Dr Liz Gordon – Racial politics now: Collins as the new Brash

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On her very first day as Leader of the Opposition, Judith Collins positioned herself on the Donald Trump end of ethnic politics. “Is there something wrong with being white?”

Whether considered historically, socially or politically, this was an extraordinarily dumb question (but perhaps a clever dog whistle). It will come to reverberate across the rest of her career, no matter how that goes. It is what she will be known for, particularly if later reinforced by policy or practice.

Briefly on the history. The bracketing event was, of course, the second world war, when Hitler essentially wanted to create a world ruled by Aryans, the pure white elite of Europe in particular. Everyone was to be judged on their ethnic, religious and social characteristics.  A militarised dictatorship built of fear would rule the land.  

There was so much wrong with Hitler’s vision that the whole world went to war on it.  Eugenic theories of white superiority were widely held at the time (not the least in NZ, Sir Truby King having as his key goal to save white babies). These were put aside in opposing the bigger threat but have never really gone away.

More recent in time and space, the Mosque killings were carried out for resurgent eugenic reasons and the Black Lives Matter movement for decolonisation goals. With that distant and proximate historical positioning, Collins is clearly (and provocatively) asking the wrong question.

TDB Recommends NewzEngine.com

It is tone deaf socially, too. What a time to be going around defending whiteness. It makes me embarrassed to be pakeha!  Is that what Māori expected from us when they allowed us to colonise Aotearoa (and got a lot more/less than they bargained for)?  Must we live forever in racial hierarchies, repeating the mistakes of the past?

And politically… oh, spirit of Don Brash, speaketh through your new vessel, Judith Collins. What a time in the history of Aotearoa to promote and enable white supremacism!  Is she prepared to split us along racial lines à la Trump in the hope of that way winning the election? Is this what is being set up? There is always a constituency for racial politics and I have no doubt that the Exclusive Brethren will be gearing up for donations of ideas, manpower (literally men) and dollars.

Or perhaps I am being over-fanciful.  Perhaps she just means it is OK to be white, and brown and everything else. I have met her a couple of times and she is intelligent and personable over a cup of tea, a long way from the rants of Hitler and Trump.  But Brash runs a white supremacist organisation called Hobson’s Choice, and he was said to be a nice person too.

Well, if National is going to go down that road, there will be angst everywhere.  How many votes are in the political expression of ‘what’s wrong with being white’ is anyone’s guess.  Jacinda and the team will need to strongly articulate an alternative politics of diversity equals strength. This is the crucial issue of our time (again) and it is one that we must win.

 

Dr Liz Gordon is a researcher and a barrister, with interests in destroying neo-liberalism in all its forms and moving towards a socially just society.  She usually blogs on justice, social welfare and education topics.

44 COMMENTS

  1. When I worked in security at TV 3 I saw Jude Collins a number of times. I don’t think I have ever seen a more sour faced woman in my life. I watched as her elderly chauffeur parked the car ( he apparently being a body guard ) while Judy sat and scowled on the couch.

    I asked for the head of security ( a woman ) to take over. I was glad she did , because her feminine diplomacy was far better suited than my instinctual gut reaction as a male to boot Collins out as a troublemaker . It may of been at the time Key relegated her to the backbenches, I don’t know,… but Collins surely looked a picture of animosity that day.

    I’ve never trusted her since.

    • First saw her face to face (hope to forget that one) in Wellington Koro Club -evening flight. The food plates are quite small but she’d piled it soooo high with food: It was brimming. It was embarrassing to see. She must have had a good tax payer funded lunch at Bellamys too. Greedy tendencies?

  2. The Brash site mentioned in the above article I suspect TDB is referring to hobsonspledge.nz. Not Hobson’s Choice.

      • Colour Blindness is the only non-racist position.

        The real non-racists are white supremacists in clown world.

        Clowns should self reflect, lose all there self esteem, become depressed and quit writing.

  3. Godwin’s law invoked by the third paragraph.
    “Embarrassed to be pakeha”
    Hmkay.
    I’d say that racial politics were brought forward by Marama Davidson after Chch where white people are all racist murderers, or the misplaced (here) LBGTQ BLM quarantine breaches, or the illegal roadblocks allowed for a certain race but not others, or race based hospital treatment.

