A couple of related pieces grabbed my attention over the last few weekends. Obviously what has been front page news is Andy Hayden thinking that there is some kind of racial quota for 'darkies' with the Crusaders.
While his thoughts are absolutely bat shit crazy, his casual racism is unfortunately still prevalent in our fair nation. Haden relayed how it was ok when he played back in the 70's and 80's, he was called 'honky' etc etc so its somehow ok. Former team mate Bernie Fraser thinks it is 'PC gone mad' to find that offensive. I find Fraser's comments ultimately more disturbing and sad than Haden's. Fraser is Fijian born. Bernie I will refer you to the late great Richard Pryor.
It got me thinking about how much rugby and New Zealand society has changed over the past 25 or so years since people like Haden and Fraser were playing. These were times when the country was still divided over playing rugby with an openly racist nation, and a good proportion of people supported touring there. It is not surprising that both Haden (who helped organise it) and Fraser were paid to play in apartheid South Africa. This is now thankfully a bygone era. But if you look at the team, they still remain strong parts of New Zealand rugby.
In a recent article with questions to John Key from prominent New Zealander's I was shocked to see at the top of the list:
1. Sir Colin Meads, former All Black: Do you think you are doing too much for the Maori people? Is it just to keep their votes?Call me a 'tall poppy', but someone who is a national icon, held up as a treasure and a 'classic New Zealander' can get away with openly racist comments? I was less shocked to discover who the coach of the Cavaliers in 1986 was. It all makes sense now.
But have we come that far. I see this morning that Sir Ian McKellan remarked when here on how good race relations were in NZ in a conversation with then PM Helen Clark.
"I congratulated her on the public's enlightened attitudes towards racial issues, but she disagreed. She said to me that New Zealand was really a very racist country, and she was determined to do everything she could as prime minister to change that. I thought that was a very bold, honest statement to make to a foreigner, and I really respected her for that."While we have come a long way, unfortunately she did have a point. After all we are subjected to racists on a weekly basis in our news media. We get our knickers in a twist over added a correct spelling to a town name. My parents constantly get get questioned over why they would want to live in Rotorua. Helen Clark unfortunately also succumbed (somewhat) after Don Brash's Orewa speech.
While we have become a much more open, multi-cultural and tolerant nation, I think we still have a way to go. You don't hear it clearly in the big cities areas such as Wellington or Auckland, but you only have to go to our 'heartland' (or Christchurch) to find it. I grew up in Napier, I know all about it.
At least I guess we are on an upward trend. While people such as Mic(h)eal Laws still have a following, they are becoming more and more marginalised. I am impressed that there was such widespread outrage in most parts of the country to Haden's comments
Then again Haden has just kept his job as a RWC ambassador. Like I said, still some way to go...
Ted Henry has come out and said what a load of racist nonsense it all is. Good stuff Ted.