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Another Key foot in mouth

Written By: - Date published: 7:17 am, November 23rd, 2009 - 39 comments
Categories: colonialism, john key, national, racism - Tags: ,

John Key sure is a class act. Not. Latest example*:

Stadium funds: We’re not Indian-givers, says Key

Prime Minister John Key yesterday said the Government was unlikely to ask for its $15 million back if the Forsyth Barr Stadium is not finished in time for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. … The issue of whether the $15 million granted by the Government towards the stadium might have to be given back arose after the Otago Daily Times obtained a copy of the grant’s terms and conditions under the Official Information Act in August.

When questioned whether the Government might ask for the money back if it was not finished in time, Mr Key said: “I don’t think so. “We’re not Indian-givers.”

The phrase “Indian-givers” is, for very good reasons, hardly used these days. It arises from the time when Native American culture was being obliterated by European settlers during their Westward expansion. It’s a derogatory term coined by the Europeans (arising out of cultural misunderstandings about concepts of ownership) which has come to mean to “give” something and then take it back again. The term is listed in most dictionaries as “offensive” or “sometimes offensive”, and it is of course particularly offensive to Native Americans.

There’s a deep streak of institutional racism in the National Party. Recent examples include Lockwood Smith’s “because their hands are smaller” clanger (‘Asians have small hands’ remarks ‘racist’, ‘daft’, say leaders), Melissa Lee’s fatal “criminals from South Auckland” comment, Sandra Goudie’s “the others earned their seats” insult to Maori, and the extreme case of John Carter ringing up a talk back radio show (hosted by John Banks) to impersonate a Maori dole bludger called “Hone”. At the Party level of course we had the divisive (and now conveniently forgotten) Orewa rhetoric, the Iwi/Kiwi billboard campaign, and so on.

So was Key’s “Indian-giver” comment racist or just crass and unthinking? All down to your definitions of course, but crass and unthinking at the least. I know I’m a hopelessly PC leftie, but really, is it too much to ask that our Prime Minister, who represents our face to the world, is able to demonstrate a little cultural awareness and sensitivity?

[* Hat tip Marty Mars]

39 comments on “Another Key foot in mouth”

  1. BLiP 1

    is it too much to ask that our Prime Minister, who represents our face to the world, is able to demonstrate a little cultural awareness and sensitivity?

    Yep.

  2. Geek 2

    R0b, I’m not going to call you a hypocrite because you did stay silent on the whole Harawira incident. However I would expect to see some of those who defended him jump up and point out that Melissa Lee or Lockwood Smith are not racist.

    • felix 2.1

      Ok I’ll bite. How is this related to Hone Harawira’s remarks?

      (I’m hoping you can draw more of a parallel than “someone found this offensive and someone found that offensive so they must be the same thing”)

      • Geek 2.1.1

        Because people like yourself got into schisms to try and explain why the English in it was actually referring to a subset so the comments weren’t racist. yet Melissa Lee who never even mentioned race now gets listed amongst r0bs National racists.

        Lockwood Smiths comments could have the same logic applied as that applied to Harawira’s, “Oh he was talking about Asians with small hands and not saying all Asians have small hands. Really we all know and accept that he was racist in those comments but the difference is you won’t find me being a hypocrite and try to claim it wasn’t.

        • felix 2.1.1.1

          I don’t think I’ve ever claimed that Harawira is or isn’t a racist, just that those particular comments didn’t prove anything.

          I’d say the same about Lee and Lockwood – in all three cases the comments themselves aren’t necessarily racist but they all seem to imply some degree of racism on some level.

          • Geek 2.1.1.1.1

            I don’t think Lee’s comments in particular were racist. I also waver on the extent of Harawira’s racism. Smiths were a problem because he wouldn’t understand the racist nature of them. It is a major reason why he couldn’t be in cabinet.

            That still doesn’t change that there were a number of people on this site who staunchly defended Harawira who you will never see applying the same logic they used there to this list.

  3. gitmo 3

    Get a life.

    • Geek 3.1

      That’s why I like you gitmo. When you have no real answer you turn to personal insults. Always brightens my day when I see you resort to this kind of response.

      • Tigger 3.1.1

        Actually gitmo, I’d prefer if our PM got an education…

      • gitmo 3.1.2

        My pleasure oh ancient one, my bad anyway as I see r0b put a disclaimer in his post…

        “I know I’m a hopelessly PC leftie”

        Even so I would have thought that there’s much better things to take offence at than this phraseology, it’s a bit like that rabble screeching at each other over the march on Saturday rather than engaging in debate over the real problem.

