“In Aotearoa New Zealand the legacy of ongoing colonization by European (especially British) settlers has produced a society characterized by the presence of major ethnic and cultural disparities” (Kearns, Moewaka-Barnes, & McCreanor, 2009). New Zealand has a population of around four million people. Within that amount of people ranges a vast variety of races consisting predominately of European/Pakeha, Maori, Asian and Pacific people. The Maori, who make up 15% of the population, are indigenous to New Zealand and after the European colonisation in the nineteenth century, have experienced the effects of racism and institutional racism as a result of this colonisation. This essay explores the ideas of racism and racial discrimination and the difference between the two concepts. It discusses the history of New Zealand and where racist issues may have derived from throughout society and how these issues through the idea of institutional racism still exist in contemporary society, by discussing the representation of Maoris’ in the criminal justice system.
Ethnicity relates to a group who shares particular history, a set of cultural practices and institutions and is conscious of a shared identity as a result. (G, R, & P) Race is the grouping of which results from the practice of classifying others by physical characteristics and the belief that this classification represents some form of innate difference in terms of ability or disposition (G, R, & P). Race in contemporary society is largely a production of European colonisation, the enlightenment and the age of empire. Racism is this belief that some racial, ethnic, religious or cultural groups are above others. This notion combined with power leads to actions favouring the supposedly superior groups, thus resulting in acts of racism (Bhopal, 2006). There are different forms of racism present throughout society. Institutional racism relates to the idea of a difference in access to the goods, services and opportunities of a society, which results in a society that privileges racial majorities. Cultural racism sees a difference in beliefs and assumptions about the tradtions, abilities, motives and desires of the racial minorites. Internalised racism is when members of stigmatised racial groups see and acceptance of the negative mess ages about their own abilities and intrinsic worth. Taking the concept one step further, sees the styles of racism present in society. Overt racism sees a person who is intentional and self-consciously biased towards their treatment of racial minorities resulting in a “visible form of racism. Implicit racism sees a person who is unintentional and unsciously biased of their treatment of racial miniorites, resulting in a ‘hidden, invisible form of racism.’
There is a difference between racism and racial discrimination. Racial discrimination relates to this idea of prejudice and the difference in how people are treated based on their race. In comparison to this racism relates more to how a minority group are treated differently due to their race, which maintains a ‘pre-existing’ system of oppression. In the status of the system, racial discrimination can be practiced both upwards and downwards. However, racism in the status of the system can only be practised downwards. This is because, unlike discrimination, racism is an expression of a much larger system of power relations.
In the early 20th Century, New Zealand was a country that consisted of Maori culture. The word ‘Maori’ was not an ethnicity category as of yet. During the early days of colonization, the Maori saw a rise in capitalist ventures between the-the Europeans, supplying agricultural goods. This resulted in the formation of the Treaty of Waitangi, which established the recognised Maori ownership of their lands and other properties under a British Governor of New Zealand. There was a major difference in the Maori translation compared to the English translation of the treaty. The treaty was meant to offer a form of protection towards Maori interests. But the difference in translations lead saw the rise in many racial issues between Maori citizens and the English. Assimilation is the process which sees a prson or a group’s languge and/or culture come to resemble those of another group. In the early 1900s to 1969s Pakeha instituions and some Maori groups pursed policies of assimilation through the detribalisation of Maori identity. In 1912 the Native land amendment act was introduced. It was set out to enable Maori to apply to the native land court in order to be declared “European-in-law” based on the social factors such as knowledge of Englsih, european education, sufficient income from a professino, trade and land holdings. “This act was repealed in 1931. The government also encouraged Maori to assimilate to European culture. They used propaganda through their sponsorship towards Maori language newspapers. “Surrender to Pakeha the regulation of all things, for with him is wisdom and power and wealth and nobility, and he will preserve the government of your island…cast aside the Maori life, and adopt the usages of the Pakeha” (Te Karere Maori or the Maori Messenger 2:3, 2 May 1862, p. 30) is an example of the forms of propaganda used in order to try to persuade this move towards European culture. Assimilation was not just enforced through government activity but also occurred through everyday activity through the increase in Maori and European interaction. In schools and at work Maori were being dissuaded from speaking Te Reo. As a result of this by the 1970s very few New Zealanders could speak Te Reo. The colonialisation of New Zealand in the nineteenth century occurred during a period when slavery was coming under attack but when views about ‘race’ were still very powerful (G, R, & P). The European’s were very superior. They insisted that their way of life be adopted. They denied the Maori to be able to develop their cultural traditions and languages. For example the Native Schools act in 1867 saw English made compulsory. ¬¬ This is still present in contemporary societies.
Institutional racism does still exist within contemporary New Zealand society. This can be seen through the way the Maoris perception of the police. In the 1998 report on Maoris’ perception of the police, focus groups were conducted mainly within Maori communities to determine why Maori’s have negative views towards the police. In summary, the response consisted of a unanimous perception of the police institution being a racist institution that had strong anti-Maori attitudes (Te Whaiti & Roguski, 1998). The participants responded to situations were often the Maori citizens would be questioned on the pretext of criminal suspicion even though they had not committed a crime. They also responded to racist verbal abuse by the police. This is an example of institutional racism, as it sees Maori citizens being placed as the minority against European citizens based on their race. “For Māori, this breach is also a contravention of indigenous rights. Our results provide an additional reason to urgently address racist attitudes and discriminatory practices and their economic consequences in New Zealand society.” (Harris, Tobias, Jeffreys, Waldegrave, Karlsen, & Nazroo, 2006) There is an assumption being placed on them that they are linked to criminal activity resulting in police to automatically believe they are the issue above everyone else, regardless of whether or not they are actually connected with the incident. This issue is still present today. In 2013, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reported on their concern at the high rates of incarceration the over-representation of members of Maori communities, at every stage of the criminal justice system. A proportion of the Maori crime rate is due to an inequality and biased enforcement of the law at multiple stages of the criminal justice system. The small acts of bias including over-policing of Maori communities, harassment, and differential punishment of similar behavior are what influence the overall picture of the overrepresentation of Maori. Maori are over-represented at each stage of the criminal justice system (Hanan)
This overrepresentation is justified through the statistics, dating back to 2005 that saw 47% of Maori and Pacific people had been a victim of a crime. Maori women were most likely to be victimized and also had a victimization rate double the average for women overall and 29% of violent crimes against Maori were reported to the Police. “For many marginalised individuals and groups these effects are internalised and incorporated into personal discourse, attitude, belief or ideology in damaging and self- fulfi lling psychological negativity” (Barnes, Tampa, Borell, & McCreanor)
The issue of racism continues to grow throughout the world. In New Zealand, it is evident that it does exist as an issue. While New Zealand has come a long way since the earlier European colonization, Institutional racism is still present throughout contemporary society. This is seen through the representation of Maoris’ in comparison to European representation throughout the criminal justice system.