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Voice of Racism

The everyday racism felt by real people

in Aotearoa, New Zealand

 

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Racist and offensive language
Unsuitable for younger listeners

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Thank you to those who shared their
real experiences for this project

   
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A teacher? Really? You don't seem like a teacher

Are those your kids? They don't look like you

Are you employed or on a benefit?

Are you from South Auckland?

Are you here on a work visa?

Are you here with the catering team?

Are you one of them?

Are you really Māori?

Are you the first person in your family to get a degree?

Can you give us your cultural perspective?

Did you come here through the Quota Programme?

Did you get in here on a scholarship?

Do you eat normal food?

Do you love cricket? I thought you all loved cricket

Following you? No, no I was just seeing if you needed any customer service

Haha, I can’t pronounce this name

Have you been to an art gallery before?

Have you ever eaten cats or dogs?

I bet you're a good singer

I've tried to pronounce it right but I just can't

Oh sorry, I didn’t realise you were born here

Oh sorry, I thought that was a man’s name

Oh, I wasn’t expecting a Kiwi accent

So what do you identify as?

That's your son? No way!

That’s a hard name, can I just call you ‘T’?

Was your marriage arranged? How come you're allowed to be in a relationship?

We're here to speak to the dean. Oh you are the dean? Haha sorry

What are you drinking? That’s so weird

What's your real name?

What’s the word for this in your language?

What’s your religion?

Where are you from? But where are your parents from?

Where are you from? No, but, where are you actually from? No, like, where are your parents from?

Where are you from? No, but, where did you come from?

Where do you come from?

Woah, can we have a photo with you? Can I touch your hair?

Wow, you don’t look how I imagined you would

Wow, you're so educated

Wow, you’re so articulate, you speak English so well!

You all have kids really young

You always have crazy opinions

You don't look like an engineer

You don't look the type for a lawyer

You don’t look English – why do you speak it so well? How did you learn it? Where are you from?

You don’t look like a novel reader

You don’t sound Māori

You have an exotic look, but in an attractive way

You have an unusual face

You have two degrees? Wow!

You just look normal to me - I wouldn't have guessed your ethnicity

You must have had an unusual childhood, what was it like?

You speak really good English

You're surprisingly intelligent

You're surprisingly organised and tidy

You’d be used to this kind of rustic living though, wouldn’t you?

You’re really pretty for a brown person

Are you a witch?

Aren’t women in your culture just there to breed?

Bloody islanders

Haha sorry I'm just laughing at your accent

Haha, we’re all worried about you coming in here with a backpack on (detonation sound)

Hahaha you’ll never get the part – you’re too hori!

I can call you a F*b can’t I? See, he doesn’t mind

In your country they have monkeys running the show

Is that car new? Where’d you steal that from?

Of course you’re good at maths, you all love numbers

Oh, you bl**dy Maoris!

Oh, you don’t speak your own language?

Oh, you’re one of them

Ooh, bet that cat looks tasty to you

Ooh, here comes trouble

That’s not a normal name

Those coconuts

Turn that weird music down

Ugh, that’s so hori

Um, can I help you?

W-w-w-what’s the problem – can’t you speak English!

Why don't you go home then

You all eat pies

You all right there love? Just looking?

You boongas

You brown people can’t make a simple decision

You brownies

You can't drive - you should be riding a horse

You taking a 'Māori day off' are you?

You talk real dumb

You’re all heading to McDonalds, cos it’s dole day

You’re black, what would you know

You’re so brown – did you stay out in the sun too long?

Don’t speak that native language in here

Get away from my child!

Get off my property

Get out of my lecture theatre

Go away

Go back to where you came from

Go back to your own country

Go home

I'll call the Police on you. I'll get them to take your kids

I'll make you wish you never complained

I’m not touching that paper after you’ve touched it

It would be in your best interests to play by the rules

Learn to drive!

This is what happens when you complain

Typical Māori, mucking around instead of making our coffees

What are you doing! Get away from the customer!

Why are you speaking another language?

