Meng Foon Wants New Zealanders To Move Beyond Denial About Racism
Denial of racism is emerging as a major theme when discussing the ‘r’ word, one week into the Voice of Racism campaign.
Meng Foon and the Human Rights Commission have analysed comments about racism on their own Facebook pages. Denial is a dominant theme expressed by many New Zealanders.
He said while there had been an immense amount of positive feedback, some people were still in denial about the effects of racism.
“There are two steps I want New Zealanders to take with the Voice of Racism,” said Foon.
“I want them to go to the website at www.VoiceofRacism.co.nz but before they press play and listen, I need them to have an open mind about what they are hearing.
“Listening to what others have to tell us about living with racism is the critical thing here. There is no wishing it away.”
It requires effort from each and every one of us to move from denial to anti-racism because racism is preventable.
External research revealed denial of racism was also an issue when Give Nothing to Racism was launched in 2017. This soon turned into bullying and trolling. Despite our best efforts to moderate social media comments, we are seeing similar responses.
“We need a safe space to talk about racism and we’ve been hiding and deleting the sweary and abusive posts,” said Foon.
“We’re watching out for posts that attack individuals or ironically, use racist names toward ethnic groups.”
Despite the campaign being informed by evidence, and recent media reports about racism and bias in housing and policing,* too many people commenting about the campaign side with prejudice, and try to justify discrimination.
Others deflect or change the subject – to shift the focus from the impacts of racism, and to avoid the idea that they could do something about it.
Foon is hopeful that the positive feedback given to the campaign indicates a sea change.
“Some comments tell us that people feel heard by the campaign, while others are hearing this for the first time and want to do something about it, like deciding to not ignore racist comments.”
Other commentators are talking their peers though the kaupapa, describing why an action is racist, and giving the back story to the examples in the Voice of Racism.
“I’m grateful for the support of well-known New Zealanders and organisations who are sharing this kaupapa including Karen Walker, Sam Neill, Taika Waititi, Teuila Blakely, Robbie Magasiva, Mako Road, the Silver Ferns, the All Blacks, the Hurricanes, the Crusaders and New Zealand cricketers, who are shown talking about the experience here: https://twitter.com/BLACKCAPS/status/1288195268232568836.
“Seeing the denial is disappointing but when people jump on board, like the groups above, I believe the campaign will help Aotearoa to turn a corner. Now that we are really clear what racism sounds like – I hope we’ll be less tolerant to hearing this voice moving forward. I encourage our team of five million to make this country ‘racism free,’ to dismantle it. Let’s work together like we did for COVID-19. It’s a goal worth striving for.”
*Housing discrimination article:
Bias in policing article: