Racial tolerance underscores human rights

Venkat Raman

Auckland, March 21, 2017

Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy has said that while New Zealand and New Zealanders have accepted multiculturalism as a part of the social fabric, there is a need to spread awareness of that fact that racial attacks, hate speeches and actions that undermine human rights will not be tolerated.

Addressing a press conference at her Auckland office this morning, she made the following statement:

We want people to record attacks, to support people who are being attacked and to ensure attacks are reported. When we see yet another racist attack on the news we need to ask ourselves: Is this us? Is this the kind of country we want to be? If the answer is No, then we need to do something.

What we do today is our insurance policy for the future of our nation.

World at crossroads

This year we are focused on encouraging New Zealanders to answer these two questions: What do you stand for? What do you want against?

The world is at a cross roads when it comes to race relations: the way we treat each other will decide what path New Zealand goes down.

People from ethnic minorities report an increase in the number of personal racist attacks in recent times, this is in step with events taking place overseas.

What we do now really matters and that’s why we want people to be prepared to stand up for what they believe in: whether we let our country become a place where abusing someone because of their race is normal or not – that part’s up to us, all of us.

Global Observance

Every year, on March 21, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination marks the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre when 69 black South African citizens – including 10 children – were shot to death by their own Police for protesting against racial apartheid laws.

A series of events in provincial and urban communities to celebrate Race Relations Day are being held throughout the month of March.

A lot of New Zealanders care deeply about race relations and it shows: this year we have an unprecedented number of -events planned. With race relations events planned from Oamaru to Gisborne, Wanganui to Invercargill, what’s great is that we are celebrating race relations in our provinces and smaller towns not just our big cities. While we have our tough times we do care about and respect each other and it shows.

More than 30 events are being held throughout March with more being added to the list every day.

University incident

I am disappointed but not surprised by news that a racist, hateful organisation was mobilising on campus at Auckland University.

We cannot afford to stand by silently but instead we must let extremists know their hatred and prejudice is neither welcome in our country and nor does it reflect our people. That is not us.

This year, we have a very simple theme for Race Relations Day.

That’s Us: What do we stand for? What do we stand against? And it means exactly what it says. We are urging New Zealanders to stand up for each other. We are urging New Zealanders to make a stand against racism and prejudice.

Racist abuse and campaigns aren’t just things that happen overseas. They happen right here in New Zealand, on our streets, our buses and on our university campuses.

The Human Rights Commission’s That’s Us http://www.thatsus.co.nz/ anti-racism campaign has reached almost 2 million people (1.9 million) and engaged with more than 600,000 people since its launch on the September 1, 2016.

That’s Us is New Zealand’s first nationwide, anti-racism campaign with its first stage focused on sharing the stories of everyday Kiwis.


Photo Caption: Dame Susan Devoy

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