Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 14, No. 13. October 4, 1951
An Indictment of New Zealand's Colour Bar — To the Malans..
An Indictment of New Zealand's Colour Bar
To the Malans...
It is becoming increasingly more obvious that New Zealand is heading for trouble, internal trouble. Not through wharf strikes, or industrial disputes, but through the gradual erection of a colour bar; not openly, but in a subtle, unsuspecting way, a colour bar that is insinuating its way into this nation.
It was our misfortune in 1946 that four Maori politicians were in a position to control the government of this country. I say misfortune, not because their position was used by the men concerned to further their own interests at the expense of the larger pakeha population—it wasn't—but because it provided the starting point for perhaps the most dastardly piece of political propaganda that has ever permeated this country. That is the belief that the Maori is utterly without scruples when it comes to voting—that he votes for the party which is going to father him, to mother him, to nurse him, to provide 10/- for the same child as many times as he can produce indigent relatives. It is the belief that the Maori wants only to back the winning horse, to hold the whiphand over the pakeha, to sit back and grow fat while the politicians fawn at his knees. In short, it is the belief that the Maori is morally inferior to the white.
It was evident even in 1946 that this type of political propaganda would do more harm to the country in the long run than it could ever do good. It was the propaganda of the disgruntled extremist, not of the sane-minded elector.
No Chance to do Right
And yet it has caught up with this nation. Admittedly, there were the markings of a colour bar long before 1946, and in many ways it is only a symptom of a deeper disease. Yet look where even this has led us. Another election, and the Maoris place their confidence in the same party. "To bad," we say, "they backed the wrong horse. They'll know better next time." A third election, and again they vote the same way, overwhelmingly so. And they are still accused, with an indulgent laugh—for remember this colour bar has the subtle kind of approach—of backing the wrong horse.
Consider their choice. They vote the one way, and they are accusal of wanting to be on the winning side all the time, of changing their allegiance always to the party in power. They vote the other way and they are mocked because they couldn't pick the winner. Three timen the name choice looks to us like loyalty and honest belief. But whichever way the Maori voted, he couldn't win. "Pity poor Hori, last as usual."
A Christian Country
We blame no one party for this. We blame no one person. We blame the people of New Zealand. It takes two to tell a story, one to speak and one to listen. And it takes more, to spread it. It won't be only the politicians who stand indicted in a hundred years' time.
Perhaps there are abuses of Social Security by Maoris. Perhaps there are drunken binges. Perhaps there is a higher crime rate. But name any vice the Maori is prone to that the pakeha hasn't had a prior emption on, and for some centuries. Name any vice that the white man doesn't indulge in more often, more promiscuously, more viciously, and with less moral justification. What number of ten-shilling notes can compare with the innumerable methods of dodging taxation the honest business man has at his accountant's finger-tips? What tribal hooley can compare with the countless Saturday night drunken brawls in every pakeha hamlet in this godless country? We take a Stone Age people and we teach them all our vices before our virtues, then we use them as shocking examples of the things we would never do. We would do well to consider the mote in our own eyes first.
The Maori tribal elders are attempting to do something about the acquired vices of the Maori. The only moral decision the pakeha elders seem to be able to make is the one about showing pictures on Sundays. Does it never occur to them that there are other spheres of immorality besides the passing of sliver over a ticket seller's palm on a Sunday evening?
"Two men went up into the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, the other a Publican. The Pharisee stood upright, and made this prayer in his heart, I thank thee, God, that I am not like the rest of men, who steal and cheat and commit adultery, or like this Publican here..."
And consider who went down from the temple justified.