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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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/
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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
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.
nz is not racist, but sadly 100 years back were drunk at the wheel of not respecting Indian and Chinese folks
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.
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A song from a young asian girl about racism she has faced in NZ school system
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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.
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..
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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.
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.
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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.
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.