Both sides assume that Maori and Pakeha are two separate peoples. The multicultural/separatist Left wants to entrench this divide, whereas the assimilationist Right wants to blot half of it out. I think both positions are harmful to our country. As I've argued before, we need to recognize the third way, of reciprocal cultural integration, which is naturally evolving in our society. No Right Turn notes that we are becoming a Pacific nation, and quotes Colin James:
Maori culture, supplemented by Pacific Polynesian culture, has begun over the past five years to alter "mainstream" culture and the way we live our lives.
We are moving beyond the tokenism of the past 160 years. The new All Blacks' haka - which could do with an English phrase or two to be truly "national" - is a prime example.
This transformation is still in the very early stages, and in any case will modify, not blanket out, European cultural traditions and ways of life. But over the next 25 years, in part driven by demographics, it will make us a Pacific nation, not just dwellers in the Pacific - it will Pacific-ate us.
The inadequacy of the binary model is reinforced by Anne Salmond:
We have had 200 years of swapping with each other, genes, language, and so by now, the binary model is fictional... People get married and end up with a foot in both camps - that should be a basis on which we go forward together, rather than seeing the Treaty as an instrument which cuts us in half as a nation.
My position has two core implications for policy:
1) We should not discriminate between individuals based on their race. That's racism, pure and simple. It doesn't suddenly become okay when a pure-hearted liberal does it.
2) We should acknowledge and promote Maori culture, but in a non-exclusive fashion, which sees the culture as belonging to all New Zealanders, no matter their genetic makeup.
We should look forward to the day when the word 'race' can be expunged from our vocabulary. It is a useless concept, an utterly arbitrary way of categorizing people. We are a nation of individuals, bound together in various ways. The common focus on race blinds us to the complexity of individuals, and the multiplicity of ways in which they could be categorized. I am young, middle-class, white, male, a student, philosopher, atheist, blogger, brother, son, and so forth. Why focus on race? Why is that an especially important category? Whenever I come across a race-based distinction (such as separate Maori seats in parliament), I wonder: why not make similar distinctions based on sex, or age, or religion? Hell, why not hair colour?
Imagine two individuals who are almost exactly alike, but for their genes. One has some Maori ancestry, and the other doesn't. Apart from that, they are practically indistinguishable: same social class, same skills and abilities, same values. How could you possibly justify treating the two differently in any respect whatsoever? Race is a difference that makes no difference.
Leftists commonly appeal to historical injustices. Maori people were harmed then, so Maori people should be compensated now, you argue. But this presupposes that race is a relevant category. We might just as well say that black-haired people were harmed then, so black-haired people should be compensated now. That's clearly absurd reasoning. The link between past victims and present claimants is too tenuous: the mere fact that they share hair-colour just isn't relevant. But why is biological race - mere genes - any more significant than hair colour?
So, we should aim to overcome racial separatism, especially in our laws. I agree with the National party about that much, at least. Unfortunately, National's actual policies - e.g. using white votes to abolish Maori seats - are likely to be disastrously counterproductive, and simply serve to aggravate racial tensions. What we really need is for Maori to voluntarily abandon the path of separatism. If I may wax poetic for a moment: We should invite them back into the mainstream -- or, rather, the "braided river" that we've become. Let our waters mingle, and our people too. When the wounds of history have healed, we will greet the sunrise together: not as two peoples, but one.
Only the Left could credibly make such an offer. The question is whether they want to. Romantics want to preserve 'the Other' as such, which requires separatism and special recognition for the chosen ones of indigenous blood. They are to be set apart from the decadent colonial 'West', and recognized for their moral purity, historical priority, and harmonious connection to the Land.
This is the pernicious ideology we have to overcome. Leftists needs to recognize that race has no intrinsic impact on who you are as an individual. We need to embrace Maori culture and make it accessible to all New Zealanders, rather than standing it on a pedestal to idolize from afar. Finally, we need to recognize that conservatives are "culturally insecure" for a reason: the separatists among us keep implying that Pakeha are somehow less authentic New Zealanders! This offensive rhetoric has got to stop. We are not British colonialists. We are native New Zealanders too. So please, show some respect.