Balking at miscegenation

Ross revels in the description of a mixed-race, partly Maori mother-and-son duo as ugly and neurotic.

Mr. Hall, one of the cast of recurring characters in the fictionalized Haha Whenua (1933), has invited the Rosses to his farm in rural New Zealand. There they get to know his mother, who resides in a castle and rules her grown son with an iron fist. While Ross had been spellbound by the beauty of Mr. Hall’s European-born Caucasian wife Jutta earlier in the book, he stresses the ugliness of her mother-in-law: “She was so hideous that you were left speechless at the first moment.” [p. 73]

“Without a doubt”, he asserts a little later, “she had Maori blood in her veins. She was as fat and bulky as Maori women get with age.” [p. 73] Both the ‘unnaturally’ close relationship between the domineering mother and her fearful son and the former’s ugliness indicate a corruption of white racial integrity. At that moment, Ross reverts to the racial prejudice that he himself warned his son Ralph to tone down earlier in the same chapter. Having been introduced to racial segregation in South Africa, a few years before, Ralph had trouble switching to the equal treatment of Maoris in New Zealand (See: “Kill or Marry: The Fate of the Maori.”). When they meet Mr. Hall’s mother, Ross notes, “Ralph controlled himself greatly and not a glance betrayed that for him Mrs. Hall was basically a ‘black woman’.” [p. 73] In other words, Ralph has achieved the mixture of cosmopolitan adaptability and taken-for-granted racial resentment that his father’s texts occasionally transmit.

Joachim Schätz

Colin Ross. [Excerpt from] “Mater”. In: Haha Whenua - das Land, das ich gesucht. Mit Kind und Kegel durch die Südsee. 4. Aufl. Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus; 1933; 69–75.

Topic: Race
Case: Oceania-Asia trip 1928-30

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