Racial Tolerance

Dame Susan Devoy recently launched a campaign to encourage New Zealander’s to identify and talk about racist incidents in New Zealand, as a way of ensuring that New Zealand remains a beacon of racial tolerance. You can read her open letter here.

As an incomer to New Zealand the lack of any racial tension is certainly something that you notice. The two main racial types are European and Maori, and the country is genuinely bi-cultural. There is an ongoing process of restitution to Maori communities over breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi (1840) by European, essentially British, settlers. Elsewhere in the world I am sure such a process would be controversial. In New Zealand it commands, as far as I am aware, universal support.

The letter does not mention “migrants” or “immigration”. However, the press conference to launch the campaign seems to have developed a life of its own. I cannot find a verbatim transcript or video of the event, but many newspapers report that Dame Susan said, amongst other things, the New Zealand “must not become as racist as Australia”! She also aid that “she did not want migrants being blamed for every issue and problem”. Maybe these outrageous comments are simply designed to raise the profile of the campaign launch.

However, it would be very sad if Dame Susan really was confusing concerns over immigration with racism. Clearly immigrants will sometimes come from a different racial type. However, if UK residents object to immigration, that relates to pressure on low-skilled jobs, education, healthcare, housing and social services; with no distinction as to whether the migrant is Nordic, Germanic, Latin, Slavic or indeed Eskimo.

I cannot help but feel it is rather sad that New Zealand should achieve global visibility over a program to combat racism, when race relations in New Zealand must be amongst the best in the world. I would also point out that Dame Susan is NOT an official of the New Zealand Government. The New Zealand Human Rights Commission, that Dame Susan sits on is an “Independent Crown Entity”.

New Zealand is indeed a wonderfully tolerant place and that is something that New Zealanders quietly get on with making a reality, with or without a news conference to launch a[nother] campaign.

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