Ethnicity and communication
Aotearoa! The country of black and white, the country where the ferns grown and the kiwi roam. Our country, the place we call home. We sing together “In the bonds of love we meet, hear our voices, we entreat, God defend our free land!” Such powerful words. Words that a family might sing together in glorious triumph… But can we confidently state that in this country we call our home, that we all feel accepted? Can we say that we all feel valued? In our home do we all feel equal? These are the hard questions us “Kiwi’s” are having to ask ourselves daily, and more importantly we are having to ask ourselves why not…
It is easy to see Aotearoa proudly displaying evidence of its M?ori culture, whether it be beautiful M?ori carving and painting, the M?ori flag prancing alongside our Aotearoa flag, to non-M?ori kiwis performing the haka. What can be particularly hard to see is the level of discrimination that M?ori people face, despite the country’s pride in its people. While racism may be said to be something of the past, in-equality and stereotypical behaviour is something still very much of the present.
Aotearoa is made up of people from several different ethnic backgrounds. According to 2006 census figures, roughly 68% of the population are of European/P?keh? descent. 15% of the population are made up of M?ori. 7% are made up of pacific nations people and approximately 9% Asian. All though in 2010 Aotearoa were ranked number 1 most peaceful country in the world to live in, there remain major differences in the equality of outcomes experienced by different ethnic groups residing in Aotearoa.
The New Zealand Income Survey shows that as of 2015 M?ori earn $166 a week less than the average New Zealanders weekly income, and the CEVEP (Coalition for equal value, equal pay) produced a table which shows the average hourly earnings for the main ethnicity groups as at June 2017.
Average Hourly Rate
Research indicates a strong stereotypical behaviour throughout Aotearoa from and toward all ethnic groups in some way, shape or form. Does this come down to the difference in the way we communicate? As M?ori, there are certain traditions, protocols and behaviour which are expected to take place at all time. These include, not wearing shoes, hats or sunglasses inside. Not sitting on tables/desks or benches, karakia (prayer) before kai (food) and many others. Does this set M?ori apart from the majority of our people? Is being a little different frowned upon? According to Glenis Hiria Philip-Barbara who wrote “My experience as a child, CEO and as a mum” being of M?ori ethnicity has brought a lot of bullying over the years purely due to the colour of her skin. Racism may not be as prominent now, but do we still have ethnic conflict due to lack of understanding or lack of communication.
All ethnic groups have a form of communication in which they understand much more fluently than those who are not a part of it. To some this can be intimidating, it may seem rude in the moment, or maybe uncomfortable. But this does not mean that we disregard those who are a part of a different ethnic group to ours. NZ is made up of many different ethnic circles, none of which is the right one, nor is it the wrong one to be a part of. What we can identify as being wrong is judging, bullying and/or discriminating against others for being a part of one that is not our own.
NZ European have the advantage of being the majority population/ethnic group in this country. This may be why there are so many stories of M?ori being treated unfairly and M?ori activists pushing for change in the country, not because they are being hard done by, but because they are outnumbered. Naturally where the majority lie, things will gravitate in favour of.
Historically we have seen a lot of racism in our country, one of the most significant events being the M?ori wars. But Aotearoa has come a long way in accepting ethnic diversity and cultural difference. The changes are highlighted as having been mainly only in theory. Aotearoa may have ‘symbolic biculturalism,’ however in practice, there is still a lot of ground to make up if we want a complete equality between all ethnic groups in NZ.
It is true, there has been considerable improvement of the position of M?ori in today’s society like the teaching of Te Reo in schools etc. But Maori are continuing to lag in statistics. Research on racial equality shows that there are still significant ethnic imbalances. Maori, continue to be disadvantaged and discriminated against alongside other ethnic groups. Importantly, it has been shown that perceived discrimination can lead to negative effects such as stress, poor self and group esteem, impaired health and anti-social behaviours.
As Kiwis, if we strive to achieve a successful bicultural and multicultural national identity we ALL must re-asses our perspectives. We need to appreciate and respect other ethnic groups and encourage their style into New Zealand. We can do this by nurturing everyone’s participation in our society, accepting everyone’s heritage and cultures and dissolving inequality.
Inequality captures the distribution of resources across the country. But it is also important know the differences in distributions among the different ethnic groups. If inequality is equally represented among different ethnic groups, we would expect to find a similar proportion of each ethnic group under each measure i.e. schooling success etc. To the extent that a different ethnic group has a different representation in a social indicator, this suggests greater or lesser inequality among that ethnic group.
It can be terrifying to deal with other people if one does not know what to expect. There is often fear surrounding different ethnicity’s and how things are done. You tend to wonder what manners are acceptable, and how we must act in certain environments. Human fears that tend to dictate the way we act and how we treat others. These are great examples of why we live in the world we live in. NZ is a small part of a big world, where corruption, poverty and death are going on all around us, but does that give us a right to discriminate those around us? I believe this should be a push for change. NZ will not be the change until we make a change. That starts with equality.
To conclude, does communication have a role to play in the ethnic discrimination that still goes on? Yes! Good communication is one of the keys to solving the ongoing issue of discrimination against certain ethnic groups and stereotypical assumptions. Aotearoa has a Human Rights Commission which anyone and everyone can be in touch with at any time to discuss their rights and what to do if they have been discriminated against.
Kiwis have a bright future ahead, and with the right direction we could once again receive the number one most peaceful country to live in award. Until then, we must come together as a family and be one. Put all our historical hurts aside, be positive and reap positive in return. It is much easier said than done, but wouldn’t it be nice…
God Defend New Zealand……