Why do you deserve special treatment?

Why would you want the board papers?

You can’t leave this supermarket until I’ve checked your bags. And your car

You can’t sit with us

You don’t have local experience

You haven’t got the intelligence to know

You little coconut – I’m going to stomp on you

You should all get off your arse

You should all go back to your villages

You want everything, you think you own the land

You're all loud-mouthed, incapable of speaking

You're all useless

You’ll have to adapt, this is the way here

You’re a threat to our society

You’re all beneficiaries

You’re all drunks

You’re all lazy bludgers

You’re all uneducated

You’re not welcome here

You’re spreading everywhere – you’re taking over the world

You’re taking our jobs

Your people are a drain on the economy

(tongue trill)

Are you going to eat your goldfish?

Curry muncher

Oh look, they’re taking their annual bath

Oooh, are you going to blow something up?

Peow peow! I’m going to kill you

The airport’s that way

You have a big nose

You have big feet

You’ve all got kutus

(Expletives)

(Expletives)

(Expletives)

(Expletives)

(Expletives)

(Expletives)

Get back to where you came from

(Expletives)

Get out – you’re not welcome here

Go home

Hori

I'm going to piss on you

I’m going to come into your mosque and burn the Korans

(Expletives)

(Expletive)

(Expletive)

(Expletive)

(Expletive)

We’re going to beat the shit out of you

(Expletives)

You can’t walk around like that – take that headthing off!

(Expletives)

(Expletive)

(Expletive)

(Expletive)

Don’t talk – they’ll mock how you speak again

Have you noticed, no one ever calls you a gentleman?

He doesn’t trust you – you can tell by his body language

He’s not even going to greet you

He’s talking down to you

I bet she wouldn’t have said that to a white person

Look - they’re not sitting next to you. They’d rather stand

Look – they’re friendly to all the other children – just not yours

Look – they’re scared of you

Look at her face – she can't hide her disdain

No one ever sits next to you on the bus

Of course they’re not going to smile at you – they don’t want people like you in here

See - they’re looking down on you

See – their shoulders tense up when you walk into the room

See that snigger of disdain at your children

She didn’t give you a perfume sample – she probably thinks you can’t afford it

She’ll take direction from white people, but not from you

That glance wasn’t a friendly one

They all hold their bags tightly when you walk past

They don't trust you

They don’t want to get to know you

They don’t want you in this building. They don’t want to mix with people like you

They look disgusted by you

They think you’re a terrorist

They think you’re stupid

They're avoiding talking to you

They're following you around the dairy

They're looking at you funny because of your tattoos

They're offering everyone the goody bags except you

They're putting their bags on the seats so you can't sit there

They’re crossing the road away from you, so you don’t bash them

They’re driving their car straight at you, they’d love to run you over

They’re following you again – they think you’re stealing

They’re going to hit you

They’re keeping a safe distance – they think you’re unclean

They’re laughing at you

They’re locking their cars just in case

They’re looking at you like you shouldn’t be in this café

They’re looking at you weird – they think you’re strange

They’re looking you up and down, they think you’re going to bash them

They’re looking you up and down

They’re moving their bags so you don’t steal them

They’re not saying hello, they don’t want you in this neighbourhood

They’re saying hi to the other white people but not to you

They’re spitting at you

They’re staring at you and your wife

They’re staring at you, like you’re freaks. They’re backing away

They’re stepping back – they’re scared of you

They’re talking slowly and clearly to you

They’re trying to get you fired. They don’t want you here

They’re watching you closely cos you can’t be trusted

They’re watching your daughters – they look like the shoplifting type

They’re whispering about you

They’ve made their own white table – away from you lot

They’ve put you’re in the too hard basket. You’re a lost cause

Watch out – he’s trying to grab your moko kauae

Watch out – they’re going to rip off your headscarf

Watch out, they're throwing rubbish at you

You always get called bro, never sir

You can try, but they won’t make eye contact with you

You look like a thief

You look poor

You’ll be waiting forever, she’s not going to serve you

You’re always the last to be picked

Your security clearance is taking a long time, you must be a threat

Give up – they’re not going to serve you

Just go - they don’t think you can afford anything here

Just watch – they’ll all get promoted before you do

Stay away, they’ll push you around again

You’ll never be good enough

Are you in the right place?

