The Dim-Post

September 6, 2012

That word again

Filed under: poetry,Politics — danylmc @ 8:25 am

There’s a national hui on water rights next week. When the Maori Party were asked if they’d go they were very careful to repeat John Key’s talking points on the issue: there’s no point in going, because water rights need to be negotiated iwi by iwi, hapu by hapu ect.

Hone Harawira drew attention to this in his usual subtle way, writing on his Facebook page:

Time John Key realised a few home truths like (1) he can tell his little house niggers what to do, but (2) the rest of us don’t give a shit for him or his opinions!

Which works on the same level as Colin Craig referring to John Key as gay – the point is the attention gained through the reaction it provokes.

Anyway, free-associating a bit, I guess most people probably know this already but the term ‘house nigger’ refers to a famous speech by Malcolm X:

It’s a bit discordant to see a guy in a nice suit and perfect diction sneering at the house negros for their nice clothes and good diction, but he’s still a great speaker.

A few weeks ago I mentioned Wallace Stevens on the blog, and Scott Hamilton asked me if I’d read his poem, Like Decorations in a Nigger Cemetery. I hadn’t – it’s an amazing work. A modernist classic, left out of all the anthologies, presumably because of the title.

In the far South the sun of autumn is passing
Like Walt Whitman walking along a ruddy shore.
He is singing and chanting the things that are part of him,
The worlds that were and will be, death and day.
Nothing is final, he chants. No man shall see the end.
His beard is of fire and his staff is a leaping flame.

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50 Comments »

  1. The name of Hone’s political party is becoming increasingly ironic.

    The man is noise and bluster without substance. It’s depressing that he apparently has some voter support.

    Comment by Ataahua — September 6, 2012 @ 9:22 am

  2. You can say what you like about Harawira’s political stance but you have to admit; the man calls a spade a spade.

    Comment by Conrad — September 6, 2012 @ 9:40 am

  3. the man calls a spade a spade.

    I can only assume this was unintentional…

    Comment by Gregor W — September 6, 2012 @ 9:52 am

  4. Nope, swiftly picked up by you though.

    Comment by Conrad — September 6, 2012 @ 9:57 am

  5. I guess most people probably know this already
    Based on Kiwiblog, I’d say an explanation wouldn’t go amiss. I would have missed the spade thing, myself.

    Comment by lyndon — September 6, 2012 @ 10:00 am

  6. Conrad you just won the internets.

    All over New Zealand white middle class people are excited that they can say “house nigger” with impunity.

    Comment by David C — September 6, 2012 @ 10:07 am

  7. Hone’s use of “nigger” is in context with NWA’s use of it. The word is very different when it comes from within the community than without. Hone is within the community so I think the best thing for all us non-Maori to do would be pipe down.

    Comment by Hugh — September 6, 2012 @ 10:21 am

  8. Hone can say nigger if he wants, but “house nigger” is a serious insult no matter how you slice it, right up there with Uncle Tom.

    Comment by Stephen J — September 6, 2012 @ 10:35 am

  9. The word is very different when it comes from within the community than without.

    Except of course that HH is not actually within the African American community.

    Or by ‘community’, do you mean anyone repressed/abused/enslaved by WASPs – to whit, can the Irish or Irish descended now reasonably drop the N-Bomb in conversation?

    Comment by Gregor W — September 6, 2012 @ 10:36 am

  10. I guess most people probably know this already but the term ‘house nigger’ refers to a famous speech by Malcolm X

    I always assumed Malcolm X popularised it as an analogy for contemporary society, rather than created it himself.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — September 6, 2012 @ 10:42 am

  11. Except of course that HH is not actually within the African American community.

    I recall Hone speaking about going to the US and expecting to feel a brotherhood with African Americans, and then not experiencing it at all. He remarked that the people he met with whom he felt a connection were Native American. It wasn’t down-trodden minority whom he felt a kinship with, but dispossesed victims of colonisation.

