Kiwi identity politics in need of work


Earlier this week Green Party Member of Parliament Golriz Ghahraman

To his credit, Mr Plunkett has made amends and acknowledged the length of time that Ms Ghahraman has been here. And there is an element of truth in his words that it is a – potentially – complex subject. That said, the complexity of ones national identity depends on where they have been and who they have lived with.

I am straight out New Zealander. My brother can identify to some extent with the United States having lived there for six years and married a Minnesota native. I have a friend who is a native Colombian, but married to a New Zealander, and living in the San Francisco area. They have a daughter. I have two Peruvian friends whose two daughters were not born in Peru, but who hold Peruvian, American and New Zealand citizenship. They live in Los Angeles.

For some, anyone who moves to New Zealand, is not a Kiwi because they were simply not born here. For some these people will never be New Zealanders for that very reason. As sad as this is, it is true. It is people like these who have trouble accepting that New Zealand is a multicultural society that accepts anyone who is willing to abide by New Zealand laws and customs.

Chinese settlers who came for the gold rushes in Otago and the West Coast have had it particularly harshly. The yellow peril was a term applied to later generations, but early Chinese were subject to 55 individual legal amendments of an intentionally discriminatory nature. Yet their contributions to the gold rushes including mining in places no one else would go, establishing by line of site many kilometres of water races, some of which still function as such today, is immense. We can debate as we do what contribution some latter Chinese have made, yet 30 years ago it was Japanese immigrants being targeted and told to go home and subject to racist innuendo. I remember when Toyota’s, Subaru’s and other Japanese vehicles were uniformly labelled “Jap Crap”, which aside from being obviously derogatory in nature now, also ignores the very good performance of most Japanese made cars today.

More worrying today is this perception that Chinese are responsible for sky high prices of just about everything. As is the idea – fortunately a relatively isolated one – being spread by the National Front that white New Zealand is under attack.

Perhaps the most worrying part is the ignorance – willful or not – displayed by many towards refugees and asylum seekers coming from countries much less fortunate than New Zealand. We could be Syrians or Iraqi’s, Rohingya from Myanmar, all trying to get away from the certainty of grave harm to their individual beings, persecution for who they are and loss of identity – cannot stay where they are, but will anyone let them in?

Golriz Ghahraman did not come to New Zealand simply for money. She came here with her family because it was too dangerous for her to stay in Iran and she would have faced severe persecution, possibly death. Ms Ghahraman has been here for 28 years. In that time she has throroughly integrated into New Zealand society. If she can do it, others can too.

More refugees will come. As long as the West and Russia continue their filthy geopolitical games in the region, wars that the refugees have no control over will continue to rage. Communities will be wrecked there, but maybe they can spring up here.

Albeit with a distinctly Kiwi flavour.

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