email before writing my post. I do not think it appropriate. But I think it is a lesser offence to suggest one person's behaviour is culturally conditioned than to condemn an entire race (with the exception of some daughters-in-law).

Beside, what is meant by Pakeha in this case? Does it mean all caucasians in New Zealand, those born here, those of British ancestry, those whose lineage stretches back to the colonial period, or some other classification? I only ask because an awful lot of white folk in this country have no historic roots in this country, or very shallow ones. Even if there were grounds for suspicion of a Canterbury aristocrat who might revert in some atavistic way to the colonising of his forebears, this suspicion could hardly be extended to the son of Dutch migrants who arrived after the Second World War.

Keri H said...

A Pakeha is a the descendant of a person of European origins born in Aotearoa-New Zealand...

Paul said...

So, by that definition, the children of recent European immigrants would be included, but not white folks like me, who have come from Europe.

Maybe we should have identity badges, to avoid incurring the utu of Mutu.

Keri H said...

Yes,that interpretation is correct Paul - I dont know if it is 'universal' among the iwi, but south, you either have to have a body buried here, or a whenua (placenta) buried here before you become Pakeha.

Then again, we use the term 'takata pora' for immigrants (it can be translated as 'ship people' - but we note that the white turnip is called 'pora' also...)

'Utu' has several different meanings, other than ' a return, for anything' (which is why it is used for money, as well as 'revenge.')

Like HORansome, I'd see Professor Mutu's comments in the context of all of what she said.

Paul said...

Thank you Keri, that is helpful. And thank you Zed, for your information.

Mark said...

Professor Mutu said it was important that Mr Harawira's comments were taken in context. Her first husband was Pakeha and her mother is English and Scottish. But she defended the mindset of those Pakeha who continued to feel prejudice against Maori. "They know that when these [Maori] kids come in, they bring Maori attitudes. And not all Maori are bad - you'll always hear about a lovely Maori daughter-in-law. But when they first come in, [the Pakeha family] are suspicious - and those suspicions are grounded."

Is that iversion acceptable HORansome? After all, some Pakeha are the victims of violent crime by Maori and carry that suspicion of them.

Anonymous said...

It's the same with any prejudice: people can accommodate a prejudice against a particular group while accepting a member of that group in their circle of friends or even close family. I had an interesting experience of this a few years ago, while having a friendly working lunch with a professional who affirms his Maori cultural heritage with pride. He talked about his childhood on the East Coast, charming stories about the fun times he had with his brothers and sisters. Then he told me how scared he was as a four-year-old when he was taken to meet a Pakeha ancestor, because he'd been brought up to believe that Pakeha were mean, bad people. I had the feeling he thought it was okay to tell me this because I was a Pakeha he felt sufficiently at ease with to share such personal stories. I don't think it occurred to him that I might be shocked at this clear evidence of bigotry in his whanau. I don't think he shared their prejudice, but he didn't criticise it either. It was just the way things were.