I recommend this Spinoff article about National leader Simon Bridges’s and former protege Jami-Lee Ross’s conversation about the relative merits of different Asian ethnicities on the National candidates’ list. (The full conversation, recently leaked by Ross, is here.)
I have often noticed that Labour and the Greens are bad at putting forward elected representatives of Asian, especially Chinese descent. National have put forward more Asian and Chinese MPs, and I thought this was to their credit. However, this conversation gives insight into the ugly motivations behind National’s ethnic inclusion.
The starkest and most widely-quoted comment, “two Chinese would be more valuable than two Indians”, was made by Ross, who could be seen to have been deliberately goading Bridges to sound bad on a secret recording.
However, Bridges is far from off the hook—fact I’d say he’s more guilty than Ross of the cynical racist way of using rather than representing Asian communities. The topic of relative value of ethnicities was brought up in the conversation by Bridges, who said it “depends where we’re polling” as to whether they should have “Two Chinese” or “One Chinese [and] one Filipino”. The implication is that the only reason to have non-white people in the caucus is to win votes from those communities. Ross’s comment was a reflection and expansion of Bridges’ point. Also, Bridges agreed with Ross’s stark comment by offering a reflection and expansion of his own (rather than stepping in as a leader to correct Ross for expressing the issue in terms of relative value). Perhaps worst of all, Bridges also immediately thought of the two current Indian National MPs, saying “which is what we’ve got at the moment, right?”. This reveals that he thinks in these ways about his existing MPs, not just about hypothetical future MPs during a conversation about strategic nomination decisions to get ethnic communities on board.
I have undertaken cutting-edge statistical analysis of the Register of Pecuniary and Other Specified Interests of Members of Parliament, which has revealed some shocking information.
People of the following occupations are all extremely likely to own real property beyond the family home and Māori land interests:
Labour MP: 50%
National MP: 76.27%
Green MP: 50%
NZ First MP: 58.3% or 61.54%*
United Future MP: 100%
These rates are all extremely high – far higher than any ethnic or national group, for example. It is clear what we must do to curb property speculation and solve the housing crisis: Ban MPs from buying property in NZ.
*Info not available for new MP Ria Bond.
So Ridley Scott is bringing out a movie version of the Exodus story – Exodus: Gods and Kings. It’s the latest biblical blockbuster to cast mostly white actors to play Middle-Eastern people. It looks like this will be a particularly bad example: all the major and powerful characters are white, while thieves, servants and assassins are black. This is yet another example of the “perpetual maintenance of the White savior standing over the ethnic servant/villain/imbecile.”
The sad irony is the Exodus is the prototypical story of liberation of an oppressed group (e.g. people of colour) from a dominant empire (e.g. white-dominated capitalism/film industry), as noted by Liberation Theologians, or in fact any orthodox theologians/historians.
I don’t think it’s blasphemous to paraphrase Exodus 2:23-25 thusly:
“The P.O.C. groaned in their racist oppression and cried out, and their cry for help because of their racist oppression went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the P.O.C. and was concerned about them.”
(The paraphrased story doesn’t end well for Ridley Scott and 20th Century Fox, by the way)
I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that 5 1/2 years after graduating from the University of Canterbury, I’ve got myself embroiled in student media/politics again. But this time, instead of contributing to Pun Network News or trying (unsuccessfully) to bring down the UCSA status quo, I’ve responded to a face-palm-worthy Canta article defending inequality. I take aim at all-too-common, evidence-free, essentially religious arguments for inequality and capitalism. You can read it here.
I’m not embarrassed to have my article appear in a new alternative publication, Counta, set up by a group of students fed up with the anti-intellectualism and political illiteracy of mainstream student politics/media at Canterbury at the moment. Counta were happy to publish the response when Canta declined.
I’m also not embarrassed to say I was inspired to respond by a lot of evidence and research suggested by friends in MarxSoc, which enabled me to put together a well-researched response I’m pretty happy with.
So, although there’s plenty of disturbing, disappointing and depressing stuff happening in student politics at Canterbury, there’s also some encouraging signs in informed student resistance, and awesome groups like Students for Participatory Democracy, FemSoc, MarxSoc and UC POLS. These groups make me want to get embroiled in student politics again. If you’re at Canterbury (as a student or a staff member, like me), I recommend you check them out.
Fabian Mika’s lawyer is appealing Mika’s manslaughter sentence, suggesting his cultural background and upbringing should have be taken into account as a mitigating factor in sentencing.
It looks like this is being met with the predictable outrage when anyone notes there’s still ethnic inequality in NZ, coupled with the usual panic whenever someone suggests people’s lives are more complicated than just personal choice.
The judges are no doubt right to point out the logistical difficulties of the lawyer’s idea. Nonetheless, the lawyer’s argument touches on a serious problem with punishment/the ‘justice’ system in general: it only responds to individuals for their individual choices. But no individual choice happens in a vacuum.
The justice system doesn’t deal with the wider social determinants of individual choices. In many ways, it can’t: it falls outside of the justice system’s purview to deal with (for example) economic inequality, the chief cause of high violent crime rates.
But the ‘justice’ system should at least acknowledge that these social determinants are very much unequal from one person or group to another.
You can accurately predict from someone’s class, ethnicity, or family situation that they’re a lot more likely to end up in jail than I am. (Or more likely to have a partner or parent in prison). That’s not fair, and it’s not chosen.
Yes, convicted criminals have made choices, I’m not denying that. But the social determinants of crime and punishment are true too, and too often we deny that.
One of the first lessons you learn studying criminology is that if you’re disadvantaged in society in general, you’re also disadvantaged at every stage of the crime and punishment process:
– examples of crime vs. other examples
– opportunities for crime vs. other opportunities
– likelihood of being in extreme need
– laws and definitions of crimes
– types of crimes you’re likely to commit
– likelihood of being suspected/pursued by police
– likelihood of being caught
– access to good legal help
– likelihood of being convicted
– harshness of sentencing for your crime
– your specific sentencing
– how you’re treated by society after your punishment
So I definitely think someone’s experiences and social position should be considered among the mitigating/aggravating factors in sentencing. But that only deals with the tip of the iceberg of the problem: socio-economic inequality leading to manifold inequalities in crime and punishment.