    That Collins now has a massive opening to exploit some very questionable divisive race based behavior and policy from the left isn’t exactly “playing the race card” by her is it.

    • Keepcalmcarryon: “Godwin’s law invoked by the third paragraph.”

      Yup. I also noticed this. I heard the interview in which Collins made that riposte. It was in the context of Dann blathering on about the Natz’ front bench and lack of “diversity” (whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean). My impression was that he was blindsided by her riposte: he proceeded to blather even more.

      I was heartened to hear her say that: it’s refreshing to get forthrightness from a pollie, as opposed to the pussyfooting to which we’re usually subjected on this topic. I’d hoped that Muller would be similarly direct, rather than letting the msm get away with this white guilt nonsense. That was not to be, sadly.

      ““Embarrassed to be pakeha””

      Oh jeezus….wasn’t that cringingly awful! Setting aside everything else that’s wrong with this statement: if the author is a migrant, she most certainly isn’t a pakeha. I was born here; I’m a pakeha. My offspring are pakeha. My partner, being a longtime migrant, isn’t and indignantly doesn’t so identify. Call them a pakeha at your peril.

      I completely agree with your paragraph about Marama Davidson etc.

      “That Collins now has a massive opening to exploit some very questionable divisive race based behavior and policy from the left isn’t exactly “playing the race card” by her is it.”

      Exactly. I’m not a Nat voter, but this issue by itself might just change that.

  4. “There was so much wrong with Hitler’s vision that the whole world went to war on it”

    While of course many in Britain and France were opposed to the racial policies of Germany they did not go to war with Germany in 1939 because of these policies – they went to war because Germany invaded Poland and the pact that they had signed with Poland to come to their defence in the event of a German invasion.
    And of course the US only became directly involved after they were attached at Pearl Harbour.
    Stalin continuously persecuted ethnic minorities (Ukrainians the the ‘Terror-Famine’ in the early 30’s etc in which millions intentionally perished) and there was no similar foreign intervention.

    • James Brown: “…..they did not go to war with Germany in 1939 because of these policies….”

      Indeed they did not. It would help if the author had a grasp of history, beyond the revisionist bollocks spouted by the Beeb and other msm outlets.

      “Stalin continuously persecuted ethnic minorities (Ukrainians the the ‘Terror-Famine’ in the early 30’s etc in which millions intentionally perished)….”

      Not revisionism: more of your actual propaganda on the part of the west. Russophobia has a deep history, especially in the UK, and the communist revolution scared the shit out of the Establishment there and in Europe. They were very afraid that it would spread to their countries.

      There was a famine in the Ukraine, to be sure, but its roots didn’t lie in persecution. And – setting aside the loss of life in the Ukraine – the deaths in the pre-war years have been wildly overstated by western historians. Had the numbers been as high as claimed, there’d have been nobody left to fight against the Nazis. In fact, some historians asserted a death toll which exceeded the actual population of the USSR at the time.

      The Red Army (which won the war in Europe) was huge; its sheer size seriously intimidated the other allies, the US in particular, of course, but also the UK. It was that which to a considerable extent drove the development of the so-called cold war.

  5. This blog is more than fanciful, it’s downright disgusting. Judith Collins is married to a Chinese Samoan. That fact reverberates with me, not this nasty stuff comparing her with Hitler.

    Identifying as white can be associated with extreme racist politics. Not in this case Liz.

    • Suggesting being white is alright seems to attract a lot of negativity these days. I personally feel its social engineering to mask the real problem of increasingly authoritarianism in government in the West by keeping people divided along racial lines.

      I’m also in a mixed race marriage and yet to say being European is alright…..often a case of… “light fuse and stand back.”

    • Yes I agree – all in the vein of unless you openly apologise for the ‘crime’ of being white you must be a racist / a white supremicist.
      Can’t stand Collins but clear she doesn’t have a problem with anyone who is not white (and to be honest suspect that she likes the Chinese a little too much).

  6. People are weary of an MSM who incessantly play the race card. What happened in the US actually brought people of all races together in outrage until divisive voices made it about race more than universal human rights. It also slyly shifted blame away from the real culprits, authoritarian government’s and their political masters. Instead pitting people against each other. A lost opportunity for real change.

