Yellow Peril by Tze Ming Mok

The Treaty of Waitangi's relevance to Alien Species: Part 3

Winston Peters? You are a whipped man. Make sure you round up plenty of hot Asian guys to bring back from your Loving the Asian Invasion Tour and when you return, me and Manying Ip will greet you singing 你现在是我们的婊子 (translation: 'you are now our bitch'), a classic Beijing Opera accompaniment to the traditional Chinese Victory Dance.

Early days yet, but I'm still still laughing my ass off and looking forward to reports of our Minister of Foreign Affairs Outside Government 'doing a lot of [laundry] in the Beijing [dog] restaurants.'


It's now Thursday and I'm reporting on a conference that happened on Sunday. Keith may have something to add on the implications of that for 'Chinese timekeeping'.

The Treaty of Waitangi and Asian Communities Symposium was not just positive and cuddly about the Treaty, but also intelligent, critical, and lacking the kind of bitterness and reductiveness that Treaty discussions often can't escape within the Maori/Pakeha discourse. There have been some comments that the kind of discussion Keith and I have been having on and off Public Address is one that should have been in the mainstream media. I don't know if that's possible - unless geeky Asians suddenly take over the mainstream media and act like logical argument over a hot lemon Coke at Taller Park is the only thing people ever care about when it comes to colonialism and race. Beyond our blogs, beyond an 'Asian' symposium, it would actually be incredibly difficult to talk about how X issue (which affects all New Zealanders) specifically affects 'Asians', without Pakeha itching to jump in with their opinions and dominating the space. It's not that those opinions are unwelcome - I just wouldn't mind a few minutes to sort it out between ourselves first, like in the foyer or something.

At the end of the Symposium, Maori researcher Belinda Borell said something that vindicated a hopeful assertion I've made before to a Chinese audience: that from what she'd heard that day, we 'Asians' sure understood racism a lot better than plenty of Pakeha audiences. It's a good start.

A few highlights:

- Manying Ip's research on the parallel stereotypes of both 'Asians' and Maori of each other as 'privileged', and likely to side with whitey against 'us'. In other words, played off against each other. There was a Maori call to cut out the middle man. A good call, and a strangely familiar one.

- Sally Liu's research on the Chinese language media concluding that on Maori issues, their effort consists of a pathetic cut and paste of Mainstream Media articles, but problematically translated, even more underrepresented in frequency, with hardly any Maori voice, and basically no independent journalism. And that this is screwing us all.

- Changzoo Song proving himself funnier than either myself or Keith.

- the combined South-Asian and Southeast-Asian contingents reminding everyone else that British colonial domination, and postcolonial negotiation of identity, is actually rather familiar to us.

- Ruth de Souza's closing line of her presentation, just the delivery of it - quietly, thoughtfully, a little wearily: "I want to be part of something." Made me want to have a little tangi. I think I was just tired.

- The saintly, contained look on Sir Paul Reeves' face when the word 'hori' came up on my powerpoint presentation. (see Part 1)

- The hope that someone in the mainstream media was noticing that there is a critical-mass of brainy, politically-engaged Asians out there, and realising that they can go to people other than me for 'Asian comment.'

The presentations are available from Manying Ip, and I have attached Kumanan Rasanathan's to this post - click the 'audio' button for a PDF.

There was some lively discussion on AEN in the aftermath. This particular part was my favourite:

*Alistair Kwun*Sent:* Monday, 14 November 2005 8:52 a.m.

Dear AEN,
For those who weren't able to make it to yesterday's (Sunday) symposium on *Human Rights, Treaty of Waitangi and *Asian Communities*, you can read all about it at: <A HREF="
6483027AF1010E" target="_blank">(link to Herald article)


Kind regards

Alistair Kwun

On 11/14/05, Kumanan Rasanathan wrote:

Yes Alistair and all, as you can read in the Herald, we had a really exhaustive six hour symposium on immigrant Treaty tests. Amazingly, we didn't get to discuss whether this would open up a new market for tutoring.


Yep, the Herald took a pretty lame lead angle, although the second part of the article wasn't bad. It was only reportage from the first half hour of the conference though. Poor Errol Kiong - he never stays for a full ethnic community conference. He's probably ethnic-conferenced out. I've heard that Alistair, Tessie and I successfully managed to stop the Herald from creating an 'ethnic beat' with our seminar there earlier in the year, but I think Errol's still getting locked into the ghetto. I saw this happening early on, and thought - hey, bad for his career... but good for us! Maybe in the long run ...not so good? Stupidly, ironically, both Errol and Keith Ng missed the standout presentation of the Symposium, because they were catching up with each other to talk about ...what? Ghettoisation of ethnic journalists by giving them all the ethnic conference stories?

The presentation in question was by one of my favourite Yellow Peril readers Kumanan Rasanathan, PhEG (Pointy-headed Ethnicity Geek), who managed to make it to some of Keith's key constitutional conclusions (which I don't have much argument with) without those weird stop-off points about the invalidity of metonymic legitimacy of 'the Crown' and its historical compacts. Running with Universal Human Rights also helped streamline the argument. Good old Universal Human Rights. I'd encourage you to read the full paper, which has jokes in it and everything. To the ear in fact, Kumanan has a very similar cadence to Russell Brown. Here he is on that old bugbear, Biculturalism vs Multiculturalism.

I have to admit that I always used to find biculturalism problematic, because it seemed to extend the lack of space in the Treaty for people like me across the whole of New Zealand society – it seemed to imply, that we, and our cultures, didn’t exist here. Many people in our communities prefer the concept of multiculturalism. But having lived in Australia and the United Kingdom, I’ve revised my opinion.


In Australia, multiculturalism delivers far less than it promises. I attended a so-called “diversity in health” conference recently in Melbourne. The Australians call people like me CALD, which stands for “culturally and linguistically diverse”. In terms of translation services for health care for minority groups, and as with many other things, in resourcing, they are in many ways far ahead of New Zealand. But beyond the rhetoric of how many languages are spoken or the wheeling out of diverse costumes and musics for the opening of functions, in Australia multiculturalism operates as a veneer for the systematic monoculturalism of healthcare there and the continued invisibility of the majority culture.
So our communities in New Zealand, in seeking multiculturalism, should be careful what they wish for.