    [not quotes, I can't recall or find reference to his exact words, but the basic idea is carried]

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — September 6, 2012 @ 10:47 am

  12. Actually Hugh, I disagree. Hone is apart from the low socio-economic community of Black/African American/Ni-BONG Compton that spawned NWA. His whakapapa is Ngāti Hau, Ngāti Wai, Ngāti Hine,Te Aupōuri, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Whātua, and Pākehā. A more appropriate term for him to use would be house coconuts (in the broader sense of belonging to the wider Polynesian culture); or to bring to a purely state level, house hori. I leave it to you to draft an appropriate instruction to Hone, given you appear to be so willing to provide one for the rest of us on the use of language that we should or should not use.

    Comment by The Near Sheriff — September 6, 2012 @ 10:49 am

  13. @ Graeme E

    That’s my point wrt to the Irish. It could reasonably be applied to the Scots as well I guess.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 6, 2012 @ 11:23 am

  14. Who was it said that good white liberals are appalled by 10% of young “niggers” in jail, but can accept 20% of African-Americans in jail?

    Of course “house nigger” is offensive, and of course Harawira shouldn’t have used it, but that’s nothing compared with the daily offences caused by the government of the “Maori” Party.

    Real lives or tender ears, choose your priorities.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — September 6, 2012 @ 11:25 am

  15. Except of course that HH is not actually within the African American community.

    “Nigger” has been and continues to be used in New Zealand as a derogatory term for Maori among others. So on those grounds, yeah, Hone is more able to claim it than I am. “House nigger” refers to a role that NZ has no local analogue for, since we never had slavery. Perhaps kupapa would be along the same lines, but see http://readingthemaps.blogspot.co.nz/2011/07/should-kupapa-be-swear-word.html .

    I’m not sure about how I feel about this notion of rights to use a word. I think to the extent we’re supposed to waive objections because a user of an offensive term comes from a group that has it applied to them, that’s more a guideline than a rule. For me the offensive force is mostly in labelling the Maori Party as collaborators — the crude terminology is just icing.

    Comment by Stephen J — September 6, 2012 @ 11:27 am

  16. So Hone should have called them Quislings instead?

    Comment by Conrad — September 6, 2012 @ 11:34 am

  17. Only if applied to Maori Party supporters living in Norsewood.

    Hone could have appealed to erstwhile political base by going all Sanctuary on it and calling the MParty “panting, supine lapdogs waiting for a tummy rub from Key” or some such.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 6, 2012 @ 11:44 am

  18. It is obvious. Hone is speaking from a position of priviledge, and us honkey motherfuckas should shut up about it, amirite Hugh?

    FM

    Comment by Fooman — September 6, 2012 @ 11:45 am

  19. @Gregor/Conrad

    Yes, he could have done that, said Quisling or Fifth Column or even Kapo, but Hone is not (contra some) a fool, he knows the NZ media is staffed by 13 year olds who have never read a history book but live on Facebook, so he went for maximum impact, and got it.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — September 6, 2012 @ 11:50 am

  20. Oh the irony of calling Tariana ‘Holocaust’ Turia a ‘Kapo’! That would be hugely offensive. How about Hiwis?

    And you’re absolutely right sammy 2.0 any of those would fly right over the heads of the repeaters.

    Comment by Conrad — September 6, 2012 @ 12:00 pm

  21. Agreed sammy.

    But I also think it also makes him look like a tool to anyone other than his very narrow constituency.
    I get the feeling that he is a guy who wants to be taken seriously as ‘radical turned statesman’ so to me, dumb rabble-rousing shit like this is counterproductive.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 6, 2012 @ 12:01 pm

  22. Oh the irony of calling Tariana ‘Holocaust’ Turia…

    After Turia’s comment, Simon Upton, then a senior member of the opposition wrote a considered piece (as he often did) agreeing with her by assessing the treatment of Maori against the definition of Genocide in the Genocide Convention.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — September 6, 2012 @ 12:05 pm

  23. This is so pathetic. Why can’t Hone get a job?

    Comment by Dan — September 6, 2012 @ 12:07 pm

  24. True Graeme, but to my mind ‘genocide’ as coined by Lemkin doesn’t equate to ‘Holocaust’ – a particular example of genocide. For example the Stolen Generation fits within the definition of genocide, but couldn’t really be equated with the Holocaust.

