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Is New Zealand A Racist Country?

Is New Zealand a racist country? That was the question put to viewers on a local TV show that aired the night I flew out of New Zealand last week. I didn’t get to watch the show but I read an online article the following day that suggested 76% of ...

Iain

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Is New Zealand A Racist Country?

Is New Zealand a racist country? That was the question put to viewers on a local TV show that aired the night I flew out of New Zealand last week. I didn’t get to watch the show but I read an online article the following day that suggested 76% of ...

Iain

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Is New Zealand A Racist Country?

Posted by Iain on May 3, 2013, 2:55 p.m. in Living

That was the question put to viewers on a local TV show that aired the night I flew out of New Zealand last week. I didn’t get to watch the show but I read an online article the following day that suggested 76% of those that voted in their ‘poll’, said it was.

I confess I was very surprised. My experience is my friends are not racist. My clients overwhelmingly tell me that they have never felt racial discrimination either overtly or covertly in the work place, on the street or in any other part of their lives and New Zealand works so hard at maintaining a tolerant, secular, welcoming society that the outcome did not reflect the reality that I experience or my clients tell me they have experienced. 

Naturally there are racists everywhere, but we are more known for being welcoming, tolerant and a genuinely friendly people.

Interestingly migrant groups that were asked for their reaction to this finding the next morning (and reported online) all said the same things as me – nope – NZ is not a racist country.

That tallies with the Government’s own findings – since 1998 the Department of Labour has carried out a Longitudinal Survey which seeks to track migrant experiences and outcomes. Fourteen years on, something like 95% of migrants confirm they have never been on the wrong end of anything ‘racist’.

I suspect that those who voted were not migrants. It was one of those – if you think ‘yes’ text 2354 and if you think ‘no’ text 9854 situations - prime time ‘who cares’ kind of programmes.

In the trailers that were airing in the lead up to the show I did notice that when people were stopped in the street (in Auckland) and asked ‘Is NZ a racist country?’ what struck me was that all those who looked like me and had my accent said ‘Yes’ (except one) and everyone who looked and sounded like they weren’t born in New Zealand said ‘No’. One did add, however, ‘It depends where you go in New Zealand.’ That might have been reference to the other end of the country…

I would speculate that those that think we are a racist country are probably not migrants. 

Of course (and not having seen the programme I am speculating) those middle class born and bred locals might have been referring to race relations not between migrants and locals but between Pakeha (New Zealanders of European descent  and others) and Maori – but I doubt it. There is no doubt that there is among a minority of both groups tension over Treaty of Waitangi settlements (a story for another day but in a nutshell that describes the Crown offering financial and non-financial redress for its acts in the late 1800s in respect of land confiscations and the feeling among some that ‘Maori get special favours’).

And therein of courselie the perils of unscientific TV polls.

I speak openly on racism at my seminars – after all New Zealand is increasingly home to people from (literally) all over the world. With 42% of Aucklanders not born in New Zealand and 20% of New Zealand residents or citizens not born in New Zealand we are increasingly a highly ethnically and culturally diverse country. It is inevitable then that there will be those who feel threatened by migrants but with hand on heart I can say I don’t hear much of it. In fact it is amazing to me that a city like Auckland which has the greatest concentration of migrants can be such a tolerant and friendly place to live without the racial tensions that can arise when the composition of a large population can change so radically over a decade or two.

I live in Mount Eden, an inner city suburb in central Auckland. When we moved into the area twenty years ago the population was young couples, crappy old ‘do up’ houses and the population was largely Pakeha and Polynesian. Over the years the Polynesians have largely moved out and the Chinese have moved in. I now sometimes joke that I live in Shanghai such is the overwhelming dominance of Chinese faces in my street adn local community. The local primary school when my sons were there had children from 41 different nationalities but they are now increasingly North Asian. All of them sound like little Kiwis when they open their mouths and they have values that might be a little different to their migrant parents.

