The everyday racism felt by real people
in Aotearoa, New Zealand
Racist and offensive language
Unsuitable for younger listeners
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Thank you to those who shared their
real experiences for this project
A teacher? Really? You don't seem like a teacher
Are those your kids? They don't look like you
Are you employed or on a benefit?
Are you from South Auckland?
Are you here on a work visa?
Are you here with the catering team?
Are you one of them?
Are you really Māori?
Are you the first person in your family to get a degree?
Can you give us your cultural perspective?
Did you come here through the Quota Programme?
Did you get in here on a scholarship?
Do you eat normal food?
Do you love cricket? I thought you all loved cricket
Following you? No, no I was just seeing if you needed any customer service
Haha, I can’t pronounce this name
Have you been to an art gallery before?
Have you ever eaten cats or dogs?
I bet you're a good singer
I've tried to pronounce it right but I just can't
Oh sorry, I didn’t realise you were born here
Oh sorry, I thought that was a man’s name
Oh, I wasn’t expecting a Kiwi accent
So what do you identify as?
That's your son? No way!
That’s a hard name, can I just call you ‘T’?
Was your marriage arranged? How come you're allowed to be in a relationship?
We're here to speak to the dean. Oh you are the dean? Haha sorry
What are you drinking? That’s so weird
What's your real name?
What’s the word for this in your language?
What’s your religion?
Where are you from? But where are your parents from?
Where are you from? No, but, where are you actually from? No, like, where are your parents from?
Where are you from? No, but, where did you come from?
Where do you come from?
Woah, can we have a photo with you? Can I touch your hair?
Wow, you don’t look how I imagined you would
Wow, you're so educated
Wow, you’re so articulate, you speak English so well!
You all have kids really young
You always have crazy opinions
You don't look like an engineer
You don't look the type for a lawyer
You don’t look English – why do you speak it so well? How did you learn it? Where are you from?
You don’t look like a novel reader
You don’t sound Māori
You have an exotic look, but in an attractive way
You have an unusual face
You have two degrees? Wow!
You just look normal to me - I wouldn't have guessed your ethnicity
You must have had an unusual childhood, what was it like?
You speak really good English
You're surprisingly intelligent
You're surprisingly organised and tidy
You’d be used to this kind of rustic living though, wouldn’t you?
You’re really pretty for a brown person
Are you a witch?
Aren’t women in your culture just there to breed?
Haha sorry I'm just laughing at your accent
Haha, we’re all worried about you coming in here with a backpack on (detonation sound)
Hahaha you’ll never get the part – you’re too hori!
I can call you a F*b can’t I? See, he doesn’t mind
In your country they have monkeys running the show
Is that car new? Where’d you steal that from?
Of course you’re good at maths, you all love numbers
Oh, you bl**dy Maoris!
Oh, you don’t speak your own language?
Oh, you’re one of them
Ooh, bet that cat looks tasty to you
Ooh, here comes trouble
That’s not a normal name
Turn that weird music down
Ugh, that’s so hori
Um, can I help you?
W-w-w-what’s the problem – can’t you speak English!
Why don't you go home then
You all eat pies
You all right there love? Just looking?
You brown people can’t make a simple decision
You can't drive - you should be riding a horse
You taking a 'Māori day off' are you?
You talk real dumb
You’re all heading to McDonalds, cos it’s dole day
You’re black, what would you know
You’re so brown – did you stay out in the sun too long?
Don’t speak that native language in here
Get away from my child!
Get off my property
Get out of my lecture theatre
Go back to where you came from
Go back to your own country
I'll call the Police on you. I'll get them to take your kids
I'll make you wish you never complained
I’m not touching that paper after you’ve touched it
It would be in your best interests to play by the rules
Learn to drive!
This is what happens when you complain
Typical Māori, mucking around instead of making our coffees
What are you doing! Get away from the customer!
Why are you speaking another language?
Why do you deserve special treatment?
Why would you want the board papers?
You can’t leave this supermarket until I’ve checked your bags. And your car
You can’t sit with us
You don’t have local experience
You haven’t got the intelligence to know
You little coconut – I’m going to stomp on you
You should all get off your arse
You should all go back to your villages
You want everything, you think you own the land
You're all loud-mouthed, incapable of speaking
You're all useless
You’ll have to adapt, this is the way here
You’re a threat to our society
You’re all beneficiaries
You’re all drunks
You’re all lazy bludgers
You’re all uneducated
You’re not welcome here
You’re spreading everywhere – you’re taking over the world
You’re taking our jobs
Your people are a drain on the economy
Are you going to eat your goldfish?
