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Maybe we just shouldn’t ask

When will the misinformed group of 80,000 finally learn the meaning of "ethnic group"? When will they realise that the term is not, and has never been, synonymous with "nationality", and that they are entirely different things?

They seem to think that this is a perfect opportunity to make some patriotic statement. That to show ourselves as being of one ethnicity, of having identical cultural roots, is to show that we are proud of our country. That there is no other way, except to sabotage data, and to go blind to that fact that some people are descendants of the early British settlers, while others take heritage from the Chinese, or the Indians, or the Dutch.

Granted, the wording "New Zealand European" can be tricky. But those who might be offended by it are taking the term too literally, failing to see the spirit of it. It does not necessarily mean that Europe is their home. It is just a descriptor used to refer to the group of immigrants whose families came from Britain in the mid-19th century, and who as a consequence inherit certain cultures and heritage. In the same way, "Chinese" is just a descriptor used to refer to those who trace their ancestry to, and who inherit certain cultural practices of, China. Admittedly, the term "New Zealand European" is inaccurate, other terms to a better effect could well be found.

But to throw them all out and claim to be of a "New Zealand" ethnic group is wildly incorrect. We are all proud New Zealanders, but we are talking of our nationality. The circulating e-mail encouraging New Zealanders to insert "New Zealander" as an ethnicity is only asking for statistical chaos. The "New Zealand" ethnic group does not exist.

The patriots seem to think that by admitting we are part of different groups, we are dividing ourselves. This is not the case. We are united in our pride when New Zealand grabs the gold medal, or wins the America’s Cup. We happily live as an ethnically diverse country. This does not make one any less of a New Zealander.

Nevertheless, some people still seem to be unconvinced that ethnicity and nationally are different concepts. Inevitably, our data on our nation’s true and what should be a proud ethnic build-up will be sabotaged by these uneducated rebels. The figures will become unusable and statistics users will be clueless as to who we really are. We may as well just not ask. That should solve the problem.

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