I have often observed that with these new faces in my suburb in serious numbers, my life hasn’t changed one jot in the 20 years (except I now shop at the local ‘Asian’ Supermarket and eat more pork(!), we eat out more often at the plethora of Chinese eateries that have popped up like mushrooms (probably about 50 within ten minutes walk) and I am aware that to be a New Zealander no longer means being a rugby fanatic, being white and middle class. However, I still don’t eat dog. I prefer chickens feet on the chicken and not on my plate, I love a good curry and fried rice is more often on my home cooked menu than mashed potato and I don’t have congee for breakfast. I am not eating with chopsticks at home (except when I make sashimi…). Yet.  I have not converted to Islam. I am not a Buddhist. Hinduism doesn’t much interest me.  I have not been tempted to try Christianity as some cultural refuge from these migrants.

I am aware though that I live in a wonderfully diverse and exciting city that is all the better for the mixture of races and cultures that we now have.

My experience of New Zealanders is that most do not have a racist bone in their bodies. One on one we do not judge based on race, religion or ethnicity.  While we are as quick as the next group to generalise  (such as ‘Asians can’t drive’) my experience and that of my clients is that one on one we do not.

I’d be really interested in hearing the views of those who have travelled here, live here and have migrated here.

Have you experienced racism? If so I’d like to know the context of it, whether it is common and your thoughts.

Until next week

Southern Man - Iain MacLeod

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13 comments on this post
May 4, 2013, 2:24 a.m. by Damian Klop

No NZ is not a racist country. Maybe they are just more sensitive to it. I have lived in Korea for 3 years, for Germany for 1 year so far, have spent many months in Australia with family there, and I have traveled around NZ for 4 weeks. From my experience as a foreigner, NZ is the least racist and most hospitable of these places. Whereas I find Australia quite a racist place (very similar to the old South Africa) I find Kiwis some of the most hospitable people I have met with the exception of Canadians. And research supports this as NZ as once again been polled as one of the friendliest places to go to for tourists (#2 - only beaten by Iceland) according to the World Economic Forum. http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/03/25/new-report-ranks-iceland-as-friendliest-country-to-tourists/

Replies to this comment

April 17, 2015, 7:12 p.m. by Shirley
I disagree with you, NZ is VERY racist. I was told just yesterday to leave by 7 locals who said this is their country and we do not need foreigners here. My friend experiences blatant racism on the job frequently as well.
Reply to this comment
May 6, 2013, 10:21 a.m. by Carmen

Mm - interesting. I do believe that there is a measure of racism, and that is mostly restricted to the Maori / Pakeha tensions ....but, in my experience, it's fairly isolated and agree with what you say that when it comes to one-on-one, absolutely not experienced racism here at all. I have to my horror, come across one extremely racist person...... he was a migrant and to my shame - someone coming in from my homeland....South Africa. He was newly arrived, so I hope and pray he gets over himself. If the rot starts anywhere, it's likely to be because of have / have not economic status differences (or other differences that has caused so much strife in other parts of the world)and perceived 'blame'; and those migrants that have a sense of entitlement and superiority. God forbid it goes there

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May 6, 2013, 6:02 p.m. by friel

I'm a PR of NZ and had no experience of racism. Maybe there is but not that extreme or can affect you. I could say someone is racist if you feel seems they're not like you but its common and better as long as they're not offensive. Sometimes, the most racist one are those migrant to their fellow migrant but as a whole NZ are gentle/soft people.

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Oct. 11, 2013, 11:39 p.m. by samuel welsh

nz is not racist, but sadly 100 years back were drunk at the wheel of not respecting Indian and Chinese folks

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Oct. 24, 2013, 3:05 p.m. by Tom

i am an asian but born and raise in new zealand. i have experienced racism from the time ive started school till the time i finished. i received racism from mainly kiwis and moaris, i have received racsim from even many elderly men who are kiwis.
ive been bullied, beaten, verbally abused and threatened because of my cultural background. i moved to auckland a few years ago, and its not as bad here. but before this i lived in Tauranga. and manly places in New Zealand, if you are an indian, african, asian, non-white or non-maori. you get picked on in school 80% and 20% on the streets (once you've out of school).
most people dont know how racist new zealand can be because they didnt grow up in new zealand as an immigrant from the time they were born.