Oh look, they’re taking their annual bath
Oooh, are you going to blow something up?
Peow peow! I’m going to kill you
The airport’s that way
You have a big nose
You have big feet
You’ve all got kutus
Get back to where you came from
Get out – you’re not welcome here
I'm going to piss on you
I’m going to come into your mosque and burn the Korans
We’re going to beat the shit out of you
You can’t walk around like that – take that headthing off!
Don’t talk – they’ll mock how you speak again
Have you noticed, no one ever calls you a gentleman?
He doesn’t trust you – you can tell by his body language
He’s not even going to greet you
He’s talking down to you
I bet she wouldn’t have said that to a white person
Look - they’re not sitting next to you. They’d rather stand
Look – they’re friendly to all the other children – just not yours
Look – they’re scared of you
Look at her face – she can't hide her disdain
No one ever sits next to you on the bus
Of course they’re not going to smile at you – they don’t want people like you in here
See - they’re looking down on you
See – their shoulders tense up when you walk into the room
See that snigger of disdain at your children
She didn’t give you a perfume sample – she probably thinks you can’t afford it
She’ll take direction from white people, but not from you
That glance wasn’t a friendly one
They all hold their bags tightly when you walk past
They don't trust you
They don’t want to get to know you
They don’t want you in this building. They don’t want to mix with people like you
They look disgusted by you
They think you’re a terrorist
They think you’re stupid
They're avoiding talking to you
They're following you around the dairy
They're looking at you funny because of your tattoos
They're offering everyone the goody bags except you
They're putting their bags on the seats so you can't sit there
They’re crossing the road away from you, so you don’t bash them
They’re driving their car straight at you, they’d love to run you over
They’re following you again – they think you’re stealing
They’re going to hit you
They’re keeping a safe distance – they think you’re unclean
They’re laughing at you
They’re locking their cars just in case
They’re looking at you like you shouldn’t be in this café
They’re looking at you weird – they think you’re strange
They’re looking you up and down, they think you’re going to bash them
They’re looking you up and down
They’re moving their bags so you don’t steal them
They’re not saying hello, they don’t want you in this neighbourhood
They’re saying hi to the other white people but not to you
They’re spitting at you
They’re staring at you and your wife
They’re staring at you, like you’re freaks. They’re backing away
They’re stepping back – they’re scared of you
They’re talking slowly and clearly to you
They’re trying to get you fired. They don’t want you here
They’re watching you closely cos you can’t be trusted
They’re watching your daughters – they look like the shoplifting type
They’re whispering about you
They’ve made their own white table – away from you lot
They’ve put you’re in the too hard basket. You’re a lost cause
Watch out – he’s trying to grab your moko kauae
Watch out – they’re going to rip off your headscarf
Watch out, they're throwing rubbish at you
You always get called bro, never sir
You can try, but they won’t make eye contact with you
You look like a thief
You look poor
You’ll be waiting forever, she’s not going to serve you
You’re always the last to be picked
Your security clearance is taking a long time, you must be a threat
Give up – they’re not going to serve you
Just go - they don’t think you can afford anything here
Just watch – they’ll all get promoted before you do
Stay away, they’ll push you around again
You’ll never be good enough
Are you in the right place?
Are you lost?
Are you sure that's correct? Can you check with the manager?
Are you sure you want an x-ray? They’re expensive
Can I help you?
Can I help you?
Can you speak English?
Can you use a knife and fork?
Do you have a community services card?
Gosh, your daughter has a big long name, is there something shorter we can call her?
It’s lovely to finally see you in Western clothing
Oh, that face thing is lovely, what’s that about?
Oh, would you want to come to Friday drinks?
The secondhand cars are across the road
There are some cheaper menu items on the back here
There are some nice opshops down the road
Why are you in this building? Do you know where you're going?
You're still on the waiting list - are you sure you want the treatment?
Be careful how you act – you don’t want to stand out
Don't be so sensitive - they're not laughing at you specifically
Don’t be so loud and confident – you’re intimidating enough already
Don’t wear that – you’ll make people uncomfortable
Don’t work out with your hoodie on, people don’t trust you
I know it’s your religion, but you’re drawing attention to yourself
It was just an offhand remark – don’t overthink it
It's just a joke - don't take it so seriously
It's not a joke about you personally, don't worry about it
It’s only words, just block it out
Just greet people in English
Make sure you talk early on, so they know you speak English
Maybe you should go back home
Put your headphones outside your hoodie so they can see you have money
Speak softly so they’re not scared of you
Stop being different – you’ll get beaten up
Stop being weird about it – everyone does that here
Straighten your hair, wear more makeup, dress better – that might help
Take your headscarf off – you’d be so much prettier without it
Take your headscarf off – you’re not that religious anyway
Take your hood off, they think you’re stealing
Tell them more about yourself, so they can relax
Tell your wife not to wear that – this is New Zealand
Wear your work clothes, so they’re not rude to us
Why don’t you show your legs?
