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Reducing Racism

Linked to targets’ analyses of why racism occurs and strategies for resistance is the issue of how racism may be reduced. This is the basis of the third study by Pack et al. (in press) which highlights four key suggestions for the reducing racism: reducing structural racism, educational intervention, positive interactions between Maori and Pakeha, and a single Kiwi identity.

Structural racism defied ineffective anti-racism laws in the workplace, the justice system and the health system. The targets suggested significant power imbalances operate within these institutions, and in the case of the justice system, there were claims Maori were over-policed and received harsher sentences from judges who suffered from preconceived ideas of racial culpability. Indeed, the literature (Fergusson, Swain-Campbell, & Horwood, 2003; Workman, 2011) suggests the disproportionately high number of incarcerated Maori is linked to racism in sentencing. To counter this, participants suggested including more Maori within the justice system—more Maori police, lawyers, and judges. Interestingly, the notion of a parallel Maori justice system was not discussed, even though this has been proposed by the Green party and has been the subject of ongoing discussion (Perrett, 2013). Participants talked of negative discrimination in the workplace, being overlooked when it came to promotion, and needing to excel beyond their Pakeha peers in order to be promoted.

Educational interventions were recommended as increased understanding of the Treaty of Waitangi would ensure the principle of equal partnership was honoured more compellingly. Historically, it is important to understand the 1840 signing of the Treaty, by Maori and the British Crown, signalled the beginning of a bicultural nation as this foundational document spelt out the principles guiding two peoples as equal partners in a single country. Some participants suggested Treaty education become mandatory, since greater understanding of history and heritage would minimise racism. There were also suggestions about a revised version of history, teaching respect for cultural difference and the importance of teachers as positive role models. Participants argued that the history curriculum should ideally challenge understandings of Pakeha as honourable winners of a fair fight with Maori characterised as rightfully subdued savages. Teaching respect for cultural differences was seen as critical as was open discussion of racial stereotypes. The success of teaching anti-racism (Husband, 2012; Santas, 2000) can lay a foundation for greater cultural appreciation, empathy, and understanding. Attention to such cultural norms has relevance not only for those in education but also, importantly, those working in the human services.

Suggestions about successful interactions between Maori and Pakeha included talk about notions of integration, working together, and the importance of relationships. Much talk centred around the view that segregated communities contributed to racial divides, misunderstandings, and racism. Working together towards common goals (e.g. a community or church project) was seen as important as a collective identity tended to minimise individual racist views. The issue of commonalities was also evident in the final recommendations which were about highlighting similarities between Pakeha and Maori. In suggesting intermarriage, mutual bicultural respect, and emphasis on being Kiwis, this theme sought to stress the interdependence of New Zealanders of different ethnicity and culture uniting as one tribe, without prejudice. Recalibrating a bicultural country as one group would, on the one hand, be consistent with Dovidio and Gaertner’s (2007) common in-group identity model which stresses the advantages of inclusiveness and promises to eliminate negative positioning of Maori as ‘other’ (Hokowhitu, 2004). One concern with such unification is the question of whether bicultur- alism can survive the increasingly diverse multicultural society that Aotearoa New Zealand has become. One quarter of residents were born elsewhere and the growing Asian population adds a dynamic dimension to the changing population demographics. Participants were optimistic about this and consistent with Ward and Liu (2012), who suggested bicultural partnerships can be maintained if all cultures are respected and encouraged to contribute to wider society. Racial separatism was strongly denounced by participants with Pakeha partners, a common occurrence with roughly half of Maori having Pakeha partners (Callister, Didham, & Potter, 2007). The metaphor of the ‘melting pot’ was deployed to stress the importance of intermarriage in establishing hybridity and breaking down racial barriers. Participants were wary of adopting Kiwi as a single unifying tribe since this could lead to the marginalisation of Maori culture. This would be a retrograde step for bicultur- alism and a country where people enjoy mutual respect and cultural sharing: a country in which non-Maori acquire Maori tattoos, perform the haka, and commonly use Maori words.

Finally, these studies offer a view of the future where the targets remain undaunted in their optimism about the demise of racism. Participants were aware of a bleak history where Maori language was forbidden in schools; Maori were denied entrance to hotels, buses, or movies; they were not selected for jobs; and they were invisible in anything other than negative news stories. However, they were also aware of a more positive cultural trajectory based on the assumption that most Pakeha want to get on with Maori and the bicultural climate will continue to improve. This optimism meant Maori and Pakeha should continue to learn to live together harmoniously and racism rather than the targets would become marginalised.

 
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