        Open mike 21/11/09

        • Bright Red 3.1.2.1

          I don’t think it’s PC to ask that our PM doesn’t use racist terms. Everyone would be upset if someone made a comment linking his ethnicity and his former profession in a derogatory manner.

        • Geek 3.1.2.2

          Can’t disagree with you on that. The way I see it the legislation just moved the point where inconsequential is decided from a jury to the police. I don’t like that but it is more to do with a jury of my peers deciding rather than the police acting as jury.

          Al of which does nothing to address the culture of child abuse that exists. I suppose none of this is really anything to do with r0b’s post.

  4. Lew 4

    I think the dictum about never attributing to malice what can adequately be explained by incompetence applies here.

    Does that make it any better? Hell no.

    L

  5. jcuknz 5

    What does it matter if he asks for it back or not …. we ratepayers of Dunedin and Otago will still have to provide the funds through rates or taxes. It doesn’t matter if the stadium is finished or not there is still Carisbrook to hold the games in. Which begs the question as to why all the money has been spent on the project in the first place.

    My first thouight was Indians came from Asia, or Fiji, rather than American Indians, and a regretable statement to make.

  6. tc 6

    Methinks you are a tad sensitive and over expectant and need to focus on the issues, I appreciate where you’re coming from but you need to relax about JK for many reasons.

    Key’s will go down in the books as one if not the worst PM’s we’ve ever had with no sigificant strengths outside simple PR traits….certainly none in leadership/decision making/political nous etc etc.

    Leave him to continue his stand up/dress up ways out of office as his advisors would be saying ‘nice clothes emporer’ and ‘the people love the corporate speak leader’.

    Like the class clown he is, ignore him, he’ll flunk the grade at the final exams.

  7. vto 7

    r0b, at the risk of sounding boring given the oh-so-frequent displays of hypocrisy and double-standards on here, why does it even matter? Clearly, following most of the apologists on this site for Hone Harawira, racism or insensitivity no longer matters. But then again it does depend on the colour of accuser’s skin as to whether or not some statement is racist or not.

    And also, why do you comment on this and not Harawira’s crappola? Is racism not of concern to you? Or only when it suits your own politics?

    • r0b 7.1

      why does it even matter?

      Because he’s the PM? Because having a culturally insensitive clod as a PM is not an asset to a country?

      And also, why do you comment on this and not Harawira’s crappola?

      There were more than enough people commenting on Harawira, didn’t need my 2c.

    • rocky 7.2

      Clearly, following most of the apologists on this site for Hone Harawira, racism or insensitivity no longer matters.

      I’ll just note yet again that there were more posts condemning Harawira than the other way around.

  8. outofbed 8

    Racist ?
    Look no further then the National MP for the West Coast and Tasman the lovely Mr Auchinvole.
    During an e Election campaign public meeting at Mapua Public Hall
    Mr Auchinvole in a reply to a question about genetic engineering said

    “Of course we don’t want it in new Zealand but it could do some good in hot countries where they grow bananas and the people don’t work very hard”

    An embarrassed hush descended on the meeting nobody could Adam and Eve it
    I was gobsmacked what a plonker that man is.
    No wonder they keep him locked in a cupboard

  9. SHG 9

    The ceremony of “reciprocal giving” (for want of a better description) in Native American culture is known as the “potlatch”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potlatch

    Potlatching was not an exercise in touchy-feely altruism; to compare it to Western practices it lies somewhere between corporate philanthropy and loansharking.

    The status of any given family is raised not by who has the most resources, but by who distributes the most resources. The hosts demonstrate their wealth and prominence through giving away goods (…) To give a potlatch enhanced one’s reputation and validated social rank, the rank and requisite potlatch being proportional, both for the host and for the recipients by the gifts exchanged. Prestige increased with the lavishness of the potlatch.

    The recipient of gifts from a wealthy benefactor was placed under an enormous material and symbolic burden, because he was now under an obligation to repay the gifts at some time in the future. To receive gifts from a benefactor was to be forced into debt to that benefactor.

    If one wanted to put on a Marxist hat, the potlatch was nothing more than a cultural device designed to ensure that the richest members of society stayed rich and powerful and to ensure that the poorest members of society stayed in debt. So let’s not get too idealistic about pure Native American altruism being minsterpreted by De Evil White Man.