    So whilst I am no fan of Judith Collins if what she is suggesting is “we are all just people” irrespective of the colour of our skin, I think that’s a real positive myself.

    That said I still wont be voting neo liberal which probably means I wont be voting at all but still suggesting we all get along as Kiwi’s resonates with me.

  7. For the next 10 weeks, we all have to endure the ugliness that is Judith Collins and her ilk. Its the pettiness and infantile throwaway lines designed to make us think that this monstrosity of a National Party under her leadership is who NZers should trust. At our peril, we trust this ghoul and her band of merry (smiling) nazis. Ive said it many times on here, the national party would have gambled with NZ lives during covid and there would have been death all around us, re: Melb and whats happening over there. She would open those borders up and the plague would get in here and NZers who have already sacrificed so much would DIE!! Thats the reality of it.

    • ‘fraud so. It’s all very well getting the economy going (like isn’t it rolling along reasonably just now?). Any halfwit can do that. But we live in a society not an economy and that is a trickier challenge. It is all very well revving the economy up by opening borders (to whom?) but what happens when the visitors subsequently prove to be sick and then everyone around them falls sick and there are no buyers or sellers? The only productive workers would be health workers trying to save the lives and permanently scarred bodies of those infected by coronavirus.
      Keep well and be kind to each other! Let’s get through this together.

  8. The racial divide was certainly utilised by Marama Davidson et al at the Muslim vigil, ruthlessly and shamefully proclaiming to a captive televised audience, that white NZ’ers are hate-filled murderers. I will never ever forget a girl looking younger than the one who drove the getaway car for tragic Constable Matthew Hunt’s alleged murderer, saying, “White people hate us.” Kristallnacht anyone ?

    Judith Collins’s okay-to-be-white comment will resonate with those shocked at the dishonest exploitation of emotions running high in the wake of that tragedy, for cynical political gain. I say dishonest, because- without having read the shooter’s manifesto – it looked as if the murderer was out to kill Muslims, rather than persons of any specific colour or race. It was nothing to do with Pakeha NZ’ers. Davidson and Collins both appear to be playing from the Adolf Hitler handbook.

    Similarly Collins’s grumpy grandmother spit about not putting up with any nonsense from Jacinda Ardern, will be music to the ears of the dumbo red-neck brigade hating on PM Ardern for being ‘just a pretty communist.’ This lack of gravitas from a senior politician was lamentable; a male wouldn’t have tried it.

    Collins now apparently saying that National will run candidates in the Maori seats is likely trying to show Maori how much the Nats care about them, when the reality is that Maori can teach the Nats a thing or two
    about how to care for people, and oh my goodness how that blew up in the face of Hurimoana Dennis when he showed Bennett how it was done at Te Puea Marae.

      • Wild Katipo – Possibly the most beautiful male voice of all time – Paul Robeson i.e. I may have him singing, ‘Trees,’ at my funeral even tho’ it’s a bit on the short side – my son says that I’m only allowed one song.

        • Yes , what a marvelous baritone/ bass voice he had. And the simplicity of those old black and white films stated the case of those adorable people in slavery and post slavery.

          I take my hat off to them.

        • Snow White: “Possibly the most beautiful male voice of all time – Paul Robeson…”

          I remember the nuns of my childhood telling us that Robeson had to go to the USSR in order to be able to give concerts. Apartheid USA wouldn’t let him use halls and the like. Those nuns recounted this story to impress upon us the evils of apartheid. For me, it stuck.

          “I may have him singing, ‘Trees,’ at my funeral…”

          You could do worse, that’s for sure. His is a divine voice.

          I will not be having a funeral, but were that to happen (like family disobeying my instructions), I’d have Frederica Von Stade singing “Song to the Moon” from Rusalka. Or – bit of a toss-up here – she could sing a Monteverdi madrigal. Either would gladden the hearts of whoever was there.

          Anna Netrebko has a glorious voice: I’m partial to her performance of the Rusalka piece as well.

          • Agree Anna Netrebko – but try Monseratt Caballe – esp singing Casta Diva – and that cuts out the Christian stuff too. Robeson was dreadfully persecuted his whole life in the USA, black-listed under McCarthyism – with an impressive academic record surpassing that of most, if not all, USA presidents. His voice is so glorious that it is not difficult to imagine a god choosing him as his mouthpiece – but nobody listening.