Are you lost?

Are you sure that's correct? Can you check with the manager?

Are you sure you want an x-ray? They’re expensive

Can I help you?

Can I help you?

Can you speak English?

Can you use a knife and fork?

Do you have a community services card?

Gosh, your daughter has a big long name, is there something shorter we can call her?

It’s lovely to finally see you in Western clothing

Oh, that face thing is lovely, what’s that about?

Oh, would you want to come to Friday drinks?

The secondhand cars are across the road

There are some cheaper menu items on the back here

There are some nice opshops down the road

Why are you in this building? Do you know where you're going?

You're still on the waiting list - are you sure you want the treatment?

Be careful how you act – you don’t want to stand out

Don't be so sensitive - they're not laughing at you specifically

Don’t be so loud and confident – you’re intimidating enough already

Don’t wear that – you’ll make people uncomfortable

Don’t work out with your hoodie on, people don’t trust you

I know it’s your religion, but you’re drawing attention to yourself

It was just an offhand remark – don’t overthink it

It's just a joke - don't take it so seriously

It's not a joke about you personally, don't worry about it

It’s only words, just block it out

Just greet people in English

Make sure you talk early on, so they know you speak English

Maybe you should go back home

Put your headphones outside your hoodie so they can see you have money

Speak softly so they’re not scared of you

Stop being different – you’ll get beaten up

Stop being weird about it – everyone does that here

Straighten your hair, wear more makeup, dress better – that might help

Take your headscarf off – you’d be so much prettier without it

Take your headscarf off – you’re not that religious anyway

Take your hood off, they think you’re stealing

Tell them more about yourself, so they can relax

Tell your wife not to wear that – this is New Zealand

Wear your work clothes, so they’re not rude to us

Why don’t you show your legs?

You could try to blend in a bit more

You know you don’t have to wear a hijab

You know you’d get higher up if you didn’t wear the hijab

You're lucky you don't have shitty hair like the others

You're not the kind of customer they're wanting

You're so loud

You’ll get better treatment if you wear expensive clothes

You’re too white. You’re not white enough

I can never remember how to say your name

Can you put someone else’s name on the paper? An ethnic name isn’t a good look for us

Can’t we change the name to something easier to pronounce?

Could you organise some cultural stuff for the new clients?

Do you mean your people, or normal people?

Do you want the breastfeeding advice? You all botttle feed don't you?

Don’t come to the meeting – you’re not the right face to see around the table

He’s on a higher salary than you because he could easily work elsewhere

I didn't give you those options because I didn't imagine you'd have health insurance

I didn't realise you worked here

I don’t mean us, I mean your people

I don’t understand what you’re saying

I hardly ever like people of your race

I imagined you looking different from our phone calls

I need to conduct a random drug search

I suppose it’s different in your culture

I suppose it’s different in your family

I thought you'd know, isn’t that your culture?

I'm guessing you have a different perspective

I’m not sure you’re the right people to take this lease

If we accommodate your culture, we'll have to start doing it for everyone

If we were to hire you, would there be cultural difficulties?

Is that your… biological mother?

It's not a big enough crime for us to investigate

Maybe the nurse didn’t have your email right – could you spell your name again?

Sorry, there were other tenants better suited to the property

That's not how we think here

The prescription cost $5, do you still want it?

Those kids won't amount to much anyway

We can consider a payrise when you've proven your capability

We don’t want the clients seeing your name – they won’t take us seriously

We think you’re best suited to your current role, there’s nothing we’d promote you to in this organisation

We've given the position to someone more suitable

We’re disestablishing your position - the funding has been cut

Why spend time with those kids – their parents don’t care anyway

You can file a police report, but there's nothing we can do anyway

You don't belong in this industry

You don't exactly belong here

You don’t have the right look

You haven't been appointed - you're not quite what we were looking for

You look too dark to be a Kiwi

You'll have to prove yourself first

You're challenging people - could you tone it down?

