Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Forever a foreigner in New Zealand

TVNZ shock jock Paul Henry has apologised for saying that Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand was not Kiwi enough for the job.
Henry caused a storm after he said this morning that Sir Anand did not look or sound like a New Zealander when he asked Prime Minister John Key whether the next Governor-General would be more Kiwi.
"Is he even a New Zealander?" Henry asked. ''Are you going to choose a New Zealander who looks and sounds like a New Zealander this time?''
Sir Anand, who has Fijian-Indian parents, was born and raised in Auckland, and worked as a lawyer, judge and Parliamentary Ombudsman in New Zealand before becoming Governor-General in 2006.
Full story here.

Ok, so a shock jock makes offensive comments. Nothing revelatory, just sad and fairly typical. I thought this was interesting because it is a perfect example of certain racist thinking and behaviour.
This is Henry's pseudo-apology:
Henry told Stuff earlier today he did not regret the comments, but has since issued a statement apologising.

"I sincerely apologise to the Governor General, Sir Anand Satyanand for any offence I may have caused. I am aware that Sir Anand has made an outstanding contribution to New Zealand.
"Anyone who knows anything about me will know I am a royalist, a constant defender of the monarchy and the role the Governor General plays in our society.
"If my comments have personally offended Sir Anand, I regret it deeply."

Catch that? "IF my comments have personally offended Sir Anand, I regret it deeply." IF.
Maybe this is just something people say. But it's a classic way of avoiding a proper apology.

Translated, it means "I don't think I said anything wrong at all. But if someone was so sensitive that they had to go and get all offended about it, then that's sad, I guess. I really don't care."

The other interesting thing is the idea of what a New Zealander is meant to look and sound like. Let's pretend for a moment that there actually IS a proper way that a New Zealander is meant to look and sound. What is it?

Below is a very short bit of footage of Satyanand speaking. What does he sound like to you?

If you answered, "A New Zealander", full marks for you. He speaks with a NZ accent, which is unsurprising since he was born and raised there.

Ok so does he look like a New Zealander? Well it's funny, because I seem to recall that the original New Zealanders are a brownish sort of people called the Maori. And for what it's worth, Satyanand actually looks considerably more like a Maori than does Paul Henry (pictured).

What it shows is that for people like Henry, some people will forever be foreigners. Immigrants are often criticised for not integrating or not proving themselves as citizens of their new country. Yet Satyanand has worked his way up to the top of his field to hold one of the country's highest offices, and yet he's still not worthy of shaking off the "foreigner" tag. And - he's not even an immigrant! He was born in Auckland!
(Hat tip: Ruth DeSouza)

Check these related posts:

You're damned if you do...

"Send them all back"... even if they are Australian?

When is an American not an American?

More "Obama's not an American" nonsense


  1. I don't think this sort of thinking is unique to New Zealand. It's also common to the rest of white-dominated western society.

    It's one of those things non-whites have to deal with. Here, in Toronto, non-whites get asked point blank: "where are you from?"

    If they answer that they're from Toronto, the follow-up question becomes: "but where are you really from?" It implies that they're not really from here, and are foreigners.

    It's teeth-grinding, really. As a result of it, all non-whites (and whites with audible accents) become hyphens. Eg. African-Canadian?????

  2. @ Mel,
    you're right, I certainly didn't mean to imply that this was particular to NZ. The reason I posted on this was because it was such good example of a common attitude all over the world.

  3. If you are Irish and arrive with a Phd, they will tell you Irish jokes to make them feel better. The prejudice is not black, white, Asian. It applies to anyone who is not a "Nyu Zelinda." A beautiful country, with an honest government. They are very proud of their country, but the parochial, self praising, thinking drove me out after 14 years.