            Families disobey instructions. It happened to the kindest woman I have ever known, treated very cruelly by her family of origin, fundamentalist Catholics, leading to her early death. Her family went against her instructions and held a funeral, with readings from Baxter, as self-protection from the vicious f-o-origin, and on the basis that it was not a negative thing to be doing. Probably wrong – her lawyer, a high profile chappie, was long off the scene by then.

            I want no funeral, and have decided that the best way to achieve that may be to place everything in the hands of the Public Trust, who are likely to be less laissez-faire than lawyers. I have already banned eulogies – and the indecency of invisible relatives suddenly materialising to establish themselves as the beloved disciple.

            Pakeha don’t always do death all that well – the current cavalier attitude of the right towards the corona virus may be simple psychological denial; if they do catch it and die, they won’t know that they’re dead, and all’s well that ends well. Tough on the innocents, but life’s like that.

            • Snow White: “Robeson was dreadfully persecuted his whole life in the USA…”

              That he was. Hence his going to the USSR. In the nuns’ view, that was a hotbed of atheism and see, children, how evil apartheid is, that it’d drive him to go there of all places!

              Of course, I’ve since found out that, while it was certainly a secular polity, Russian Orthodoxy was – and remains – fundamental to its society. Attempts to reduce its influence failed long-term. I daresay Robeson discovered that as well.

              “Families disobey instructions.”

              They do. However, if that happens in my case, I won’t of course know anything about it; but at least I’m safe from the Mickey-drips. The relative most likely to do so is Russian Orthodox. I’m certain that church won’t want to provide funeral services for me, ex-Catholic that I am. But the music is wonderful.

              “I have already banned eulogies…”

              As have I. In truth, I loathe them. They’re often toe-curlingly awful. They simply weren’t a part of funeral services when I was younger. Their arrival seems to be a facet of the Americanisation of this society.

              “….and the indecency of invisible relatives suddenly materialising to establish themselves as the beloved disciple.”

              Heh! Seen (and heard about) a bit of that over the years. There’s a term for it, though I can’t now recall what it is.

              Death (other people’s) does peculiar things to some people. Especially if there’s money, or the possibility of it, involved. Watched it happen over and over. Because of that, my estate’s entailed….

    • Snow White: “Judith Collins’s okay-to-be-white comment will resonate with those shocked at the dishonest exploitation of emotions running high in the wake of that tragedy, for cynical political gain.”

      I heard what Collins said in that interview. She asked “Is there something wrong with being white?” And she clearly blindsided the interviewer. I was heartened to hear forthrightness of this sort from a pollie: such people are usually given to pussyfooting on the topic of skin colour.

      “I say dishonest, because- without having read the shooter’s manifesto – it looked as if the murderer was out to kill Muslims, rather than persons of any specific colour or race.”

      In my view, it was a priori dishonest, whatever the contents of the shooter’s manifesto. It is as dishonest to blame all white people for the actions of one person as it is to blame all Maori for the crimes committed by some Maori. I’d add that Marama Davidson would be the very first to scream indignation, if she copped the blame for the sad trail of Maori through the courts (including, I note, the getaway driver for the oik who shot that young police officer).

      “Davidson and Collins both appear to be playing from the Adolf Hitler handbook.”

      I don’t think so. Collins certainly wasn’t. As for Davidson, she’s allowed her moral compass to be distorted by resentment and – by the looks of it – anti-pakeha bigotry. Sad and unfortunate; and I earnestly hope that she’s out of parliament at the next election.

      “….not putting up with any nonsense from Jacinda Ardern…”

      It’s music to my ears, and I’m not a redneck, but an old lefty, as you know. I’ve had it up to here with Ardern and the saccharine crap. I don’t expect the Natz to win – I won’t be voting for them – but in truth, I hope that they give the current government a bloody good electoral fright. I’m done with Labour, that’s for sure. A member of this household characterises Ardern as a Blairite. It’s hard to disagree.

      “Collins now apparently saying that National will run candidates in the Maori seats…”

      This is unfortunate, and I’m surprised at it. Under the orthodox definition of racism – ie, legal, electoral and societal structures backed up by legislation or regulation, which discriminate either in favour of, or against, a particular ethnic group – the Maori seats are racist. This is an inescapable reality. I wonder at the Natz going anywhere near it. I hope that it won’t happen.