You’re being paid less because there’s less budget for your role

You’re not a proper Kiwi

You’re not mainstream New Zealand

Your position is being restructured, your input isn't needed

Your test results aren't in, maybe your name got lost in the system - it’s a hard one to spell

Your values don’t align with business

A test drive? Sure, but I’ll need to come with you

Are you a guest in this hotel? Can I see your room key?

Can I check your bag please?

Did you cheat on this test? It's a very high result

Do you have enough cash for the trip? Show me

Excuse me madam can we check your bag?

Excuse me, could I see your licence? Is this your car?

Excuse me, I’ll just need to check your pockets

I need to see in your bag before you leave thanks

I need to see some ID

I've just pulled you over for a routine check - where are you off to tonight?

There’s an event on here tonight, are you meant to be here?

There’s been a complaint about this address

This area is for VIPs only

We're just on patrol in this neighbourhood, could you tell us what you're doing?

What are you doing here?

All you want is free food and a bed

Are you sure you’re the right person for that job?

First you want your culture included, then you want to decide how we do it

I'm not against other races, I'm just saying

No one can pronounce that name

None of you can drive

Our country hates your religion

Stop making it all about you – you’re not the only one that gets discrimination

That’s what you’re all like, you just sit on your arse and get the dole

The biggest threat to our children is you immigrants

The only people who support the Treaty are you guys

This cultural stuff is wasting time

This is our country

We can’t get jobs because of you

We don’t like your country

We’ve given you enough resources

What makes you think your culture’s so special?

Why are you in this meeting?

Why can’t you just use the existing services? Does it have to fit your culture?

Why do we always have to do this cultural stuff?

Why do you always have to argue? Just accept it

Why do you always have to make things difficult?

Why do you wear those clothes – they’re like tents

Why does it have to be your way!

You can't comment – you’re not a real New Zealander

You can't expect me to pronounce it correctly - it's not my language

You can’t be trusted when you speak that language

You can’t let your children wear those colours – they look like gang members

You get all this stuff for free

You get so many more privileges than we do

You get special programmes, what do we get?

You only got where you are because of special treatment

You pretend to be moderate but you’re all terrorists

You should be grateful to be here

You should be paying for us

You're just naturally lazier

You're taking all the jobs

You’re buying up all the houses

You’re not like us

All he did was spit on you, get over it

Can I be served by someone else?

Can I just cut in front of you? I have a busy day

Can I speak to the manager instead?

I want to speak to someone who can speak English, I don’t want to speak to you

Read the sign! Or can’t you read English?

Sorry, I didn’t realise you were in the queue

Sorry, you can't try that on

Stop singing, this is a place for work

That’s how things are done here in New Zealand

That’s just the way we do things – feel free to go elsewhere

Wait there – I’ll just serve these other people first

You’re just here to represent your race

You’re not a New Zealander

All that stuff happened ages ago, let it go

Don't take offence

I was only joking, chill out

I'm not racist, I'm one thirty secondth Māori

I'm not racist, some of my family are brown

I’m not racist – I have brown friends

If you can't handle the racism, why don't you just leave?

It didn't even happen to you, it happended to your ancestors

No offence intended

Oh nothing, I didn’t say anything, never mind

Oh, I didn’t mean anything by it

This isn’t about you

We weren't talking about you

Why don’t you just go home then

Why should you be treated any differently?

Yes it’s very white here – what’s wrong with that?

You always bring it back to the Treaty

You always want everything, what about us

You think you’re superior to us, don’t you

You're the ones committing the crimes

Before I take you through, are you aware of the level of real estate in this area?

Could I speak to someone else please?

I'm assuming you haven't owned a house before?

