Oh God this question is annoying. As a Pakeha New Zealander it’s also a bit embarrassing.
Partly it’s annoying because I use Census ethnicity data a lot. But this is not the reason why I think the question, in itself, is wrong.
So here we go:
- ‘New Zealander’ is a nationality. It’s not an ethnicity. Nationality is about citizenship. Yes! We can all call ourselves New Zealanders. Whoop-de-doo! But the term says nothing at all about an individual’s ethnicity. If you answer ‘New Zealander’ to a question about ethnicity, then you are not answering the actual question asked of you.
- Now, ethnicity is not about citizenship. Ethnicity is about social identity. To say you are a member of an ethnic group is to say you share something in common with that group of people, such as language, cultural practices, customs, worldviews, and religious or spiritual belief.
- Saying ‘we should all just call ourselves New Zealanders’ in place of identifying with an ethnic group, is saying to people whose ethnic identity may be at the core of their existence – “Give up your ties to your heritage, your culture, your ancestors, and so much more, so I can believe we live in a harmonious society, where we all just ‘get along'”
And you know why this is embarrassing? It’s embarrassing because most of those who identify as New Zealander are Pakeha!
Let’s take Maori just as one example of an ethnic group whose identity is suppressed by this question. European settlers confiscated Maori lands, te reo was almost wiped out, Maori were even denied benefit and pension payments equal to Pakeha! (I really can’t begin to do this list justice.)
Why, why, would you now want to deny Maori their very identity?
We are not one culture. We are many cultures. I am very proud to tick NZ European / Pakeha on my Census form.
Edit: Corrected a few typos and grammatical errors.