      • Davidson, I think unspeakably ignorantly awful, and she’s allowed to be, but if she’s preaching anti-white bigotry to her 6 kids and other young Maori, then as a political ‘leader’, I think her inadequate and divisive. Enoch Powell lost his cabinet post for his rivers-of-blood spiel, and he was referring to UK immigrants; Davidson is referring to NZ’ers who have lived here for many generations, many of hard-working pioneer stock, now all lumped together as wicked colonialists etc. It’s an indictment on the Greens that they chose her as co-leader – esp when they had a good alternative candidate in Genter.

        By chance I recently read Roberts’s biography of James Edward Fitzgerald, and of the founding of Christchurch in particular; the toil and deprivation of the early settlers, the hardships endured by their families, the toll it took on their health, their aspirations and ideals, put our motley bunch of politicians and activists to shame.

        What is impressive, is how much the pioneers accomplished in a relatively short time. Suddenly they are all baddies. But they were looking into the future, and they were forward looking, and that’s what is lacking here in mainstream politics. It can still come; we’re still in recovery from the years of National misrule, but playing race cards isn’t the way to go anywhere – and it’s being done deliberately elsewhere.

        If Collins said, “Is there something wrong with being white?”, then I’m ok if someone said that. I wouldn’t call Ardern ‘saccharine crap’, she’s a different sort of politician – minus the malevolence which we have wrongly come to accept after years of macho deviousness and downright dishonesty, but they all need to pull their socks up, all of them – and heaven help us if being a loquacious marijuana expert is considered sufficient credential to guide NZ into the rocky future – dog whisperers from Iraq, lycra-clad twerkers; what next ?

        • Snow White: “…if she’s preaching anti-white bigotry to her 6 kids and other young Maori, then as a political ‘leader’, I think her inadequate and divisive.”

          I completely agree with your assessment of Davidson. In my view, she ought not to be co-leader of the Greens, and I wonder at their electing her. Maybe some are now regretting it? A fortiori, her views don’t belong in the parliament of a modern democracy, such as NZ purports to be.

          “….the toil and deprivation of the early settlers, the hardships endured by their families, the toll it took on their health, their aspirations and ideals…”

          Agreed. I’ve commented elsewhere on this site about my grandparents living for a while in a tent, after they married in the early years of the 20th century.

          Those early settlers were brave people; on top of what they endured here, the voyage was long and arduous, and family members often didn’t survive it. One of my ancestral family, a child at the time, wrote an account of it from their perspective.

          “What is impressive, is how much the pioneers accomplished in a relatively short time. Suddenly they are all baddies. But they were looking into the future, and they were forward looking, and that’s what is lacking here in mainstream politics.”

          Exactly right. It’s certainly not all Maori, but a cohort have made it plain that they wish to return to tribalism, and rule by – presumably hereditary – elites. Many of the rest – and Davidson may be one of them – apparently haven’t developed their political ideas beyond “pakeha bad! white guilt!”. This is how it looks to me.

          “I wouldn’t call Ardern ‘saccharine crap’, she’s a different sort of politician….”

          I’ve never warmed to her. I was disappointed when she took the leadership. I preferred Andrew Little; not because he’s a bloke, but because he comes across as a plain man, if you get my drift. I’m suspicious of charisma: it seems to me to get in the way of the political process and blinds people to what’s actually wrong with said pollie. John Key was a signal example of this. As was – notoriously – that awful Bill Clinton.

          With regard to Ardern, I’m yet to see anything that would change my initial assessment of her. A fortiori, as a family member has pointed out, she’s a Blairite. Difficult to disagree.

          And speaking of charisma blinding people to the awful reality of the person: Tony Blair. He and Clinton were a right pair, were they not?

  9. “Or perhaps I am being over-fanciful”
    Ekshully, no you’re not
    “I have met her a couple of times and she is intelligent and personable over a cup of tea, a long way from the rants of Hitler and Trump. But Brash runs a white supremacist organisation called Hobson’s Choice, and he was said to be a nice person too.”
    It never ceases to amaze me how many can’t seem to grasp the idea that some VERY VERY “nice’ people can be complete arseholes.
    How many otherwise intelligent people (some Ministers in JA’s cabinet) can’t seem to grasp the concept that some of the ‘officials” they deal with might not be utter arseholes outside their normal interactions.