You could try to blend in a bit more
You know you don’t have to wear a hijab
You know you’d get higher up if you didn’t wear the hijab
You're lucky you don't have shitty hair like the others
You're not the kind of customer they're wanting
You're so loud
You’ll get better treatment if you wear expensive clothes
You’re too white. You’re not white enough
I can never remember how to say your name
Can you put someone else’s name on the paper? An ethnic name isn’t a good look for us
Can’t we change the name to something easier to pronounce?
Could you organise some cultural stuff for the new clients?
Do you mean your people, or normal people?
Do you want the breastfeeding advice? You all botttle feed don't you?
Don’t come to the meeting – you’re not the right face to see around the table
He’s on a higher salary than you because he could easily work elsewhere
I didn't give you those options because I didn't imagine you'd have health insurance
I didn't realise you worked here
I don’t mean us, I mean your people
I don’t understand what you’re saying
I hardly ever like people of your race
I imagined you looking different from our phone calls
I need to conduct a random drug search
I suppose it’s different in your culture
I suppose it’s different in your family
I thought you'd know, isn’t that your culture?
I'm guessing you have a different perspective
I’m not sure you’re the right people to take this lease
If we accommodate your culture, we'll have to start doing it for everyone
If we were to hire you, would there be cultural difficulties?
Is that your… biological mother?
It's not a big enough crime for us to investigate
Maybe the nurse didn’t have your email right – could you spell your name again?
Sorry, there were other tenants better suited to the property
That's not how we think here
The prescription cost $5, do you still want it?
Those kids won't amount to much anyway
We can consider a payrise when you've proven your capability
We don’t want the clients seeing your name – they won’t take us seriously
We think you’re best suited to your current role, there’s nothing we’d promote you to in this organisation
We've given the position to someone more suitable
We’re disestablishing your position - the funding has been cut
Why spend time with those kids – their parents don’t care anyway
You can file a police report, but there's nothing we can do anyway
You don't belong in this industry
You don't exactly belong here
You don’t have the right look
You haven't been appointed - you're not quite what we were looking for
You look too dark to be a Kiwi
You'll have to prove yourself first
You're challenging people - could you tone it down?
You’re being paid less because there’s less budget for your role
You’re not a proper Kiwi
You’re not mainstream New Zealand
Your position is being restructured, your input isn't needed
Your test results aren't in, maybe your name got lost in the system - it’s a hard one to spell
Your values don’t align with business
A test drive? Sure, but I’ll need to come with you
Are you a guest in this hotel? Can I see your room key?
Can I check your bag please?
Did you cheat on this test? It's a very high result
Do you have enough cash for the trip? Show me
Excuse me madam can we check your bag?
Excuse me, could I see your licence? Is this your car?
Excuse me, I’ll just need to check your pockets
I need to see in your bag before you leave thanks
I need to see some ID
I've just pulled you over for a routine check - where are you off to tonight?
There’s an event on here tonight, are you meant to be here?
There’s been a complaint about this address
This area is for VIPs only
We're just on patrol in this neighbourhood, could you tell us what you're doing?
What are you doing here?
All you want is free food and a bed
Are you sure you’re the right person for that job?
First you want your culture included, then you want to decide how we do it
I'm not against other races, I'm just saying
No one can pronounce that name
None of you can drive
Our country hates your religion
Stop making it all about you – you’re not the only one that gets discrimination
That’s what you’re all like, you just sit on your arse and get the dole
The biggest threat to our children is you immigrants
The only people who support the Treaty are you guys
This cultural stuff is wasting time
This is our country
We can’t get jobs because of you
We don’t like your country
We’ve given you enough resources
What makes you think your culture’s so special?
Why are you in this meeting?
Why can’t you just use the existing services? Does it have to fit your culture?
Why do we always have to do this cultural stuff?
Why do you always have to argue? Just accept it
Why do you always have to make things difficult?
Why do you wear those clothes – they’re like tents
Why does it have to be your way!
