Are you a New Zealander? – Census Dilemma

Something that has always irked me on census forms, and indeed a great number of other forms we have to complete is the ‘ethnicity’ component.

I object to “pakeha” as much as I object to “European” as a label.

I was born here in New Zealand so I am an New Zealander, that is my ‘ethnicity’. Wikipedia describes ethnicity as;

“An ethnic group is a group of human beings whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage that is real or presumed.[1][2] Ethnic identity is further marked by the recognition from others of a group’s distinctiveness[3] and the recognition of common culturallinguisticreligiousbehavioral or biological traits,[1][4] real or presumed, as indicators of contrast to other groups.”

I’m not a European, wasn’t born in the EU and am not an EU citizen. I have English ‘heritage’ but then that’s a mixture of different backgrounds.

My racial ancestors arriving in the UK...

My racial ancestors arriving in the UK...

The NZ census is once again going to continue with European as an ethnic group. I also see support comes from the health sector for this term because it helps identify groups for specific treatment and planning. This is fair enough but it also sheds light on what is going on here.

This is actually about race not ethnicity. As Wikipedia says, ethnicity is almost an emotional construct, race on the other hand is a method of classification of humans.

This is what the problem is and it’s about being politically correct. The term that should be used is “racial group” – what is your racial background. In my case the answer is as complicated as anyone elses but it is a lot easier to put down a lot of tick boxes for something that is undeniable – racially I am Caucasian.

That may not help the Government much, but then NZ European doesn’t mean stuff-all and just annoys people like me because of the second thing that going on that no one wants to admit which is about sensitivities towards Maori. 

Many Maori could as much claim they were ethically Maori as I could claim I was Roman or Norman, sure dig deep enough you could claim one eighth something or other, but this isn’t a scientific thing, it’s emotional. If it’s emotional what the hell is it doing in a piece of scientific statistical research like the Census?

I suppose one day there will be just genetic profile tests and these will show what the health authorities need, however right now we all feel a bit uncomfortable about letting the government have this sort of information and I personally always will. So we end up with a woolly pretty useless census description that appeals to the politically correct and emotional.

I sympathise with officials who have to put together the census, because it’s political not scientific. The question they want and need to ask they can’t, so they ask something that achieves little instead because to take the question out altogether would mean it would be impossible to put it back in later – at least until we have matured sufficiently as a country.

By the time we do get around to ask the right question it’s quite possible there will be a specific race genetically defined as New Zealanders, until then, NZ European is inaccurate as is New Zealanders.

If the questions is really about our emotional ethnicity, then the term New Zealanders needs to be in there, because emotionally that’s the ethnic group myself, and hopefully millions of other New Zealanders, feel connected to.

The genetic/racial question is a different thing altogether.

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