Attitudes in this country have changed considerably over the past century and racism is far less overt than it once was. However, racism still persists and is most blatant when it comes to refugees and migrants who are still too frequently viewed as less worthy of basic rights. The case of 300,000 migrants stranded in New Zealand due to Covid restrictions, now out of work and without access to welfare support, is the latest glaring example. Labour has said one of the ways to address racism is for New Zealand’s history to be taught in a more rounded way.
Labour’s own history of racism should be part of the curriculum. In the period after WW1 they denounced the Tories for not being racist enough against the Chinese. In the 1930s, the first Labour government preferred “Aryan immigrants” to Jewish refugees from the Nazis. In the 1970s, after the end of the long post-WW2 economic boom, Labour began the dawn raids on Pacific Island “overstayers”. In the 1980s, they supported Muldoon stripping tens of thousands of Samoans of NZ citizenship. Attacking migrant workers with new restrictions rushed through parliament by the Clark regime in 2008. And in the run-up to the 2017 election, a key part of Labour’s propaganda was trying to stir up anti-Chinese racism – yet again.
Below is a reblog from 2015 looking specifically at anti-Chinese racism and some of the articles on Redline. The articles on the White New Zealand policy are from Philip Ferguson’s doctoral thesis on that period of history:
The Chinese were the people most discriminated against in New Zealand society in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The formal, legal discrimination was centred on immigration controls which restricted entry in general for Chinese and which also imposed a substantial poll tax on Chinese migrants.
The White New Zealand policy culminated in 1920 with legislation that passed control of Chinese immigration into the hands of a government minister. At this point Chinese migration was pretty much halted altogether.
Support for these racist immigration controls united Tory-style traditional conservatives, liberals, feminists, a layer of Maori leaders, the ‘militant’ leaders of the Labour Party and ‘moderate’ elements atop the overall labour movement.
Below are the nine articles we’ve stuck up on the White New Zealand policy and the theoretical tools for analysing it. We’ll be looking at the development of the policy in the 1890s and first two decades of the twentieth century in future feature articles.
Written in 1997: Arrested Development: the historiography of White New Zealand
Written in 1997: Analysing the White New Zealand policy: developing a theoretical framework
Written in 1997-98: Colonial social relations, the Chinese and the beginnings of New Zealand nationalist discourse
Written in 1998: Racialisation, subordination and the first exclusionary legislation
Drafted in 1998-99: Institutionalising the White New Zealand policy: the parliamentary debates of the early 1890s
Drafted in 1999/2000: (Re)presenting the parliamentary debates on White New Zealand in the 1890s – the data
Drafted in 2000: Analysing and contextualising the 1890s parliamentary debates on White New Zealand
Drafted in 2001: The making of the White New Zealand policy, pt 8: Consolidation – the social, political and intellectual context 1900-1910
Drafted in 2002: The making of the White New Zealand policy, pt 9: White New Zealand entrenched, 1910-1920
Some other articles on anti-Chinese racism in the Labour Party
The NZ Labour Party and anti-Chinese racism
A stain that won’t wash off – Labour’s racist campaign against those with “Chinese surnames”