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  • Rodney Hide

Racist stats


It turns out numbers can be racist. Not just people. Or laws. But numbers.


That’s now the size of the racism hammer. Racism explains everything. It justifies anything. It shuts down debate. It drives policy.


“Oh that’s racist,” clinches any argument.


Racism is everywhere. It’s not just people who are racist but institutions too. For example, “the justice system is racist”. The judges mightn’t be. The police mightn’t be. But the system sure is.


Racism also exists underground and undetected through “unconscious racism”. Trained professionals must be deployed to detect your racism and, indeed, to correct your thinking and behaviour.


Numbers too are racist as in, “The very existence of disparities is racist.”


That slice of insight is from Press Gallery journalist Rukuwai Tīpene-Allen.


She clearly hasn’t given her writing much thought. I suspect, like her colleagues, she is more practiced and skilled in indignant outrage than critical thought. Her response to my critique will no doubt be further outrage.


For the record, disparities are a statistical observation: they don't think or act. They can't themselves be racist. They are a fact. They can no more be racist than a rock or the sun. Disparities could well be the result of racism but that's not what Ms Tīpene-Allen is saying. She is saying the disparities themselves are racist.


“The very existence of disparities is racist,” she opines.


Maori men on average are 5.3 cm taller than asian men. That’s a disparity. But it’s not racist. I don’t know what causes that disparity but it’s difficult to believe that it could be racism.


(I wonder if Ms Tīpene-Allen's racism would still exist if governments stopped collecting data by ethnicity. The difference would still be there but not noted.)


Disparities are everywhere. Maori women have nearly twice as many babies as European women.


Twenty-nine percent of Maori adults smoke. Ten percent of adult Europeans smoke.


Forty-eight percent of adult Maori are obese. Sixteen percent of Asians are. Everything measured differs on average from group to group. It would be odd if it didn’t.


But the difference now is racism. It doesn’t require anyone past or present to have done anything racist. It requires averages only to differ.


It’s difficult to know what to do about racist numbers. Would racism be reduced if I took up smoking? Or got fatter?


Of course, Ms Tīpene-Allen knows exactly what is needed: separatism.


Her specific examples are health disparities which demand “more money and energy put into Māori health… [and] ... a health system created and managed by Māori”.


Her answer to her made-up racism is actual racism. Who gets what, and who gets treated by which health system, should be determined by their race.


It’s easy to despair when daily such incendiary nonsense is dished up by news reporters.


But we should take comfort in another racist disparity: Maori women are more likely to be married or partnered to a non-Maori than a Maori. The same is true for Maori men. We are not just brothers and sisters but husbands and wives raising children together, living together, working together.


The government and the media are running a separatist agenda. It appears they are making a good play as they make up the daily news. But they are not. That’s because the rest of us are just getting on with our lives. Together.



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