The importance of Active Anti-Racism


Racism and other inequities have long impacted the lives of many New Zealanders including Māori, Pasifika, immigrants, gender diverse

communities and others who experience discrimination based on their ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender and sexuality, ability and so on.  

According to the Human Rights Commision (2017), "Racism is a Kiwi problem. It isn't new and it's growing: 1 in 3 complaints to the Human Rights Commission are about racial discrimination; most people who experience racism don't complain.” They go on to note “many Kiwis don't think racism is a problem, often because they've never experienced it themselves. We suspect many of us don't realise when something we say is prejudiced: but we would if someone pointed it out to us”.  In Education Matters to Me, a national survey of over 1600 children and young people, racism was one of six key themes of their educational experience, whereby “they experience racism at school and are treated unequally because of their culture.” (Office of the Children’s Commissioner, 2018)

In the wake of the mosque attacks in Christchurch on March 15th, racism has risen in the collective consciousness of all New Zealanders and we are increasingly committed to educating ourselves and being actively anti-racism going forward.

To support our growing awareness, self-awareness and actively anti-racist behaviour, we’ve curated a range of multi-media resources with which you might engage.  These include TED talks and other videos; articles and books; blogposts and Twitter feeds from Aotearoa New Zealand and beyond.  We hope these varied resources fortify you responding to our national call to action, in having those difficult conversations and in continuing to Give Nothing to Racism (Office of the Children’s Commissioner, 2016).

Here is a short summary of what you will find in each of the four pages:

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Understanding racism and white privilege

In this section, you will find seminal and current information which helps us to reframe racism, not as the horrible actions of a few people but as the wider structural inequalities that continue to benefit Pākehā whilst disadvantaging other groups.  We unpack white privilege as a fact of Pākehā lives, a result of the messages we’ve internalised our entire lives. As every one of us is more privileged in some areas, and less privileged in others, privilege is nothing to be ashamed of; rather, it is something to reflect on, unpack with others, and spend to ensure safety, wellbeing and equitable lives of others.  

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Understanding implicit bias

These resources consider implicit/unconscious bias, often more insidious and harmful than explicit acts of racism as bias seeps into the stories we tell ourselves about others, our subsequent responses and the other ways we maintain an inequitable status quo.  For instance, take a moment to note what bubbles up for you when you hear the word ‘beneficiary’, ‘refugee’ or ‘homeless person’. Unconsciously, the beliefs you hold influence your attitudes, reactions and attribution.

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Being Anti-Racist

Knowledge is only useful to the extent to which it shapes our thinking and actions.  This content is designed to support active anti-racism: the small and large ways we act to spend our privilege by amplifying the voices of others, addressing inequities and working to co-create a more just society.  As Ijeoma Oluo (2019) writes, confronting racism is not about the needs and feelings of white people.  Rather, the conversation must remain centered on the safety and wellbeing of every group historically and currently marginalised within our system.

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Critical voices

Nothing expands our thinking more than inviting diverse perspectives in our lives.  In this section, we suggest leaders from diverse backgrounds that you might like to read, listen to, follow on Twitter.  We have included a range of thought leaders, people having the difficult conversations ‘out loud’ and helping us to understand a way forward.

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In the light of the March 15th attacks, it is heartening to see New Zealanders of all ages, ethnicities, religions joining Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in actively fighting against racism. We hope through this curation of resources it empowers you to be actively anti-racism going forward. Ninety five year old veteran John Sato shows that we are never to old to take a stand. His wise words “It has brought people together, no matter what their race or anything. People suddenly realised we're all one. We care for each other" are indeed a legacy to embrace.

Giving the last word to the children and young people who fed into Education Matters to Me (Children’s Commission, 2018), we hope this collective focus on anti-racism helps to ensure every child has the opportunity “to be seen for who they are, and to be understood within the context of their home, life and experiences.”

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Wendy Holley-Boen            Jo Arnold            

Wendy and Jo each have over twenty years of experience in inclusive education. Wendy has worked as an educational psychologist in the US and New Zealand, and  Jo taught in the UK and Singapore prior to teaching in New Zealand. They currently work at Massey University, in the Institute of Education, and are members of the Equity Through Education Centre.  Follow Wendy on @wanderingthree and Jo on @rtlbjoarnold