Now’s the time for affirmative action
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.