Imagine this for a moment.
An MP of Caucasian origin - let's call him John - is sent off to go to a conference in the Solomon Islands about postcolonial government issues. A lot of the discussion takes place at a dinner the day before the conference is held, after which John goes up to the conference host and says "look, mate, I'm not particularly interested in all this, do you mind if I take the day off and charter a flight with the Mrs over to Papua New Guinea so we can walk the Kokoda Trail - she's Australian and it's quite an important landmark in their history." The host says "sure, fine, go ahead", so off he and his wife go.
Arriving back in NZ there are some hard questions to answer - why did John go off on a tourist jaunt at government expense - with his wife! - when he was supposed to be attending a meeting?
"Well," John says, "there were two other MPs there to represent NZ and I thought - hey, when am I ever going to have an opportunity to see the Kokoda Trail again?" The public is annoyed by what he has done, but for the most part many seem to accept his reasoning and don't begrudge him of it too much, especially when it is revealed that he paid for the side trip himself.
However, John then receives an email from a colleague, also of European descent, asking how he could justify this side trip when he was supposed to be on business - after all, this is exactly the kind of conduct he's been attacking some of the Maori MPs for. John, irritated by the constant barrage of complaints, hits back, and replies:
"Mate, what the hell are you doing bringing up all this brown man bullshit? Those brown motherfuckers have been sitting on their arses and ripping off our tax dollars for centuries and all of a sudden you want me to play along with their equality bullshit? Quite frankly I don't give a shit what you or anyone else thinks about it. OK? Oh, and go ahead, send this to the media if you want. I answer to my people, not to those brownies or to anybody else."
The email is duly sent out to the press.
Now ask yourself - how does the nation react? I'm going to go out on a limb and say that, as a nation, we'd be pretty disgusted and there would be calls for John's immediate dismissal as a member of Parliament - how can he do his job and represent the people of a multicultural NZ with that kind of attitude?
I would also imagine that the Race Relations Commissioner, Jorus de Bres, would get involved. I wonder what he would say ... would he fob this off as freedom of expression? Would he give a certificate to the letter's recipient for standing up to 'this kind of nonsense'? Would he organise a meeting with a History professor who specialises in the impact of colonisation on indigenous peoples? Would he go completely bananas like the rest of the country and demand the MP's head?
It's an interesting question, because this exact situation has happened, ladies and gents. It happened just the other day!
The only difference between my account and true life is that the MP was Maori, a prominent member of the Maori Party, and his comments were about "white" people, so according to the Race Relations Commissioner this is not racist, RACIST is, as has been seen recently, when some (white) students wear Nazi uniforms to a party, or pose for a photo saluting a swastika. But this isn't that kind of abhorrent racism; no, it is just "freedom of expression".
So apparently the comments made in this email, the actual one which I amended for satirical purposes above, are NOT racist:
"Gee Buddy, do you believe that white man bullshit too do you? White motherfuckers have been raping our lands and ripping us off for centuries and all of a sudden you want me to play along with their puritanical bullshit... And quite frankly I don't give a shit what you or anyone else thinks about it. OK? Go ahead, send this to the media if you want. I answer to my people, not to them or to anybody else."
No, of course it's not racist.
[SIGH!] Indeed, racism is alive and well in NZ... and we can't do a thing about it.
The worst thing about this is that, until the emails leaked, this was just another offence in the long list of recently published jaunts by Parliamentarians. We've had Bill English under the spotlight for housing allowances, and Chris Carter and Rodney Hide lambasted for extensive, expensive travelling with their spouses using the MP discount. Hone Harawira was one of this group. But NONE of those other men would ever have dreamed about sending an email like the one I wrote above.
One law for all, and another for some?