Your Opinion Matters

Open.
Tolerant.
Free.

Get more
opinions

Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.

Manifesting the racial divide

Ani O'Brien: White identity is being manifested by those who most decry it.
Ani O'Brien
Editor - Digital, Contributing Writer
April 6th, 2022

OPINION: The Secret, a self-help manifesto about essentially wishing things into reality [simplified] was published back in 2006 and quickly became somewhat of a cult classic. All over the world people focused their minds on ‘telling the universe’ exactly what they wanted from life with the expectation that it would be made manifest.

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

I am sceptical by nature and at the time I was deeply cynical about the book and the ideas it promoted. However, I was considering the practice from the point of view of individuals attempting to wish success, love, and wealth into their lives. In 2022, we are seeing a very different process of loud, collective, and negative manifestation and I now hold genuine fears that this more pernicious enactment of The Secret’s techniques might actually be successful.

Never, in the history of the world, have we lived in more generally inclusive and accepting societies than those that make up the West nowadays. That is not to say things are perfect and we should consider the job of promoting equality and fairness done. However, it seems the further we have progressed, the more ardently some quarters of our society declare evil to be found everywhere.

Instead of ‘reds under the bed’, these zealots find racists in the pantry, homophobes in between the couch cushions, transphobes in the bedside drawer, and misogynists under the rug. Again, I am not disputing that there are still the odd ‘phobes’ or bigots lurking unwanted, but the insistence that there is an epidemic of these uncouth kinds of folk runs the risk of manifesting them into existence.

Senator Joseph McCarthy, the most famous 'communist hunter' during the second 'Red Scare' in the US.

Let’s focus on race, in particular. Much of New Zealand lives in incredibly multicultural communities - Wellington to a lesser extent and maybe that’s why bureaucrats are some of the worst offenders when it comes to imagining racists.

We, of all backgrounds, attend kindy together, then school. We are friends, neighbours, lovers, life partners, parents, family, and whanau. We cheer for the same sports teams, despair at the same petrol prices, and often share aspects of the same Kiwi sense of humour.

But despite our integrated, though at times flawed, society there are those who will have you believe that every white New Zealander harbours hatred towards New Zealanders of other ethnic backgrounds and especially Māori.

The reductive view these privileged theorists take paints the poorest, drug-addled beggar on the street as the oppressor of a successful and wealthy businessperson if only the beggar is white and the businessperson is not.Their concept of racial privilege is so lacking in nuance that a kid who has his shoes and raincoat supplied by a charity and is fed at school will be taught by his teacher that he is privileged over some of his more fortunate classmates because he is white and they are not.

This constant placing of people in diametrically opposite camps based on race is a recipe not for improved cohesion and furthering equality. It is a sure way to increase divisiveness and create distrust and animosity between groups of people. 

When already marginalised people are told constantly that they are “bad” because of the colour of their skin, or that people like them need to “sit down and shut up”, and that they have less claim to their country of birth than the bloke next door, they begin to see themselves as outsiders. 

And, when the criteria for being a ‘racist’ or a ‘white supremacist’ is so diluted that accusations are flung about as frequently and as flippantly as they currently are, the accused begin to be a larger and larger group.

In this context, a white identity group is being formed not by those it is being imposed on, but by the mostly white, educated, ‘liberals’ who somehow exclude themselves from the characterisations they make about other white people as entitled, greedy, mean, ignorant, privileged, and, of course, racist.

White identity is being manifested by those who most decry it.

People who have always been more invested in a ‘Kiwi Identity’ untethered to race, now find themselves being repeatedly told that they cannot understand their fellow countrymen and women because they are racially different. People who have heartily taken part in the haka and sung Tūtira Mai Ngā Iwi at the top of their lungs are now self-conscious and reluctant to attempt te Reo Māori for fear of being accused of appropriation or disrespect.

White New Zealanders are being told “you stay over there in your lane”, while Māori are told “look at those guys over there - they’re racist and hate you”, and New Zealanders of all other races and ethnicities wonder ‘where do we fit into this dysfunctional situation?’

Division is being driven from the top. Government agencies, academia, media, and our education system are all complicit in dreaming into reality a toxic 'white identity' that imposes the very worst of fringe extremism on a population that still makes up the majority of New Zealanders.

There is a glorification of making white New Zealanders uncomfortable as if that in itself is an acceptable and entertaining pastime by those at the top. It is inevitably white people with more institutional and economic power sneering at white people with much less than them. One should, in my opinion, rightly be made uncomfortable if they are racist, but often the shaming that happens is gratuitous and not in the pursuit of bringing an end to genuine racism.

Likewise, it seems to be a small group of wealthy, highly educated Māori who are driving the culture war from their end. Your average Māori, just like your average white New Zealander, is uninterested in ‘intersectional politics’ and reckons everyone should just get a fair go regardless of race. They certainly do not profit from the divisiveness like those who get air time and academic papers out of it. 

It is unlikely that the behaviours driving the manifestation of white identity are going to change anytime soon. The establishment white ‘liberals’ are too drunk on the power of denigrating ‘lower’ white people and promoting their own exceptionalism. They will continue to drive wedges between communities that otherwise live pretty harmoniously.

As with much of the antagonism in the culture wars, the accusation of racism is largely a weapon wielded by the powerful and fortunate against those who they see as the great unwashed and uneducated masses. They cancel others with relative power in order to retain control of the narrative and prevent the empowerment of the majority. Cancellations are punishments for deviating from the dominant discourse, but they are also warnings; ritualistic public shamings intended to make anyone who would be inclined to challenge norms, think twice.

There are ultimately more of us who wish to live peacefully in our multicultural country than those who want to pit us against each other. We can choose not to be afraid of the tactics used to make us comply. We can refuse to allow the toxic ‘White Identity’, they are attempting to manifest, to take hold. We should celebrate our shared values and manifest instead a Kiwi Identity that we can all be proud of.


Ani is a writer, political commentator, and the Editor of Digital for The Platform.