Is ‘Pakeha’ a racist term?


Wellington, February 8, 2018

A blog post questioning whether the word ‘Pakeha’ is a racist term has opened up a divisive debate online.

A high school student from Denmark, who is researching New Zealand, posed the question on a Kiwi-focused forum after disagreeing with his classmates over the term.

It garnered dozens of replies, most swinging heavily in either direction.

The term ‘Pakeha’ does not actually describe any particular ethnicity.

Non-Maori and Polynesian

Derived from the word ‘Pakepakeha,’ a mythical human-like being with fair skin, it is used to describe any Kiwi with non-Maori or Polynesian heritage.

It is a term that was used to differentiate between the historical origins of the country’s settlers – and many argued on the forum an ‘us’ and ‘them’ label is no longer acceptable.

“Would not the equivalent be like calling Maori ‘natives’ or something?” one person asked.

“I would understand if someone did not really like that.”

‘The Othering’

Another added it’s a form of “Othering.”

“It is a name that refers to someone by the colour of their skin, used by someone with a different skin colour. I feel discomfort when hearing the word. I refer to myself as a New Zealander of European descent.”

But many others said the meaning of the word has changed.

“It seems to have become just a descriptive term for white New Zealander,” one person commented, adding it is commonly used in government and media reports.

Historical inaccuracy

“Whatever derogatory meaning it had is historical inaccuracy.”

Another said it comes down to the “intent of use rather than the word itself.”

“Racism resides in the context, not the word. In my opinion, racism is only racism when you treat people differently because of the colour of their skin or country of birth or whatever. I fail to see how calling someone Pakeha without malicious intent is racist.”

With more-than 50 comments, it is still unclear which side held the majority.


Indian Newslink has published the above Newshub report under a Special Agreement with

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