I’m afraid we can’t help you

The table for your group is just here, around the corner, nice and private

Well, yes, there are other medical routes we could take, but they’ll cost money

You can't come in here

You don’t speak adequately

You speak funny

You’re bringing riff raff to our town

You’re not needed in this conversation

Your daughter would be better off at a different school

Internalised racism

Understand the harm of internalised racism

When people accept society’s negative beliefs about their culture and race, this can lead to low self-belief and negatively affect their health and wellbeing.

Ongoing exposure to negative stereotypes, stories and statistics about your race, and to the negative actions and words of other people, can have a harmful effect over the course of your life. Research shows these internalised effects can have physical health outcomes including avoidable disease and early death.

Make a commitment not to add to this harm in others, and show care with your words and actions.

Assumptions of nationality

Challenge your image of what a New Zealander looks like

You can be curious and interested about others without making assumptions about their nationality. When we hold a limited stereotype of what a New Zealander looks, sounds, or dresses like, it can make others feel like outsiders.

Keep an open mind about who belongs here, while acknowledging Māori are tangata whenua (original people of the land) and have a strong sense of identity and belonging.

Assumptions about skills or ability

Judge skills and ability separate to ethnicity or accent

Even if you mean it as a compliment, it can be hurtful when you comment on someone’s skills or ability based on their race. It shows low expectations of them based on a stereotype.

In New Zealand, low expectations of Māori and Pacific people can lead to poorer educational achievement or being stuck in low wage work.

Treat all people with respect regardless of their ethnicity.

Assumptions about criminality

Seek out positive stories about people you hold assumptions against

Racial stereotyping and systemic racism have led to an unjust over-representation of Māori and Pacific people in New Zealand’s justice system.

This prevents these people from achieving their full potential and causes harm that can affect families and communities for generations.

Reflect on how you’d be affected if you were constantly suspected of being a criminal just because of your race. Read and believe the stories of those who were treated differently in the justice system. Speak out against this avoidable harm and injustice.

Ignoring race

Acknowledge that race affects how some people are treated

If you avoid talking about race or claim not to ‘see colour’, this denies the experiences of people who live with racial discrimination and bias.

If you can learn about racism instead of experiencing it yourself, acknowledge that this is a privilege. It doesn’t mean your life has no challenges; it just means that race isn’t the cause of them.

Be willing to have uncomfortable conversations, and avoid phrases that shut down these conversations or deny the impact of racism. Listen to stories of people who experience racism and learn how it affects them. Believe them.

Denial of racism

Stay open to learning

Even when we have good intentions, our words and actions can be harmful. Denying that our country, systems, workplaces, or ourselves as individuals can be racist stops us from making progress.

Learn about the impact of colonisation in New Zealand and how it continues to affect people. Be open to people telling you how racism has affected their lives. If someone tells you you’ve said or done something racist, acknowledge that we can all keep learning.

Workplace discrimination

Support people from minority groups in your workplace

Most workplaces in New Zealand are built around Pākehā views and values. This can seem like ‘the norm’, but it can limit the contributions and progression of people with different values, resulting in people from ethnic minorities being misunderstood or stuck in lower paying roles.

This is why diversity and inclusion matters, and why affirmative action and anti-racism policies are needed.

Check on colleagues from minority groups to see if they are being treated equally. Look for opportunities to be inclusive and to help all people achieve.

Unconscious racism

Acknowledge your racial bias and private beliefs about race

We all absorb the biases of our society, so we don’t always notice if we’re treating other people differently or reacting in a certain way because of their race. While each instance might seem small to us, the impact can be incredibly harmful over a lifetime.

For example, research shows that unconscious racial bias contributes to Māori and Pacific people being treated differently in the health system, leading to negative outcomes including avoidable death.

Reflect on your own biases and be open to challenging and changing them. Resolve to act in a way that addresses them.

Rejection of other cultures

Challenge the belief that Pākehā and Western culture is the norm

Rejecting or denying cultural beliefs and traditions because they don’t align with your own is harmful to other people’s sense of belonging, and limits your ability to learn.

Racism can prevent many young people from ethnic and minority groups from accepting themselves. This can lead to poor mental health outcomes and long-term negative effects on their lives.

