15 Jun 2017

New Zealanders 'suffering in silence' from racism

10:26 am on 15 June 2017

Racial intolerance is getting worse in New Zealand but most of those targeted suffer in silence, Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy says.

In response, the Human Rights Commission today launched a new campaign, fronted by actor and director Taika Waititi.

She said Waititi, as New Zealander of the Year, was an obvious choice to front the 'Give Nothing To Racism' campaign - and she contacted him while he was away working in the United States.

"I sent him a letter, and some Pineapple Lumps, to Los Angeles," she said. "He took a day off working on Thor and did this."

Dame Susan said one in three formal complaints to the Human Rights Commission was about racial discrimination, but the overwhelming majority of people never complained when they were humiliated or abused.

"I'm seeing and hearing every day from people in the community that are talking about the racial attacks on them," she told Morning Report.

When there was an event such as a terrorist attack overseas, Muslim people, particularly women and children, were targeted, she said.

"Women who are visually diverse in New Zealand who wear a hijab talk all the time about being racially abused at bus stops and schools and in their communities.

"And what is sad about that is nobody comes to their defence."

No one group was being targeted in New Zealand, and racist abuse was not limited to recent immigrants.

"Fourth-generation New Zealanders are still telling me that they're the butt of racist jokes or being told to go home," she said

There was a rise in racial hatred overseas and in New Zealand.

"I believe that things are getting worse and the reality is most people don't complain about this."

Dame Susan said everyone had a responsibility to speak up against racism, and urged politicians to refrain from pulling the race card in the lead-up to the election.

This is the second stage of the commission's anti-racism campaign. Last September it launched the 'That's Us' campaign with a website that enabled people to share their personal stories of racism.