Dame Susan’s ‘inflammatory racist language’ is another mans harmless metaphor

by SB on October 10, 2017 at 8:30am

We have all heard the saying that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, well  Dame Susan Devoy sees racism where I and others see only a harmless metaphor. Duncan Garner bent over backwards to make it clear what the intention of his opinion piece was yet Dame Susan feels that she knows more about what he said and why he said it than he does.

She reminds me of the people who wrote the English exam that I did for school certificate. In it, they had a reading comprehension question about a paragraph from a book by Witi Ihimaera. Just for fun after the exam had been marked a journalist sent the question to Witi Ihimaera and asked him if he would have chosen a,b,c or d as his answer. The question was about the meaning of a metaphor he had used. Witi got the answer wrong!

We’re better than Duncan Garner’s ‘inflammatory racist language’, race relations commissioner says.


As an ex-high school English and History teacher I do not think that Dame Susan Devoy is more qualified than I am to interpret another person’s metaphor. A metaphor cannot be looked at in isolation. You have to see it in the context of the whole article. In my expert opinion as someone who has BA in English Dame Susan has totally missed the mark with her outrageous interpretation of Duncan Garner’s simple metaphor. Just like the School Certificate English exam writers who failed to understand Witi Ihimaera’s metaphor, Dame Susan has added meaning that isn’t there to Duncan Garners.

[…] While on a recent undie-buying mission, instead of a queue of strangers at Kmart he told readers he saw a “massive human snake” of “Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Syrians and many others”, a “nightmarish glimpse of our future” that snaked and snaked and snaked through the store.

He was describing the long curving queue that anyone who has ever been to K-Mart is well familiar with. Writers use a snake as a metaphor for many long curving things. For example, they may say that the river snakes through the woodland.

K-Mart has a unique system that forces all customers to line up in a single queue that can stretch a very long way. His metaphor of a snake in this instance was to describe the unusual length of the queue throughout the store. A queue that he himself was a part of. He was attempting to compare the long queue to the side effects of poorly planned immigration as too many many people slows everything down and it becomes a nightmare.

I don’t know if Duncan is anything like Cam but he HATES long queues with a passion and will leave a store rather than wait to be served if it is too long. We have been very privileged in New Zealand as long queues are not the Kiwi way. Our low population has protected us from the stress found in highly populated countries where queues are commonplace. A long queue of people snaking around corners is a good symbol to use to illustrate how our paradise is changing.

[…] Garner’s decision to frame immigration and planning as a uniquely nightmarish Asian problem is in fact, the problem. And if he’s surprised that people are angry he shouldn’t be, because his words are hurtful, they’re inflammatory and they matter.

Likening foreigners to a snake isn’t a compliment; earlier this year US President Donald Trump recited the lyrics of a song The Snake and likened poisonous, treacherous snakes to immigrants.

The snake metaphor was used to illustrate the extreme length and curves of the queue, not danger or menace and it was an observable fact that the people in the long queue were Asian.

[…] Right now, yes, we need to be able to tell decision makers to plan strategically for population growth. But no, we don’t need to do it with inflammatory racist language. We’re better than that.

* Susan Devoy is New Zealand’s Race Relations Commissioner

The below boat race is called the ” Snake Boat race” not for any sinister reason but because the boat is very, very long like a snake. Devoy reveals her ignorance of how metaphors are used with her outrageous smear of Garner. Not all snake metaphors have sinister meanings.

– The Dominion Post