    Anyway, fast forward. All that historical context aside, for a rich white guy like Key to refer to “Indian givers” is fucking ignorant. This for me is Key’s first real facepalm moment. Very disappointing.

  10. ben 10

    Does this blog have anything substantive to say? Or is there so little to complain about that political correctness is all that’s left?

    In case you hadn’t noticed National is bending over backwards to accommodate racial minorities in NZ. If National can be accused of racism it would be in the other direction. Not the first time this morning the Standard has it exactly backwards.

  11. (Possibly not the real) Paul Henry 11

    But what term means someone who gives a gift then demands it back? What term means a kiss that involves tongue interaction? What term describes a rolling flow of spectator exuberance around a stadium? What term means someone loading half the chambers of a pistol, spinning them, putting the muzzle to their temple and pulling the trigger?

    • Bright Red 11.1

      assume this isn’t the real Paul.

      French kissing isn’t derogatory.

      The Mexican Wave was invented/popularised at the Mexico Olympics

      Russian roulette was apparently played by Tsarist officers.

      Indian giver is a derogatory term based on a misinterpretation of native American gift economy and used to denigrate native Americans as dishonest, and morally inferior to Europeans, justifying their conquest, slaughter, and dispossession.

      It’s not wrong to use any term that incorporates the name of a people, but it’s wrong to use a racist term.

  12. (Possibly not the real) Paul Henry 12

    What term means a message that is altered by multiple retellings? What term means drinking in order to boost confidence? What term means shaving one’s nether regions?

    Bright Red context is important though, given the context it is unlikely Key was trying to denigrate American Indians. He was simply using a widely understood phrase to describe something that few other terms describe, if any, I can’t think of any.

    IrishBill: You may actually be Paul Henry but I doubt it. Until it’s confirmed you are him you will not be posting under his name here.

    • BLiP 12.1

      You blew it with abusing people from the Netherlands. Up till then you sort of had half a point, except that none of the examples given were based on ignorance and put-down.

    • Bright Red 12.2

      probably not PH, how about we play this game a little more

      what means a person who displays a slavish devotion to their boss in the nature that supposedly expressed by black slaves who lived in the masters home?

      What name is given to several species of spiderwort, small invasive weed?

      Let me say it again – the problem isn’t with using a term that includes the name of an ethnic group. The problem is using a racist term.

  13. (Possibly not the real) Paul Henry 13

    Bright Red I honestly have absolutely no idea. Are you sure those are widely know terms?

    • Bright Red 13.1

      the terms are house n*gger and wandering jew.

      see, Brazilian wax is not an insulting term towards Brazilians but wandering jew is an insulting term towards jews, which is why people generally don’t use it anymore

      Likewise, French kissing isn’t an insulting term, Indian giver is.

  14. (Possibly not the real) Paul Henry 14

    I just can’t think of a term that describes someone who gives a gift then asks for it back. Mother-in-law?

    • Pascal's bookie 14.1

      “Wanker”, “tosser”, “Fuck-knuckle” “Arsehole”, any of these would suffice, there are many more.

      There’s a hint there as to why “indian giver” is kinda dodgy.

  15. (probably not) Paul Henry 15

    But Pascal all those terms are ambiguous.

    [lprent: You’re now in auto-moderation for probably being a stupid prick doing a bit of identity capture. Either prove to us in a very short time that you are ‘Paul Henry’ or I will give you a permanent ban for wasting my time. ]

  16. (definitely not) Paul Henry 16

    I am Paul Henry, The Paul Henry to myself, but not that git from Breakfast.

    [lprent: Yeah and I run NZ. In other words this still sounds like bullshit. You get exactly one more try. Change the pseudonym or prove your real name is Paul Henry via e-mail. ]

  17. felix 17

    What about “porch-monkey”?

    • Geek 17.1

      I wanna take back “porch-monkey”. My gramma used it all the time and she wern’t no racist.

  18. Rex Widerstrom 18

    Key’s crassness: Is it National’s nigger in the woodpile?

    [Seems conservative parties are prone to outbursts of antiquated phraseology which reveals their crass insensitivity while leftist parties struggle to invent new tautologies to ensure the politically correct nomenclature of bloody manhole covers. To quote a philosopher on the subject of humanity’s stupidity: D’Oh!]

  19. bobo 19

    I think its all a bit precious, will we stop using the term dutch courage, . Surely there’s more than enough to attack Key on than a old false stereotypical saying .I admit I have used it at times over the years , line me up and shoot me… with Phil Goff..

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