On 20 March, it emerged that 10 years of public documents from NZ spy agencies contained zero mentions of rightwing extremism. Yet narratives invoking racialised fears and myths of Pakeha superiority run deep.
We have officially experienced two acts of terrorism in New Zealand. The first was the bombing of the Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior ship by French government agents in July 1985. The second is almost too painful to write: our sadness, anger and confusion for the white supremacist massacre and maiming of Muslim New Zealanders at prayer is profound.
For now, we have to attend to our personal, community and institutional needs – recognise those we have lost, mourn, support those victimised in all ways possible, reassert our community relationships, change gun laws, investigate whether security agencies ‘dropped the ball’, and provide accountability. All of these things, and others are vital today and in the years ahead.
Yet, we might also reflect on the structural and societal underpinnings of this terror. Because despite their significant differences in nature and impact, these forms of violence are bound together through their ultimate expressions of supremacy. Continue reading Seeping Supremacy→
As Māori society began to disintegrate, the justice system mopped up those who were deemed a public nuisance. In the 1930’s Māori “lads” were sent off to borstal “in their own interests” because they were judged to have come from bad surroundings – a practice since taken over by youth justice institutions. In 1902, Māori constituted 2.8 percent of all prisoners received – by 1934 that number had risen to 8.9 percent. Prison sucked up all types of offenders from the lower strata of society: the small time repeat offenders, drunks, vagrants, the mentally ill, and so on.
By the 1930’s, while New Zealand had very little crime, it had an average prison population three times greater in proportion to the general population, than that of England and Wales.
Prison provided social benefits: it hid our failures from view; it allowed politicians and the courts to maintain public credibility; it satisfied a public demand for retribution.  New Zealand had become a punitive and mean-spirited society. 
The impact of the Māori urban migration of the 1950’s was predictable.  Between 1954 and 1958, reported Māori youth offending rose by 50%. One of the factors that caused this increase related not to how Māori behaved in this strange and new urban world but how they were treated by non-Māori. Māori urban migrants were perceived and treated as a potentially dangerous underclass. We were outsiders.
The Police, like much of the public service in the 1950’s was unapologetically monocultural. In 1951, the Police boasted one Māori police officer, Bill Carran, who had joined the police in 1920, and retired in 1958, as an Assistant Commissioner. Carran, of mixed descent, was referred to disparagingly as ‘the Black Tracker’ by his colleagues, and survived by downplaying his Māori heritage, and emphasising his pākehā side. 
When Commissioner JB Young canvassed his staff in 1950 about recruiting Māori , he found them ‘almost unanimously opposed’. The Senior Sergeant at Taihape commented:
The average European would strongly resent being corrected or reprimanded by a Maori, particularly in some districts where the colour line is still observed. On the other hand, the average Māori appointee would be inclined to suffer from an inferiority complex when dealing with Europeans, or be imbued with authority and fail to use discretion when dealing with Maoris.” Continue reading The Impact of Race Relations on Criminal Justice→
This commentary deals with two recent issues that arose in relation to the New Zealand Police (NZ Police): the first is the recent ‘confession’ of the Police Commissioner that some members of the NZ Police suffered from ‘unconscious bias’, and the second is the decision by officials at NZ Police National Headquarters to designate researcher and criminologist Jarrod Gilbert as ‘unsuitable’ for carrying out research because of his gang associations.
The New Zealand Police, Bias, Racism and Bullshit
Humbug: deceptive misrepresentation, short of lying, especially by pretentious word or deed, of somebody’s own thoughts, feelings, or attitudes.
Max Black (1982)
According to the American philosopher Harry Frankfurt (2005: 1) “[o]ne of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted”. I agree entirely with Professor Frankfurt’s summation of just how much bullshit is spread around, except to add the caveat that some of us contribute a whole lot more bullshit to the pile that invariably washes over the social context. Continue reading Unconscious Bias, NZ Police and Bullshit→
In the wake of 9/11, contemporary Islamophobia has become globalised, especially in the ‘West’. In turn, ‘a global stock of clichés, stereotypes and folk myths about the Muslim ‘Other’’ are frequently drawn upon to inform common sense about local circumstances and local events. These processes can underpin ‘a seemingly never-ending series of moral panic spirals in which the perceived deviance of Muslims is amplified’.