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Only 200 Million To Absorb

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MINORITY RIGHTS [image, unknown] Immigration and discrimination

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Only 200 million to absorb
Maori schoolteacher Ngate Te Korou offers some tongue-in-cheek
advice to those who advocate the repatriation of ethnic minorities
to the countries ‘where they belong’.

MY PEOPLE are showing great interest in the immigration debate of the past decade in Britain. Many of them react sympathetically to the determination of Mrs Thatcher not to let her own tribe lose its cultural values in a tidal wave of immigrants, although they seem surprised that the British should feel that ethnic minorities totalling less than 5 per cent of the population are a cause for concern.

Perhaps it would comfort the British to know that we Maoris have managed to keep our language and some of our traditions alive in spite of being overwhelmed 10 to one by British immigrants over the last 150 years - and that in spite of a determined attack upon our culture by the immigrant majority which lasted for over a century.

We also notice that elements of British political life wish to send back the immigrants from Asia and the Caribbean. This has given great heart to our own radical young. They claim that, thanks to the British passion for fair play, we can now expect concern for the cultural threat posed by immigrants to Britain to be matched by an equal concern for the threat posed by British immigrants to other cultures, such as ours.

Should any future British government succeed in repatriating immigrants, we will hope to return your emigrants to take up the vacancies, It so happens that we have almost exactly the same number of ‘cultural aliens’ as Britain has ‘coloured immigrants’ - about 2½ million whites of predominantly British extraction. There seems no reason why the indigenous people of other old Commonwealth countries should not expect likewise.

This would mean that for every West Indian or Indian deported, we could send you, on a fair statistical basis, as replacements, one ‘pakeha’ New Zealander, four Australians, four Canadians, half a South African white, part of a white Rhodesian, and no fewer than 50 American WASPS. It would take some time for you to absorb the extra 200 million people involved, but there is no reason why, if phased over a decent period (say a century) and with sensible birth control measures, England should not be the exclusive home of those who speak English and live in the English manner,

Others among us would prefer more moderate solutions to our immigrant problem - which is the problem of your emigrants. Such people would wish us to absorb what is good in other cultures, while preserving the good in our own, They say that the world is now too small for anyone to claim rights of ethnic homelands, as Hitler did. This, you must agree, shows great tolerance from those whose parents and grandparents were tricked by treaties, robbed by land grabs, ravaged by wars fought for even more land, then evicted from what was left as a punishment for resisting the attacks, their children forced into schools in which their own language and cultural values were proscribed. In spite of that our moderates still dream of a world where any man can live wherever he likes.

Our radicals on the other hand say that this is ridiculous and sentimental, and that we should accept that racism exists everywhere, and that everyone should go back to his own ancestral homeland as soon as possible.

They too have a dream, a dream of the forest returning to cover the land which has been almost ruined by intensive and destructive methods of pastoral farming, a dream of the return to a proper balance with nature, Perhaps the day may come again when we can dig kumara (sweet potato) and harvest the fruits of forests, rivers, and the sea. They dream of the warm comradeship of family group and sub-tribe: of telling of ancient stories around the cooking fires, as the long Pacific waves thunder up on empty beaches. And never a single greedy, grasping, calculating, tricky white face to be seen anywhere.

They are depending upon the success of Britain’s ultra-Right wing.

This article originally appeared in the Sunday Times

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New Internationalist issue 128 magazine cover This article is from the October 1983 issue of New Internationalist.
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