    All I can suggest is that they have led fairly sheltered lives. Some of them would really be better off martyring themselves.
    It’s not really that surprising though where every transaction in time and space is seen through the cult of neoliberal worship and now a couple of generations that’ve grown up knowing no alternative. (JA, unfortunately and despite her innate compassion and natural instinct towards kindness is one of ‘them’)

    It’s caused me (actually not just me, but almost an entire family and friends) to switch to an electorate and party vote Green (yes, even as ‘wet’ as they are and increasingly try to be) after a lifetime of Labour support (if I were in JA’s electorate, I’d flick her a vote).

    Comes a time though, when bullshit and spin; tribal behaviour; and supporting supposedly intelligent people who don’t seem to understand there are “NICE” people out there intent on trying to eat them is more important than conscience and the human spirit.
    I suspect it’ll take a decade or two before they wake up to a reality they’re probably not going to like, but I guess they can take solace in the knowledge that their adversaries (gNatsies and God-ugly people – I don’t just mean aesthetically – people like Jude) a worse). And they can always get gigs writing for the Spinoff if and when it all goes tits up

  10. Well thank you my friends for this very interesting errr…. mishmash of responses. Keep your thoughts coming, they are always entertaining and often spot on.

  11. I am (like lots of us Kiwis) more Indian than many NZers who claim to be Maori, ARE Maori. I don’t look Indian (two of my brothers do) but as I often to say to folk: “Never apologise for your ancestry – you can’t help it!”
    To live the Good Life, all I need to do is to treat others as I wish to be treated – no religion, no hi-falutin’ philosophy – just kindness, empathy, patience.

  12. The biggest problem with “Is there something wrong with being white?” is that, in the context of the criticism it was being used to deflect, it should be read as “Is there something wrong with being [exclusively] white?” (in the way that Mr Muller’s front bench was). It was a dishonest attempt to cast criticism of the lineup being exclusively white as being criticism of the whiteness of each member of the lineup.

    • Steven: “It was a dishonest attempt to cast criticism of the lineup being exclusively white as being criticism of the whiteness of each member of the lineup.”

      I heard the interview: that’s not how I interpreted it. I was heartened to hear Collins’s straight talking. She was – rightly in my view – taking issue with how Dann had phrased his preceding question, which implied that skin colour is of moment. It isn’t: what matters is competence.

      In any event, it was Muller’s front bench, not Collins’s. If Dann had wanted to lecture somebody over it, the proper person would have been Muller.

      Of course there’ll be disagreement over what constitutes competence, such that Muller didn’t appoint Reti to the front bench, whereas Collins has. But his skin colour or ethnicity ought not to be the deciding factor. This is a modern democracy, after all.

      • The argument that a lack of diversity (in any dimension) is the result of giving primacy to competence implies either that there is some sort of natural linkage between competence and the favoured group, or that competent diverse people have somehow been excluded from the available talent pool, (or that the operative definition of competence excludes diversity). Any of these options is worth calling out for criticism; none of such criticism claims there is anything wrong with being white per se.
        To ask “Is there something wrong with being white?” when no one has suggested there is anything wrong with being white per se is disingenuous at best.

        • Steven: “To ask “Is there something wrong with being white?” when no one has suggested there is anything wrong with being white per se is disingenuous at best.”

          I heard that interview. And I’ve heard – repeatedly – msm critique of Muller’s front bench being “all white”. If that isn’t suggesting – or outright stating – that there’s something wrong with being white, I don’t know what is.

          The notion of diversity isn’t exhausted by skin colour, ethnicity or gender. Privileging competence doesn’t a priori entail a resulting lack of diversity.

          Quotas – which appear to be what some commentators believe are required – risk tokenism and lack of competence. And – even if appointees are competent – don’t necessarily entail diversity of thought and perspective, or approaches to problem-solving.

          None of us can control our origins; we aren’t responsible for our skin colour or our ethnicity. For these reasons, I prefer a system in which competence is of more moment than ethnicity, skin colour or gender.

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