Global cities around the world boast of the diverse ethnicities they support. In fact, displaying the diversity often turns into an obscene game for going global. More on this later; first let us try to understand: what does the word ‘ethnic’ actually mean?
‘Ethnic’ can be understood as a sub-group of people – within a larger population – who share common cultural traditions, customs and even descent. As such, the people of a nation comprises of one dominant community and several other ethnic communities.
It would not be wrong to presume that overlapping customs and traditions of diverse ethnic groups help the sub-groups to coalesce and collectively they form the complex whole. In this sense, several ‘ethnic groups’ make up the population of a city, say, like Auckland which has an enviable mix of people who are Chinese, Korean, Indian, Arabic, Spanish, and more.
It is the composition of these ethnic groups that make some cities of New Zealand more diverse than the others. While Wellington has a presumably higher south Asian population, Auckland has more number of east and south-east Asian people. But as an immigrant-friendly nation, the New Zealand government tries to look after the needs of each and every community, by way of celebrating various cultural festivities unique to them through the year.
The Office of Ethnic Affairs, as the government department is labelled, identifies each ‘matawaka’ or ‘ethnic’ group by its people’s cultural values, customs, beliefs, languages, traditions and characteristics that differ from the wider society. The celebration of these people through their customs and traditions has become part of the Government’s ‘affairs’.
This does not come as a surprise. As the Office rightly says: a quarter of New Zealanders were born overseas. Accommodating and addressing their diverse interests make the country one of the most ethnically diverse nations at the OECD (Organisation for Economic and Cooperative Development). In this sense, diversity adds to the economic, social and cultural development of the nation.
The fact that the government has demarcated a separate office or cell for such activities goes to prove the proactivity of the administration in safeguarding the interest of the diverse people. But then, at the same time, does it not segregate the society by identifying the differences of the sub-groups within the wider population?
Being a predominantly immigrant nation, how does New Zealand government identify who is not an ethnic community? Yes, the Office of Ethnic Affairs does say that the ethnic groups are not part of the dominant group within the nation’s population. But then, the dominant British population is also a migrant group of people whose numbers have only multiplied over the years.
Does the standing of a race depend on the physical space they occupy? What about the native inhabitants of the land? Are they part of the dominant group or do belong to yet another ethnic sub-group? Let us find out in the next round of ethnic-babble!