Now’s the time for af­fir­ma­tive action

Central Leader - - News -

Af­fir­ma­tive action for Maori was the call from our group at the Manukau job sum­mit.

It was put for­ward as a way of solv­ing the im­mi­nent em­ploy­ment cri­sis likely to af­fect Maori more than oth­ers dur­ing the re­ces­sion, rather sur­pris­ingly by Busi­ness Round­table chair­man Rob McLeod.

Of Ngati Porou de­scent, Rob is al­most uni­ver­sally re­spected by the right wing and in­dus­try, who un­like the left, are not your usual sup­port­ers of af­fir­ma­tive action, which is about sup­port­ing women and mi­nori­ties and giv­ing them op­por­tu­ni­ties they would not nor­mally have, be­cause most op­por­tu­ni­ties are the pre­serve of white men.

When black Amer­i­cans fought for equal rights dur­ing the civil rights strug­gle in the 1960s, Amer­i­can pres­i­dents John F Kennedy and Lyn­don John­son spear­headed the in­clu­sion of af­fir­ma­tive action.

Crit­ics come out with the usual rub­bish of af­fir­ma­tive action be­ing re­verse racism and sex­ism, con­ve­niently ig- nor­ing the racism and prej­u­dice mi­nori­ties and women have faced for gen­er­a­tions.

But it is a pol­icy as rel­e­vant to­day as it was in the 1960s.

It’s fair to say af­fir­ma­tive action has had a mea­sure of suc­cess in The United States, with women and black Amer­i­cans now oc­cu­py­ing top po­si­tions in gov- ern­ment and the pri­vate sec­tor.

The same can’t be said of the sit­u­a­tion here, and that is amaz­ing when you con­sider ours was the first na­tion in the world to give women the vote and race re­la­tions are prob­a­bly bet­ter here than in any other coun­try.

But the re­al­ity is that in our coun­try, af­fir­ma­tive action has been more suc­cess­ful for Pakeha women than Maori, who re­main rel­a­tively in­vis­i­ble across all key ar­eas of in­flu­ence.

We were so in­vis­i­ble polit- ically that we had to make our own party!

But on TV and ra­dio, and in the print me­dia and board­room, you can more or less count the num­ber of Maori on one hand. It’s an in­dict­ment on this coun­try that we have not em­braced af­fir­ma­tive action.

And if there is one pol­icy Prime Min­is­ter John Key should im­ple­ment from his sum­mit, it’s the af­fir­ma­tive action pol­icy put back on the agenda by Busi­ness Round­table chair­man Rob McLeod.

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