    Comment by Conrad — September 6, 2012 @ 12:11 pm

  25. Oh and Gregor W:
    There were 218 party votes for the Maori party in the Wairarapa electorate, and 2,736 Maori party votes in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti electorate. So there might be a Maori party supporter or two in Norsewood (population about 330).

    *All figures shamelessly cribbed from wikipedia.

    Comment by Conrad — September 6, 2012 @ 12:49 pm

  26. @ stephen j

    ““House nigger” refers to a role that NZ has no local analogue for, since we never had slavery.”

    IF you believe that can I suggest you read a bit more NZ history.

    Comment by insider — September 6, 2012 @ 12:51 pm

  27. insider: I’m aware of Maori slavery. Please substitute “race-based chattel slavery”.

    Comment by Stephen J — September 6, 2012 @ 12:52 pm

  28. In the Far North the son of Titewhai is posting
    Like his mum, he walks on a sharp shelled shore
    He is speaking and posting the things that are part of him
    Nothing will change, he chants. No one will see the end
    While …

    Comment by M0 — September 6, 2012 @ 1:02 pm

  29. How about Hiwis?

    “Hiwis not Kiwis.”

    I can see the billboard now…..

    Comment by Gregor W — September 6, 2012 @ 1:10 pm

  30. there might be a Maori party supporter or two in Norsewood (population about 330).

    More than that! At Norsewood’s polling station at the Norsewood School:

    Maori Roll enrolled voters gave the Maori Party 3 party votes, and the Maori Party candidate 3 votes also.
    General Roll enrolled voters gave the Maori Party 2 party votes (and the Mana Party one party vote).

    ref: http://electionresults.govt.nz/electionresults_2011/e9/html/e9_part8.html

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — September 6, 2012 @ 1:48 pm

  31. Basically, the only people who should be able to ‘own’ that word are people with African descent. Everyone else should jsut not use that word.

    Somewhat related. Rush Limbaugh says Obama isn’t slave enough http://www.theroot.com/buzz/limbaugh-obama-doesnt-have-slave-blood
    “Obama did not grow up in poverty. His grandmother, the typical white woman, worked in a bank. Don’t give me this ‘down with the struggle’ business. He wasn’t down. In 2008, the Democrats were wringing their hands because he wasn’t authentically black … He wasn’t down with the struggle. He doesn’t have slave blood.”

    Comment by max — September 6, 2012 @ 1:49 pm

  32. Nice work there Graeme, although the 6 Maori/Mana voters were outnumbered by the 8 Actites on the General Roll

    Comment by Conrad — September 6, 2012 @ 2:22 pm

  33. @ max

    People are funny in the way we label each other and ourselves. Obama is as much white as he is black.

    Comment by insider — September 6, 2012 @ 2:50 pm

  34. @insider,

    A point Obama himself makes: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/03/18/obama-race-speech-read-th_n_92077.html

    “I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents … .”

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — September 6, 2012 @ 4:42 pm

  35. John Key, yesterday:

    “If you are an MP in the government you represent the Crown and any representation by my MPs at such an event would be interpreted as representation by the Crown.”

    Today:

    Pita Sharples says he will attend the hui – according to TV news tonight.

    (stand by for more convoluted talk of government Ministers and party leaders wearing different “hats” … or berets).

