To a hammer, everything is a nail. To a gimlet-eyed “anti-racist”, everything is “racist”. The racism-obsessive, as Theodore Dalrymple has written, “looks at the world through race-tinted spectacles, interprets every event or social phenomenon as a manifestation of racism either implicit or explicit, and in general has the soul of a born inquisitor”.

Enter, one Elle Sun-Min Park, a First Union delegate and “postcolonial theory” fan. As far as Park seems to be concerned, every instance of medical malpractice in New Zealand is more than just a stuff-up by lazy or overworked doctors, it’s proof positive of the racisty racism of wicked white – oops, “European Pakeha” – folks.

When our severely underfunded public health system has to strictly ration who gets to receive lifesaving treatment, unconscious biases mean that some of us will not receive the same care as others. Some of us are discriminated against due to race, language barriers, appearance, and economic background.

No proof is given for this sweeping statement. Just a handful of anecdotes and a clearly giant-sized chip on her shoulder.

As an adult, I have had to change my GP each time I moved flat as I could not afford to learn how to drive or buy a car. Moving flat is an annual event when you don’t own a house, so I saw plenty of different GPs. But at a cost of about $60 a session, I only made appointments when absolutely necessary and when I had several medical concerns I could discuss in a session.
For six or seven years, I had a sore spot on my breast. Over that time, I raised my concern with three or four doctors. None of them took my breast pain seriously or attempted to do any checkups. I was left to trust their expert opinions, that it is normal to have a bit of breast pain.
This changed as soon as I found an Asian female doctor.

So it had nothing to do with changing doctors constantly and not getting regular check-ups. A GP with a packed schedule, seeing a complete stranger for the first time, with a raft of complaints, isn’t just overworked and rushed – they’re racist.

Speaking of racism and bias: note that Park immediately zeroes on “Asian female” as the wondrous exception. Never mind that there might be far more prosaic explanations, such as that the lump might not have been detectable for the six or seven years previous.

Nah, easier to blame “racism”.

At the time I was studying postcolonial theories with particular focus on racism and unconscious biases. An older European Pakeha female specialist did the check-up prior to my mammogram. She took a great interest in my research.

This specialist confessed that she had recently realised that she had been prioritising European white names when she went through patient lists to call and arrange follow-up check-ups.

Had she really? Or was she just experiencing post-hoc confirmation bias prodded by her obvious “wokening”. The same sort of confirmation bias that leads a self-confessed anti-racism fanatic to find racism everywhere?

I am often being accused of linking every discriminatory encounter to unconscious biases and racism.

Well, no shit, Sherlock.

Speaking of unconscious bias, Park includes this hilariously telling bit of non-self-awareness.

There have been many occasions during the present pandemic when Asians all over the world were treated as a scapegoat for people’s fears of the “Chinese” virus (a tribute to Trump), verbally and physically assaulted while walking on the streets, being refused to be served, and met with hostilities.

Stuff

From whom? The attacks on Asians in the US were notably being committed largely by a clearly identifiable group (hint: it wasn’t whites). The New Zealand media are often conspicuously silent on the identities of similar attackers in NZ (unless, it seems, they’re of “European appearance”), which might suggest that such attacks don’t always support the narrative we’re being fed here.

Suspicion of Park’s own peculiar biases are only deepened by her argument that “I also happen to know many European Pakeha who are anti-vax”, while railing at “baselessly assuming that there is a vaccine hesitancy in the [Maori] community”.

Except that it’s not “baseless”: this is one place where there’s easily available hard data.

A study from 2020 found that “the proportion of fully immunised children was particularly low among Maori”. Contrary to Park’s excuse-making about “access”, Maori in fact “reported decreased levels of vaccine confidence”. Vaccine skeptics were significantly likely to be Maori or Pasifika.

Without rigorous data to back up Park’s claims there is no reason to take them seriously. The fact that where there is rigorous data, her claims are directly contradicted, even more so.

Extraordinary claims – such as that New Zealand is riddled with bias and racism – require extraordinary evidence. Anecdotes are not extraordinary evidence.

Without hard data, Park’s claims mirror that bloke down the pub who just reckons that Asians are takin’ all the good jobs. But then, as Dalrymple also writes, “There is no racist like an antiracist”.

A slightly different take…

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Lushington D. Brady

Punk rock philosopher. Liberalist contrarian. Grumpy old bastard. I grew up in a generational-Labor-voting family. I kept the faith long after the political left had abandoned it. In last decade or...