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Unhelpful, Wrong, Offensive

Susan Devoy was a great squash player, there is no doubt about that, but she really sucks in the role of New Zealand’s Race Relations Commissioner. I mean, I don’t expect much from anyone in that position because the person is really just a meaningless figurehead in support of political correctness and reverse racism, but Devoy seems to have even less credibility than her predecessors.

She was good at hitting a small ball against a wall, but I guess having absolutely no expertise or background in politics or sociology (as far as I can see) doesn’t help with this new role.

She made a total mess of things shortly after being appointed and has mainly kept out of the headlines since (a wise strategy). But she recently commented on an issue which has a race relations aspect to it, as she should, but I think (yet again) her analysis and understanding have fallen badly short of what we should expect.

The latest issue involves a comment made by SPCA Auckland Executive Director, Bob Kerridge, that the much greater frequency of dog attacks in South Auckland has an ethnic element. If you don’t know, the SPCA is an animal welfare organisation (the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and South Auckland has a high proportion of lower socio-economic residents, many of whom come from a South Pacific background.

I don’t think many people doubt that South Auckland has a much bigger problem with out of control dogs than most other areas. In the last 5 years there were 314 serious attacks there compared with just 77 in Auckland City. So South Auckland does have a problem with dogs and it also has a high Polynesian population. I agree that doesn’t necessarily mean that the two are linked, but surely it is a subject which we can discuss without just throwing out the whole idea.

Devoy has called Kerridge’s claims “unhelpful, wrong, and incredibly offensive to a lot of people.” She seems fairly certain of herself, but is she right?

If there is an ethnic component to the problem then surely pointing this out isn’t unhelpful. The first step to solving a problem is to properly and honestly identify its cause. If, after careful examination of the situation, it turns out that ethnicity isn’t an issue then that is one factor eliminated. If it is, then we can work on it. Either way, I can’t see how this is unhelpful.

And is it wrong? I think Devoy just automatically assumes that it is because there is some vague notion of racism involved. I would like to point out though that the word that was used is “ethnic” not “racial” and there is no reason to think that European New Zealanders might not be included in the same general ethnic group. Also, no one has provided the slightest evidence that it is wrong except to say there is no scientific evidence that it is right (which is fair enough – maybe a proper study could be carried out to investigate the truth).

So is it incredibly offensive? Well I think Devoy just assumes it is although many people find her inept drivel more offensive than anything Kerridge has said. If anyone finds a comment like that offensive then that is their problem, not the problem of the person making the comment.

In summary, yet again she’s talking complete politically correct, moronic garbage. The comment isn’t unhelpful, it isn’t wrong, and it shouldn’t be offensive.

To be fair, most other people with any public standing have also criticised the comment but none of them have any more credibility than Devoy. Everything just seems to involve a thoughtless, meaningless knee-jerk reaction.

Contrary to what some people may think, considering my reputation for being left-leaning politically, I hate political correctness and (you aren’t going to believe this) I think I side more with the people commenting on WhaleOil’s blog this time (yes, there’s a first time for everything).

What I really want to know is why can’t we have some meaningful debate on issues involving race, ethnicity, culture, religion, gender, and those other awkward subjects – that’s what the Race Relations Commissioner should be encouraging. If we talked about it instead of pretending to get all offended then maybe some of the problems associated with them might get fixed.

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