Friday, March 03, 2006

I am a New Zealander on the Census

Capitalism bad tree pretty has a post regarding this issue noting that Ethnicity and nationality are different.

The problem here is a diferent confusion of terms. In this case race with ethnicity - ethnicity is "culture" (more or less) I could declare my culture is basically independent of any particular race (and I do). So how do I answer? New Zealander is about as good an answer as you get then.

For example if they want to decide whether to build more Asian shops more KFC or more burger joints in my region it is a stupid question - I would be likely to give them totally the wrong answer because I don't identify with my race at all or share more than the nominal New Zealand level of culture with it.

Two questions then spring to mind
1) Why do they need to know my ethnicity?
2) Are people answering based on ethnicity anyway?

(1) Centers on how the statistics are presumably going to be used for things like "there are twice as many Maori now as before - therefore we must 'support/discriminate against' them." I believe my ethnicity should not count at all in this regard.

(2) If you are Maori and European do you say "Maori and European"? Do you just tick the one you identify with? Do you tick the one that makes up most of your genetic material? Are you really measuring ethnicity?

CBTP suggests that she might use pakeha.
I personally find pakeha to be a silly word. It is using a foreign word to name a group - and it isn't entirely clear what that group is (is it white people? does it include Russians? how about Chinese? Iranians?). All that it is is a nod of the head to maori and their ancestors, rather like maori might give a nod of the head to our ancestors if they called themselves by some old name that captain cook might have made up.

Anyway - fundamentally
A) The group should be named by its own word.
B) If we are talking about ethnicity, the group should have a consistent name around the world - i.e. if english people are "white" in America they must be "white" in NZ (if they share the same ethnicity).


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