Robin Grieve

The angry reaction by some Pacific Islanders to Ashley Bloomfield and the Ministry of Health informing the public that it was the Pacific community that was at the heart of the Covid cluster in South Auckland, demonstrates the problem of having a government and an overpopulation of social justice warriors who are obsessed with race. It also demonstrates the lack of logic and reason that prevails around identity politics.

On the face of it, I can understand why some Pacific Islanders feel aggrieved that the ethnicity of those in the South Auckland cluster was a thing, whereas the ethnicity of the Devonport cluster was not. TVNZ’s oh so culturally inclusive Haimona (Simon) Dallow certainly took their umbrage to heart, and the very next night after they had complained, he did not refer to the Assembly of God Church of Samoa NZ by name, instead calling it “a Mangere church”. He then promptly undid his own good work by introducing ‘Pacific Correspondent’, Barbara Dreaver, to give the story.

The identity politics mindset that has infected TVNZ blinds them to just how patronising and racially un-inclusive it is to assign a specialist Pacific reporter to report stories that involve Pacific people. It is the opposite of inclusive. And therein lies the problem.

The very people who don’t want ethnicity to be a thing, are the same ones who constantly make it a thing. Efeso Collins, a Pacific Island Auckland City Councilor was one who took exception to the singling out of Pacific people, saying, “We are a team of five million and the ethnicity of the cluster is not relevant.” The same Efeso Collins has been calling for Pacific people to get vaccination priority because of their ethnicity and he wants a specific targeted vaccination programme for Pacific people.

He wants to be part of the ‘team of five million’ and ethnicity to be irrelevant when it suits him, but not, when it doesn’t. Worse still, in his efforts to single out and highlight Pacific people, he maligns them. According to him, Pacific people are vaccine-hesitant and have low trust in the Government. He also said they have an oral tradition and the Ministry of Health sending out information on a sheet of A4 or a link on a website isn’t the way to engage with these communities.

Another Pacific Islander who kicked up a fuss over the singling out of Pacific people as being the Covid cluster was Jerome Mika from the Mangere church. However, he himself made ethnicity a thing by describing Pacific people as a people who are not able to respond to a mainstream person ringing them up and asking them about close contacts and contact tracing.

While reported racist comments after this cluster was exposed are inexcusable, it does not help when so-called Pacific Island leaders are making Pacific Islanders out to be semi-literate, vaccine-hesitant, not trusting of government and not able to answer questions about contact tracing. 

Tackling this pandemic requires a lot of trust that people will do the right thing. It is not helpful when Pacific Islander Jerome Mika tells the country that Pacific people have some sort of ethnic trait that means they are not able to tell the contact tracers what they need to know.  That is hardly going to reassure New Zealanders. 

If Pacific Islanders don’t want people to form a negative stereotype of Pacific Islanders, then they should stop maligning themselves. No one else is.

The Devonport people on the other hand don’t appear to have an ethnic leader of any sort to malign them and make their ethnicity a thing.  There is no one to paint them as a homogenous group who are unable to complete relatively simple tasks. That is the difference here. The Pacific Island community have only themselves to blame for making ethnicity a thing in this instance.

In an opinion piece in the NZ Herald Teuila Fuatai also took exception to the naming of the ethnicity of the cluster, saying there was no need for it, and then, in the same column, she announced that this was the third Covid outbreak that has involved Pasifika communities. She damns the Health department for highlighting their ethnicity, saying there is no need to do it, and then does it herself! She also said that the Health Ministry, having identified the ethnicity of the cluster, “needed to own its role in Covid racism”.

Presumably, her comments about playing a role in covid racism must also apply to Indira Stewart, a Pacific Island TVNZ Breakfast presenter, who in a fiery interview with Judith Collins asked Collins whether she had been in contact with the Pacific community over this outbreak. Oh dear, she obviously did not get the memo about not drawing attention to race and that, by doing so, she would be playing a role in Covid racism against Pacific people.

The cluster was a church in Mangere that some Pacific Island people obviously go to. When Pacific Island people like Indira Stewart conflate one church community with the entire Pacific community just because some Pacific Islanders go to it, it gives the impression that Pacific Islanders are one homogenous group of people who spend all their time together. It also gives the impression that if one Pacific Islander has Covid or is worried they may be a contact, then they are having some sort of unique Pasifika Covid experience that the whole Pasifika community is affected by and the rest of us could never understand.

It was not just the Ministry of Health and Pacific leaders highlighting ethnicity. In another example, the woman who abused staff at a MIQ facility because her pizza was delivered very late and, according to her, was already eaten, defended her outburst saying;

“For my people I will fight. If yous aren’t gonna stand up for your own babies then yous have a different type of virus. “The only f*ing virus that is going round here is the Delta variant virus. Not us Polynesians, we ain’t a f***ing virus.”

I understand her frustration with hungry kids and all, but if fighting for your people this way involves yelling at staff who have probably done nothing but their best and throwing things at walls, then your people have no chance of remaining ethnically anonymous, and little chance of being regarded in a good light.

That is the issue. If you don’t want ethnicity to be a thing (like it isn’t for the people in Devonport), don’t make it a thing. Identity politics is the preserve of the stupid or the evil, and those who constantly want to promote grievance and disadvantage based on their race can’t have it both ways. They should also realise that it is they who are promoting the negative stereotypes and demeaning their own people. If a white person said they were fighting for us white people when they were abusing staff I would say, I am not their people.

Maori people are very similar in the way they single themselves out and promote negative stereotypes of themselves. Maori people need special priority vaccination rights because, apparently, they can’t get themselves vaccinated like the rest of us can. They give all manner of excuses for this, including one from John Tamihere, who said they have no warrants on their cars and no gas in the tank. 

Of course, it is all the coloniser’s fault, but blaming the coloniser does not take away from the fact that some Maori people, like Pacific people, constantly single themselves out and repeatedly promote themselves as inferior and unable to cope like everyone else can.

The reality is that they are doing just fine in all aspects of life including getting themselves vaccinated, but those who make their living promoting grievance and blaming the coloniser have to put their own people down and tell a different story to that which is the reality for most Maori and Pacific families. 

Ardern’s government is obsessed with ethnicity and certainly wants to make it a thing. Poor Ashley Bloomfield is so deep in the culture of this race-obsessed government that he could not help himself when he released the ethnicity of the cluster.

Pacific Islanders have only themselves to blame, though, if they get singled out because they allow their so-called leaders to single them out.

It is their leaders who are telling us that Pacific people are all the same and are unable to do the things the rest of us can. It is their leaders who invite the patronising bigotry of the left, and it is their leaders who make their ethnicity a thing.

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Pasifika Community Can’t Have It Both Ways
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