A few days ago, David Seymour made a comment that was chilling for a number of reasons.
Seymour has long stated his intention to abolish the Ministry of Pacific Peoples, alongside the Ministry for Māori Development, the Ministry for Women, the Ministry for Ethnic Communities and the Human Rights Commission – and in an interview when asked further about getting rid of the Minisry of Pacific Peoples, he stated that he fantasized about “sending a guy called Guy Fawkes in there and it would be all over”.
Firstly, we need to acknowledge the harm this speech ALREADY visits upon Pasifika peoples. David Seymour has no other plan to look after the interests of those who are often forced here by economic colonialism, including colonialism BY the New Zealand government, only to arrive here to a system that visits racist harm against them every day – because he doesn’t care. He simply wants the ministry removed. Moreover, his preferred method of removal is by bombing. If you know the history (and enduring reality) of bombs in the Pacific, then you should appreciate how deeply offensive and hurtful these words already are.
When pressed on the matter, Seymour stated that it was “just a joke” and tried to direct attention elsewhere. In fact, it’s vitally important we do exactly the opposite of that. We need to dwell on, and examine what David Seymour said, because it provides us with a number of important lessons.
The first lesson for us is the lesson of harmful humour. Bigoted bullies will often try to dismiss their harm by saying “it’s a joke”. Calling it a joke does not make it any less white-supremacist. What it does, is point to the fact that in David Seymour’s mind, violence against Pacific peoples is so normalised, that he can make a joke out of it. Now that is chilling enough in and of itself, from any person – but he’s not any person is he. He is a politician, a leader of a political party, with a significant platform and the means and opportunities to advance that normalized violence into policy and legislation.
What’s worse, is that David Seymour has a demonstrated capacity to abuse his power and break rules to get what he wants. We saw this when he took it upon himself to leak the code designed to provide vaccine equity for Māori and Pasifika. This is so important – he did not LOBBY against it, as politicians have the ability to do. He did not use his political status to work within the system. He took matters into his own hands, and BROKE the code by leaking it online. While we are used to seeing politicians saying and lobbying for harmful, racist policies and laws, this was in a different realm altogether. When someone is willing to step outside of the system and abuse their power to visit population-level harm against particular groups – we need to be very, very concerned about what they will do when they have even more power.
Here we have two very chilling demonstrations of David Seymour’s lack of regard for marginalized groups. It doesn’t stop there, though. Remember, he has also advocated to shut down the Human Rights Commission, as well as the Ministries for Māori Development, Women, and Ethnic Communities. Again, he has not provided any plan for how these interests will be protected, he simply wants them gone, presumably because they are in his way.
So let’s summarize: Here, we have a senior politician who has normalized violence against Māori and Pasifika, and has a demonstrated capacity to abuse power and break rules to place Māori and Pasifika at direct risk, and has an expressed intent to eliminate the NZ human rights watchdog and Ministries there to support Māori, Pasifika, Ethnic Communities and Women. I really don’t know how much more proof people need that he is advancing a misogynist, white supremacist agenda, when it’s clear who he wants out of the scene.
But the final, important lesson for us here is, ironically, David Seymour’s whakapapa. Because this senior politician IS a mokopuna Māori, and in that, we have a valuable lesson on how white supremacy is a SYSTEM that can operate through anyone, and in fact, that is its long term aim. As numerous scholars of racism and colonialism have contested – the end-goal of white supremacy is that it is self-perpetuating, and requires minimal effort BY white supremacists to uphold their privelege and power. To meet these ends, they need non-white people to believe the hate, to partake in the hate, and to operationalise the hate towards non-white people. If David Seymour, as a mokopuna Māori, can exhibit white supremacist genocidal intent towards Māori and Pasifika, then all of us (Māori, pākehā, tauiwi too) need to explore how white supremacy flows through us, and that is probably the most valuable lesson for us all to take from this.