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — September 6, 2012 @ 6:29 pm

  36. I have never heard Maori called “niggers”, and especially not in the systematic way experienced by black Americans.

    Comment by Polyphemus — September 6, 2012 @ 9:35 pm

  37. Are you guys really saying being Irish is as marginalising as being Maori? Wow.

    “Nigger” is an insult that has been used on Maori because they’re Maori, so they get to decide to what extend the word is offensive within their community. If Hone were running around calling African-Americans Niggers, that’d be another issue, but he’s not. I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve condemnation, I’m saying that we don’t get a say one way or another – unless we’re Maori, which not many of those commenting are.

    Comment by Hugh — September 6, 2012 @ 10:48 pm

  38. @Hugh

    I don’t know if anyone is saying that the Irish are as marginalised as Maori. They were, however, the victims of a colonisation process that was every bit as brutal as what Maori underwent.

    Comment by Polyphemus — September 7, 2012 @ 1:01 am

  39. Dear Hugh,

    Love,
    FM

    Comment by Fooman — September 7, 2012 @ 7:46 am

  40. Just to state something in a bit serious manner, Hugh, do you really think that trying to suppress discussion because we “don’t belong to a community” (I hear that as don’t have the correct amount of melanin; or the appropriate ancestors) is anything but heading towards Oceania’s Thinkpol?

    I have no issues with Hone using language for effect, much like the celebrated African-American Melvin Kaminsky (who wrote the clip I referenced above) using language for effect. I also have no issues with people talking about the use of said langauge, regardless of their position or “privilege”. Suppression of language is suppression of thought.

    FM

    Comment by Fooman — September 7, 2012 @ 8:16 am

  41. “Are you guys really saying being Irish is as marginalising as being Maori? Wow.”

    Not now, but look at history. 800 years of rape and pillage. Lack of voting rights in Northern Ireland up until the 1970’s. No Irish need apply. That kind of thing

    Comment by max — September 7, 2012 @ 9:01 am

  42. …plus effective enslavement and forced transportation as a result of Cromwellian colonial policy, forced land appropriation, long running religious and ethnic persecution.

    So yes, Hugh. The Irish have had it pretty tough over the years.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 7, 2012 @ 9:14 am

  43. I’m saying that we don’t get a say one way or another – unless we’re Maori, which not many of those commenting are.

    What bollocks. If I see a man hitting another man, I don’t need to be a man to speak up against it. If something’s wrong, it’s wrong regardless of who is doing or saying it.

    Comment by Ataahua — September 7, 2012 @ 10:56 am

  44. “It’s a bit discordant to see a guy in a nice suit and perfect diction sneering at the house negros for their nice clothes and good diction,..”
    Wha..? I don’t think he sneered at them for their nice clothes and good diction, which were simply the REWARDS for being compliant?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — September 7, 2012 @ 2:19 pm

  45. “Of course “house nigger” is offensive, and of course Harawira shouldn’t have used it”
    We really need to resist the urge to be concerned about causing offence. A risk of causing offence is probably why some cultures still think it okay to circumcise their young women with bits of broken glass. I find “denier” in the context of AGW offensive, due to drawing parallels with holocaust denial, but I would die (well, at least pay my taxes) in order to preserve your right to call me denier.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — September 7, 2012 @ 2:26 pm

  46. Hone was right that the PM is the true leader of the Maori Party. The Maori aren’t being accurately represented by the Maori Party, they are just pandering to the PM.

    Comment by Dan — September 7, 2012 @ 3:07 pm

  47. The Dim Post comments have spoken, and being Irish is as marginalising as being Maori. Fantastic!

    Oh and we don’t need to consider our own privilege when commenting on indigenous identity issues too. Great stuff! Don Brash approves.

    Comment by Hugh — September 7, 2012 @ 3:44 pm

  48. Not really, Hugh.
    More pointing out that;

    (i) you don’t get a pass to use a revolting (and out of context) term by virtue of being marginally browner than your average whitey
    (ii) Maori aren’t special in terms of being fucked over by WASPs, so see point (i)

    Comment by Gregor W — September 7, 2012 @ 4:04 pm

  49. Chill my nigga.

    Comment by merv — September 7, 2012 @ 4:26 pm


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