There’s no question that Hone Harawira’s comments were stupid, but I don’t believe they were racist. For a start, the white mofos reference began in Buddy Mikaere’s email to Harawira, so it’s not entirely inappropriate that those words were used in return. I quite often, when replying to emails or blog comments, use the words of those I’m replying to to make my point.
Harawira has been around for a while and should have foreseen the reaction his comments would cause, but that in itself doesn’t make this a hanging offence (note this is a metaphor, I don’t mean it literally). Harawira has clarified that his comment about white mofos was not a comment about all white people, and without evidence to the contrary, I think we should take him at his word. I also believe Harawira’s apology to be genuine he’s not generally one to say something unless he means it! From his apology:
Firstly I readily apologise for the poor choice of words in that email. I suspect if I had said something like ‘European colonisers have been responsible for the loss of more than 63 million acres of Maori land over the past 150 years and it is inappropriate that you should be holding me to standards set by people with such little regard for Maori land and Maori custom, it wouldn’t have rated a mention at all in the media.
My choice of words however has led to a flood of emails and accusations from all and sundry and for that I do apologise.
I apologise to the party because the party has done many wonderful things to advance Maori aspiration and I know that my words have caused considerable damage and unnecessary harm to our relationships with other people and with other parties.
I note also that my comments have been misunderstood as an attack against all Pakeha and that’s caused a lot of damage to my own credibility throughout the Te Tai Tokerau and throughout Aotearoa as well.
Over the weekend I met with the party president and co-vice presidents and took on board some very good advice about how best to deal with controversial emails and I intend to follow that advice to ensure that such responses as my last one do not happen again in future.
I recognise that there needs to be some serious bridge building on my part with my caucus colleagues and I will be doing so over the next few weeks.
It annoys me that many of those calling for Hone to be sacked are doing so out of their own self-interest. One has to wonder if some of those supporting Labour are simply getting their own back on the Maori party for going into coalition with NACT. After all, you don’t see the same faux outrage from Labour over Trevor Mallard continuing to call the Attorney-General ‘tinkerbell’ in the house. Or is homophobia acceptable because it’s discrimination against a minority?
I thought about writing a list of MPs from both Labour and National who have made rude and offensive comments at least as bad as Harawira’s, and who have got away with a simple apology. Ultimately though, that wouldn’t be entirely constructive, so I just ask people to consider whether this is, metaphorically speaking, a case of political jurisprudence.
On the issue of the IF… THEN comment. People can refuse to believe basic logic if they like, but one should consider how boring the world would be if colourful metaphors were banned simply on the basis that they would cause offence if taken literally.
As for the original issue of Harawira disappearing on holiday in Paris, it’s entirely fair to criticise him over that, provided it’s to the same extent Rodney Hide and Bill English are. I supported Harawira when he disappeared to Alice Springs as in my mind it was a valid political action that I want to see our MPs engage in. This time however, it was personal, and Harawira should pay something back (although he did pay for the day trip himself).