The New Zealand Herald

‘Racism’ talk hits a nerve for some

Taika Waititi just ‘walking the talk’ with his comments, says Race Relations Commission­er Susan Devoy

- Tess Nichol | World A17– 19 | Opinion A20– 21 | Classified A22– 26 | Entertainm­ent A27– 32

Taika Waititi’s comment that, despite being the “best place on the planet”, New Zealand is also “racist as f***” is ruffling the feathers of various talk show hosts and online commentato­rs.

But what do regular Kiwis think of his comments?

The Herald spoke to a collection of New Zealanders about whether they think there’s a problem with racism in our society, and why.

said a quick look at the over-representa­tion of Maori in New Zealand’s crime statistics shows there is an issue with racism in this country.

“While he was saying it in fairly graphic terms, there are racial issues we clearly need to address in New Zealand,” Bonnar said.

“The simple fact that more than 50 per cent of our prison population is Maori tells a pretty tragic story. We’re not getting things right.”

lives in Otaki and is a stay-at-home mum to her daughter, who is nearly 1.

She was immediatel­y in agreement with Waititi’s comments, though it took her a minute to tease out why.

Recalling one of her earliest memories, Paora spoke of a friend telling her when they were about 10 that her mum “doesn’t like Maoris”.

“For me, I felt like, I knew that was racism. And I thought, I never had anybody in my whanau growing up taking that sort of position on any culture.”

She was happy to hear someone with a platform speak up bluntly.

Stephen Bonnar, QC, Lesley-May Paora

“I’m totally glad, I tautoko anyone who takes a stand and helps safeguard us as a people.

“I would do that same. We’re not all world-famous directors or whatever but we can all still send a message by pronouncin­g words correctly, by using the reo.”

Armani Ngaro (top right) Patrick Stowers (bottom right)

and are in their early 20s and work as grouters in Auckland.

They didn’t agree with Waititi’s comments.

Ngaro said from his point of view he didn’t feel he was a victim of racism.

“It must just be an experience that he’s been through,” he said of Waititi. Stowers said he “strongly disagreed” with Waititi. He said he would sometimes think racist thoughts but never allowed them to influence his actions or shape the way he treated other people. “I don’t really mean it [the thoughts], in a racism way, because I get along with everybody,” he said.

“There is racism around but I don’t really see it.”

Ngati Hine chair

Shortland (below) Te Waihoroi

said Waititi’s comments were no different to what he had said in the “Give Nothing to Racism” campaign, he’d just said it in a blunter fashion. “Who likes the words when you hear the truth?” Waititi had earned the right to say what was on his mind and sometimes that would “cut across the grain”, Shortland said.

New Zealand needed “some people like Taika to give you a shakeup. And it makes us think about these things a little bit more”.

We owe it to ourselves to think about what Waititi is saying, Shortland said. “I think when Taika does well, he’s a great New Zealander.

“When he says something particular like this he’s a Maori man.”

Prime Minister and race relations commission­er

have both backed Waititi, with Devoy in particular commending him for his comment.

“Good on Taika for having the courage to speak up and tell the truth. We need to actually understand racism is an issue in New Zealand and what are we going to do about it.”

And speaking on the Am Show yesterday morning, Ardern said, “You’d be hard pressed to find a country that didn’t have racism in it”.

“Is there racism in New Zealand,” she asked. “Undeniably. Is there racism in most countries? Undeniably. Can we do better? Yes. And I’m really proud of the efforts we make daily to do better.”

When questioned by host Duncan Garner about whether it was fair of Waititi to say New Zealand not only had racism in its culture but was racist “as f***”, Ardern pointed out the film director had prefaced his comments by saying New Zealand was the best place in the world.

Jacinda Ardern Dame Susan Devoy (below)

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Taika Waititi’s remarks about racism in New Zealand have ruffled a few Kiwi feathers but others say he’s right.
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