Friday, April 24, 2009

NZ's eskimo lolly "debate"

My post relates to a NZ Herald report (see below). Often I get confused as to why things bother people. I keep thinking to myself that this is another ridiculous PC issue that is overblown. Last night I watched on TV an interview with the only "genuine" Inuit NZer. For him, it is a nice thing to be known as an Eskimo. But am I missing something? Am I just plain insensitive?

I remember some years back how someone from US visiting Malaysia made "noise" about the Darkie toothpaste ... about how racist it was etc and it eventually became "Darlie" toothpaste

I found out here (and seen too in newspaper reports) that many people refer to European white Kiwis as "pakeha". But some do not like the term as they deem it derogatory. Others simply don't bother.

Anyway I found it ironic this report of an interview in a Canadian newspaper, the following ...

Seeka Veevee Parsons made headlines across New Zealand this week after complaining to a TV crew about the candies, which are shaped like a person bundled up in a furry parka and are sold in a bag bearing the picture of a smiling Inuk in front of an igloo.

Born in Iqaluit, Nunavut, and raised in Glovertown, N.L., Veevee Parsons said the word "Eskimo" was originally an insult meaning ``eater of raw flesh." As a child, she was teased and called a ``dirty Eskimo girl."

"I think the term 'Eskimo' can almost be related to the term 'savage' or 'Indian' or maybe even the 'n-word' for African-American people," she said in an interview earlier this week.


If you did not get that ... I wonder, isn't it also racist by her same understanding to use the term "Indian" in such a way?

I wonder whether we all have our PC blinkers on so tight, we have huge blind spots that make us ultra sensitve?

I know how some Europeans people in Malaysia just laugh and even jokingly call themselves "kwai loh". No issue for them. But then again I suppose it all depends on the context....

Canada joins 'racist' NZ Eskimo lolly debate

2:01PM Friday Apr 24, 2009
By Edward Gay
The NZ High Commissioner to Canada slammed online discussion of the  controversial marshmallow lolly. Photo / Martin Sykes

The NZ High Commissioner to Canada slammed online discussion of the controversial marshmallow lolly. Photo / Martin Sykes


News that a Canadian tourist has labelled a New Zealand marshmallow lolly as racist has sparked online feedback and even prompted New Zealand's high commissioner to comment in the Canadian press.

New Zealand's high commissioner in Ottawa, Kate Lackey, said she was disappointed at comments left in online forums, such as nzherald.co.nz's Your Views section.

Commenting in a story published on the website TheStar.com Ms Lackey said comments made by Kiwis suggesting the tourist should go home are not acceptable.

"I would hope New Zealanders would be a bit more courteous and understanding," Lackey said.

"I'll probably get into trouble in New Zealand for saying such a thing, but often there's a sort of 'rednecky' element... The people who get on talk-back (radio) and stuff haven't had time to think through a bit more deeply how the other person might feel."

Seeka Lee Veevee Parsons, 21, an Inuit of the Nunavut Territory in Canada, said she was shocked when she found the Eskimo marshmallows for sale last week, saying they were an insult to her people.

The word Eskimo was unacceptable in her country and carried with it negative racial connotations, she told the Taranaki Daily News.

The correct term was Inuit, Ms Parsons said. "I was taken aback. When I was a little girl white kids in the community used to tease me about it in a bad way. It's just not the correct term," she said.

Ms Lackey said she doesn't see the controversy causing a political rift between New Zealand and Canada.

"You could hardly have two countries closer together in attitudes and values than Canada and New Zealand," Ms Lackey said.

Canada's Globe and Mail carried the story yesterday.

But many of the comments left by readers on the website are opposed to the Canadian tourist's complaint.

G. Hall wrote to the Globe and Mail to say: "Too Politically Correct... Don't people have anything better to do? Like solve the financial crisis and pull us out of the global recession?"

Bart described the complaint as embarrassing.

"Wow. I wonder if living in an isolated place live Nunavut caused her to not realise that when visiting a foreign land, one needs to bring an open mind, a sense of humour, and a degree of humility. I hope this was a momentary lapse of reason on her part and that she'll realise soon how silly she looks and makes us all look."

But not all comments posted to the site were negative towards Ms Parsons.

Sandy G. said: "I didn't realise that racism was so embedded in New Zealand. I had a completely different impression of the place."

On TheStar.com website, one reader said, referring to Ms Lackey: "At least here we have a New Zealander with a little common sense, and some feeling for the pain of the non-white. Of course the name of the candy should not be changed, but that doesn't mean Veevee Parson's feelings should be ridiculed."

Another reader suggested boycotting Cadbury for not changing the name.

"Cadbury head office is not based in New Zealand, so when they see the concern they can override the decision of New Zealand's Cadbury division."

2 comments:

  1. A long time ago, I used the word "negro" to refer to people of African descent. Someone told me that this was a derogatory term. He thought I was a racist. But he said "I guess you can't help the way you were brought up."

    I guess for some people, these things don't really bother us so much. Other people for some reason are very sensitive to this kind of thing.

    I used to feel as if I was "more enlightened" and would pooh-pooh these people. How arrogant I was!

    While I don't agree we have to keep stepping on eggshells, I do agree that we should not be unduly causing these people any offense. If by eating meat I cause my brother to stumble, it is better I do not eat meat.

    What I will say is, being PC should not be the LAST step or END. It should be the FIRST step towards better understanding of each other and accepting each other as creations of God.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for your comments bro.

    On a related note ... if you were to attempt to be PC in everything (in this super PC world), you would not be able to eat (to stretch the not eat meat picture) not just meat, but also fish, sea food, eggs, or even most fruits and vegetables. ... *sigh* we live in a complicated world. Where do we draw the line?

    ReplyDelete