Ticked

It’s a census year this year, which I find rather exciting. Back in the last census year, 2001, I managed to be in the right places at the right times for both the New Zealand census and the Australian one. I like to think that somehow I’ve contributed to some sort of funding for a community arts project in Melbourne.

Anyway, there’s a bit of controversy this year because Statistics New Zealand have added a new category to the ethnicity question. This year people will be able to tick a New Zealander/Kiwi box as their ethnicity.

What does Kiwi mean? Is it a white New Zealander? A white New Zealander who, say, pronounces fish as ‘fush’ and likes Holdens and thinks that pakeha means ‘white pig’ so would never use that term to describe him or herself? I don’t know, and I don’t think Statistics New Zealand knows either.

But here’s thing – I don’t think I’ve ever ticked the New Zealand European/Pakeha box. I’m pretty sure that on at least one occasion I’ve ticked ‘other’ and written in ‘New Zealander’, and on another occasion written ‘white’.

Now, I know that my ancestors all came to New Zealand from the British Isles. I know that Britain and Ireland are in Europe. I know that technically I am a European New Zealander, but ‘European’ sounds wrong. It sounds like I should be of, say, Italian or Swiss descent. Europe isn’t just a geographic region – the name has social and political connotations that are far removed from my identity as a white New Zealander.

But now that this has been in the news, I find myself for the first time understanding what ethnicity is, yet not actually being able to define it (It’s the vibe, Your Honour). So having thought about all this, I’ve decided that this census I shall be a pakeha. Ka pai.

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