Replies to this comment

Oct. 24, 2013, 3:11 p.m. by iain macleod
I am sorry to hear of your experiences Tom. You were born in New Zealand? Can I ask how old you are?
Jan. 13, 2014, 1:26 a.m. by do not come to nz
mr ian macleod, don't say "I am sorry to hear of your experiences" when you aren't. If you really understood racism and how prevalent it is in new zealand you wouldn't write an article downplaying the attempt at bringing new zealand's racism and xenophobia to the front. you're one of those white people who shamelessly hide the hideous amount of racism in nz to make sure the tourist and international student dollars keep flowing in.
Jan. 27, 2014, 1:34 a.m. by iain macleod
I am neither in the tourism nor international student business so I cannot be accused of being biased or having a vested interested in either. Stating my views or quoting valid research is all I do. If you have concrete examples abut the 'hideous amount of racism' how about quoting a few examples for us all?
Jan. 28, 2014, 7:14 p.m. by S. Dinh
Thank You Tom, I was offered a job in New Zealand for some Bio-Medical research, but I have put into consideration your comments of racism towards Asians. I too am Asian, and I wouldn't want my children to be bullied because of their race. We currently live in Minnesota, US, and we rarely see racism. -Sandy
Jan. 28, 2014, 7:45 p.m. by iain macleod
Sandy I would just caution you that Tom (and one or two others who have posted comments here) have still failed to provide a single example of racist behaviour towards either migrants or Asians in general. Of course racism exists here as it would in Minnesota (probably less so here than my personal experiences in the US) but when credible research over 17 years carried out by the NZ Government shows that 95% of migrants have never experienced it you have to take their comments with a grain of salt. I live in NZ and I can say with hand on heart that like everywhere, racism exists but when 95% of migrants report they have never experienced it, it must tell you something. I do not expect your children would be bullied in most parts of NZ.
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Oct. 25, 2013, 12:06 a.m. by Yoyo

A song from a young asian girl about racism she has faced in NZ school system
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWoBR_FfHD0

Replies to this comment

Oct. 25, 2013, 10:48 a.m. by iain macleod
I watched it. Interested to know if you think she was upset and 'having a go' or if she was being witty. I can see how you might think the former wrapped up in wit. Very interesting. I am not sure it means that NZ is racist, I think it means that NZers are as quick to stereotype other groups of people as, in my experience, all groups do. It can be dangerous I agree and it can be hurtful. Thanks for your comment.
Oct. 25, 2013, 10:48 a.m. by iain macleod
I watched it. Interested to know if you think she was upset and 'having a go' or if she was being witty. I can see how you might think the former wrapped up in wit. Very interesting. I am not sure it means that NZ is racist, I think it means that NZers are as quick to stereotype other groups of people as, in my experience, all groups do. It can be dangerous I agree and it can be hurtful. Thanks for your comment.
Reply to this comment
Nov. 26, 2014, 8:44 a.m. by Wong

NZ is one of the most racist countries in the world. I have been already in 14 countries in tree continents and definitively here is the most extreme.

Even places with high levels of territorial, cultural and ethnic dispute and disturbance cannot be at the same level as here.

The absurd has reached situations such as people laughing about how your phenotype is and about your race. If you are mixed it's even worse.

That's all just propaganda from kiwis as told by "do not come to nz" previously. Do not come here. People here will always think no-white people are less capable and disgusting. That highly sad but thetruth.

I am leaving this country after 5 years of hell. Never mind.

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Dec. 11, 2014, 10:34 p.m. by Ronell

I hope this is not true :(.. I'm going to school soon (Maori School) and im an asian.. I don't know what they do to me..