Be open to new ways of doing things at work, school, and in daily life. Speak to people with different backgrounds and embrace being challenged by new experiences.

Stereotypes

Be conscious of stereotypes, and challenge them

When we think in stereotypes, we deny people their individuality. Everyone is unique: Not everyone in other racial groups is the same, just like not everyone in your racial group is the same. Stereotypes are harmful even when they are meant to be ‘light-hearted’.

In extreme cases, it casts a negative and false presumption onto entire groups or populations of people. In 2019, this led to the Christchurch Mosque Attacks where 51 Muslim people were murdered. In 2020, many Chinese and Asian people have been harassed due to stereotypes associated with COVID-19.

Silence racism by challenging and rejecting racial stereotypes. Seek new information and media sources that will help you avoid stereotypical narratives and assumptions.

Verbal or physical abuse

Call out racist abuse if you see it

Call out racist verbal abuse, and make sure the victim is supported.

If you witness a physical attack, do what you can to make the victim feel safe. Ask if they are okay and make sure they know they’re not alone. Ignore the attacker. Record the incident on a phone, take notes of the time, place, and details. Report it immediately, don’t wait for it to escalate. If you ever feel unsafe, call the Police.

why is this racist?

This is an example of  

types of racism & what you can do

What can you do instead?

Examples

about the voice of racism

The Voice of Racism is made up of words and actions that were directed at real people here in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Every day in Aotearoa, people experience racism which hurts them, prevents them from reaching their potential, or from living their lives feeling welcome and secure.

This incessant racism has a measurable impact on health and wellbeing, and it is contributed to even by those with good intentions. People may think one joke, one comment, one assumption, one stereotype doesn’t matter, that they are trivial, but they do matter – and the cumulative effect on people experiencing these is huge.

The Human Rights Commission calls everyone to listen to the Voice of Racism, to understand the experience, to appreciate the harm, and learn how to silence racism.

Making the voice of racism

photo of Taika Waitit

To create the Voice of Racism, more than 200 people shared their experiences of racism in New Zealand. These were curated into a collection of everyday experiences, to represent the racism that exists in the lives of many. These experiences include things that were said to them verbally and through people’s actions, and the internalised racism they live with.

These moments became ‘the Voice of Racism’, one collective voice that articulates the racism people exhibit both intentionally and unintentionally.

The Voice of Racism is performed by Taika Waititi.

“Can you just believe us when we say racism exists in New Zealand?”

Recipient of racism

Give nothing to racism

Racism lives in our everyday words and actions, our systems and our practices. To stop it growing we must begin by acknowledging and confronting where it exists in ourselves and others. Then give it no tolerance, no power, no welcome, no acceptance, and no voice. Give nothing to racism.

Get involved

Businesses and organisations all over New Zealand are making a commitment to give nothing to racism. If you have an idea about how your business or organisation can contribute to silencing racism, contact us at infoline@hrc.co.nz.

The more we educate ourselves about racism, the more we have the power to resist it. Here are some places you can go to keep learning.

help & support

Where to find support

If this website experience has been distressing for you, please ask for help. Here are some places you can turn to:

How to report racism

If you experience or witness a racist incident, please report it.

Police

Always call 111 if you or someone else is in immediate danger.

Contact Police here or on 105 to report a crime

NZ Human Rights Commission

If you’ve been racially discriminated against, you can file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission or talk to them here:

Netsafe

If you’re experiencing online bullying, abuse or harassment based on your colour, race, ethnicity or nationality, Netsafe have a free and confidential service to give you advice and information.

What to do in a racist attack

If you’re the victim or witness of a racist attack, either physical or verbal, do whatever you can to keep yourself safe.

  1. Support If the attack happens to someone else, support the victim and ask if they are okay. Ignore the attacker.
  2. Record If possible, record the attack on a phone. Take note of the time and place, and as much detail as possible.
  3. Report Report the attack. Call the Police. Alert the bus driver, manager or whoever is appropriate. If you can, ask a friend or bystanders to support you.