INDEPENDENT NEWS

Lindsay Perigo: Character, Not Colour

Published: Thu 26 Jul 2001 11:30 AM
Yesterday, talkback caller Sharon contributed to our discussion on separatism by saying that she & the rest of the "tangata whenua" wanted us white folk to leave the country, along with all the "Uncle Toms" in our midst. When I asked what she proposed to do if we did NOT leave, she said if she had her way we would be forced to leave at gunpoint. The white man, she said, without meaning to be ironic, had brought nothing but hate.
If Sharon imagined she could upset me with such observations, punctuated as they were with references to me as "Linda," she was wrong. I wasn't upset, just deeply saddened that anyone could think this way. I wanted equality of all before the law; she wanted a "final solution." Then there were the European callers who said THEY had become racist in response to attitudes such as Sharon's. I suspect such people were merely looking for an excuse all along.
There IS no excuse for racism. "Racism," said Ayn Rand, "is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man's genetic lineage - the notion that a man's intellectual & characterological traits are produced & transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character & actions, but by the characters & actions of a collective of ancestors."
That's the way Sharon judges me, & all Europeans. I am evil because I am white & as such have inherited the characteristics of my forebears who did terrible things, for which I should atone by going into exile at the point of Sharon's gun. That's clearly unreasonable, to put it mildly. Equally unreasonable, however, is the act of judging contemporary Maori by the actions of THEIR ancestors - harping on about cannibalism, slavery, smoked heads, etc., provides no basis for judging anyone alive today who has never endorsed & does not practise such things. People - of ALL colours - should be judged by what THEY do, not what others have done.
It is true that Maoris are "over-represented" in crime statistics, the incidence of child abuse & so on. That is a cultural & philosophical issue, not a racial one. Maoris, in disproportionate numbers, commit crimes not because they are Maoris but because they're wedded to a tribalist past, to which the concept of individual rights & individual responsibility is alien. That is something they can choose to change. So too can the European racists whose own thinking is tribalistic. If race relations are to become the non-issue that they ought to be, we must all recognise that we're all here now, that the past is the past for which none of US is responsible, & that the way forward is to respect the rights of others AS INDIVIDUALS, regardless of their skin colour.
I commend these reflections to Sharon in particular.
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For Lindsay Perigo's daily "Politically Incorrect Show" editorials, visit: www.freeradical.co.nz or listen to Radio Pacific from noon to 2pm weekdays.

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