Replies to this comment

Dec. 11, 2014, 11:28 p.m. by Iain MacLeod
Hi Ronnel Here is my prediction - you will be just fine, welcomed at your new school and you are about to make some new lifelong friends. I'll say it one more time - no one I have let rant here has provided a single example of any racist event that has happened to them. When they do, I'll start asking if all the evidence that has been gathered by many Government and non Government organizations and the experiences my (largely Asian) clients share with me that strongly indicates there is little racism here, is wrong. Enjoy your new school. Iain
Dec. 11, 2014, 11:28 p.m. by Iain MacLeod
Hi Ronnel Here is my prediction - you will be just fine, welcomed at your new school and you are about to make some new lifelong friends. I'll say it one more time - no one I have let rant here has provided a single example of any racist event that has happened to them. When they do, I'll start asking if all the evidence that has been gathered by many Government and non Government organizations and the experiences my (largely Asian) clients share with me that strongly indicates there is little racism here, is wrong. Enjoy your new school. Iain
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Feb. 14, 2015, 11:27 p.m. by Ashira

I hope nobody reading this website actually believes this article. Potential asian immigrants, please beware. I am a Taiwanese-New Zealander who lived in New Zealand for 10 years and is a citizen there but have since moved to Australia. If you are considering immigration as an Asian, please do yourself a favour and choose Canada, America, or Australia if you have the ability to migrate there instead (I understand not everyone has the resources to go to somewhere other than New Zealand, but still). New Zealanders are incredibly racist towards Asians, especially in rural areas. If you really need to move to NZ, try to stick to Auckland. These people think news stories as "the asian invasion" as socially acceptable, and now I have moved to Austalia, I'm so glad to have left this country behind. There is nothing I miss about it, and I hope I never have to go back.

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Feb. 14, 2015, 11:34 p.m. by Ashira

If readers don't believe me, believe NZ statistics. Asians are amongst the most discriminated here. At the extreme risk of sounding incredibly politically incorrect (who cares, this is the internet) every western society has it's scapegoats, considered by the caucasians to be the bottom of the ethnic pile. In NZ, that's Asians. In Australia, that's the Aborigines and Indians. In America, that's the African-Americans.If you are migrating, be smart and don't be those ethnicities in those specific countries.
http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/people_and_communities/asian-peoples/racial-discrimination-in-nz.aspx

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Feb. 14, 2015, 11:44 p.m. by Ashira

http://www.stuff.co.nz/sunday-star-times/features/5159885/I-just-want-to-fight-for-the-truth
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/4595842/Abusive-acts-against-students-abhorrent
http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/8582152/Chch-white-supremacist-group-targets-Auckland

Replies to this comment

Feb. 18, 2015, 6:06 p.m. by Iain MacLeod
In no way doubting your experiences it is a shame you do not tell us in what way you felt discriminated against. In case you might think this was all made up I urge you and anyone conceded about this issue to read the following research - it is pretty startling in a positive way. http://www.dol.govt.nz/research/migration/lisnz/ff/DOL10705-27-LisNZ-FastFacts-12-Perceptions-Safety.pdf
April 17, 2015, 7:19 p.m. by Shirley
Just yesterday I was told my 7 thugs/gang/uneducated pricks - 6 girls and a guy - this is their country, we do not need foreigners here. My ass, NZ cannot survive without foreigners really since most have little education to do anything with. I have a resident since 9 yrs now and I am leaving this year and would tell my worst enemy to move here. NZ are also lazy and think they know best - and everyone else is dumb. Well they are the biggest idiots I have ever met in my life and I have been a flight attendant.
Reply to this comment
Feb. 24, 2015, 8:16 p.m. by Daffy

People will always have preconceptions of other races; but as long as you follow the law and conduct yourself well,you shouldn't face discrimination. Have been a NZ PR, living in Auckland for 3 years without encountering any racism so far. My Kiwi colleagues and friends are all very friendly.

Reply to this comment
April 17, 2015, 9:20 p.m. by Kent Wang

I am from Malaysia thinking to go to NZ this coming July for sight seeing and also to see if I can look for a job as I plan to settle down in NZ. Looking at the discrimination situation, it is scary to stay in NZ for good.

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