Do you think that New Zealand is a racist country? Before you begin reading have a quick think to yourself. Yes, or No? Maybe or maybe not? Unsure? That’s okay, it’s an odd subject. It’s hard to think of ourselves as racist when we are brought up knowing how much of a bad thing racism is. We see racism in countries like America and we recognise how terrible it is. However, what I don’t think that we realise is that racism doesn’t just mean building a wall. Racism exists in many different ways and in many different forms.
However, when denying racism exists, you might actually be proving it does. Trying to explain away low levels of racial bias is still acknowledging it exists. Claiming that people who aren’t white can be racist is still acknowledging it exists. Telling people to learn English properly, and calling Māori ‘greedy’ and ‘ungrateful’ most definitely proves it exists.
But it seems many New Zealanders lack a basic understanding of what racism is, and it’s killing our ability to overcome the problem. Racism, ableism, sexism, all the -isms are about an imbalance of power. One group has too much, the other too little. The goal is for sovereignty, health, wealth and opportunity to be shared equally among us all. But as it stands we’re quite far from that goal because so many people don’t recognise the existence of inequality.
One of the biggest barriers to understanding seems to be the presence of ‘reverse racism’. Trying to explain to outraged Pākehā people that racism and hurt feelings aren’t the same thing is can be difficult. But I’ll try: If for instance a Māori person said something hurtful for the way you pronounced te reo, and it made you feel excluded or guilty or bad or someone made fun of your devotion to Taylor Swift, then that sucks and it’s discriminatory. But it’s not the same as the health, justice and education systems being stacked against you; police, landlords and employers making biased snap decisions that negatively impact you; or your ancestors’ traditions, language and histories being written out of existence. In many cases, that kind of suspicion and mistrust towards privileged cultures are the result of too many years of discrimination being the norm.
Look, there will be work to do on this issue for some time yet. But shouldn’t we at least be trying to make sure this awful problem goes away. It doesn’t matter if we aren’t as bad as America or any other extremely racist-seeming countries. We can always do better. And we should always want to do better. Nowadays, there is no excuse for racism. It’s not “how it’s always been” and it not “no big deal.” It is a big deal, and it is not the way of today or the future.
NZ we’re in that uncomfortable stage when you feel vulnerable because others are raising points that might have truth. Stay in the conversation, listen and try not to attack. Let’s learn something about racism.
1. Do you think that NZ is racist? How so.
2. What will happen if our society does not continue to, or begin to, change in a positive way?
3. Do you think we can get rid of racism entirely?
Practical Thinking Questions:
1. What is a solution to help eradicate racism?
2. Ask your parents if they think racism is more prevalent now than it was when they were young? Why? Why not?
3. How is racism in NZ different than in other countries. How can we make it the best!