You can't comment – you’re not a real New Zealander
You can't expect me to pronounce it correctly - it's not my language
You can’t be trusted when you speak that language
You can’t let your children wear those colours – they look like gang members
You get all this stuff for free
You get so many more privileges than we do
You get special programmes, what do we get?
You only got where you are because of special treatment
You pretend to be moderate but you’re all terrorists
You should be grateful to be here
You should be paying for us
You're just naturally lazier
You're taking all the jobs
You’re buying up all the houses
You’re not like us
All he did was spit on you, get over it
Can I be served by someone else?
Can I just cut in front of you? I have a busy day
Can I speak to the manager instead?
I want to speak to someone who can speak English, I don’t want to speak to you
Read the sign! Or can’t you read English?
Sorry, I didn’t realise you were in the queue
Sorry, you can't try that on
Stop singing, this is a place for work
That’s how things are done here in New Zealand
That’s just the way we do things – feel free to go elsewhere
Wait there – I’ll just serve these other people first
You’re just here to represent your race
You’re not a New Zealander
All that stuff happened ages ago, let it go
Don't take offence
I was only joking, chill out
I'm not racist, I'm one thirty secondth Māori
I'm not racist, some of my family are brown
I’m not racist – I have brown friends
If you can't handle the racism, why don't you just leave?
It didn't even happen to you, it happended to your ancestors
No offence intended
Oh nothing, I didn’t say anything, never mind
Oh, I didn’t mean anything by it
This isn’t about you
We weren't talking about you
Why don’t you just go home then
Why should you be treated any differently?
Yes it’s very white here – what’s wrong with that?
You always bring it back to the Treaty
You always want everything, what about us
You think you’re superior to us, don’t you
You're the ones committing the crimes
Before I take you through, are you aware of the level of real estate in this area?
Could I speak to someone else please?
I'm assuming you haven't owned a house before?
I’m afraid we can’t help you
The table for your group is just here, around the corner, nice and private
Well, yes, there are other medical routes we could take, but they’ll cost money
You can't come in here
You don’t speak adequately
You speak funny
You’re bringing riff raff to our town
You’re not needed in this conversation
Your daughter would be better off at a different school
When people accept society’s negative beliefs about their culture and race, this can lead to low self-belief and negatively affect their health and wellbeing.
Ongoing exposure to negative stereotypes, stories and statistics about your race, and to the negative actions and words of other people, can have a harmful effect over the course of your life. Research shows these internalised effects can have physical health outcomes including avoidable disease and early death.
Make a commitment not to add to this harm in others, and show care with your words and actions.
You can be curious and interested about others without making assumptions about their nationality. When we hold a limited stereotype of what a New Zealander looks, sounds, or dresses like, it can make others feel like outsiders.
Keep an open mind about who belongs here, while acknowledging Māori are tangata whenua (original people of the land) and have a strong sense of identity and belonging.
Even if you mean it as a compliment, it can be hurtful when you comment on someone’s skills or ability based on their race. It shows low expectations of them based on a stereotype.
In New Zealand, low expectations of Māori and Pacific people can lead to poorer educational achievement or being stuck in low wage work.
Treat all people with respect regardless of their ethnicity.
Racial stereotyping and systemic racism have led to an unjust over-representation of Māori and Pacific people in New Zealand’s justice system.
This prevents these people from achieving their full potential and causes harm that can affect families and communities for generations.
Reflect on how you’d be affected if you were constantly suspected of being a criminal just because of your race. Read and believe the stories of those who were treated differently in the justice system. Speak out against this avoidable harm and injustice.
If you avoid talking about race or claim not to ‘see colour’, this denies the experiences of people who live with racial discrimination and bias.
If you can learn about racism instead of experiencing it yourself, acknowledge that this is a privilege. It doesn’t mean your life has no challenges; it just means that race isn’t the cause of them.
Be willing to have uncomfortable conversations, and avoid phrases that shut down these conversations or deny the impact of racism. Listen to stories of people who experience racism and learn how it affects them. Believe them.
Even when we have good intentions, our words and actions can be harmful. Denying that our country, systems, workplaces, or ourselves as individuals can be racist stops us from making progress.
Learn about the impact of colonisation in New Zealand and how it continues to affect people. Be open to people telling you how racism has affected their lives. If someone tells you you’ve said or done something racist, acknowledge that we can all keep learning.
Most workplaces in New Zealand are built around Pākehā views and values. This can seem like ‘the norm’, but it can limit the contributions and progression of people with different values, resulting in people from ethnic minorities being misunderstood or stuck in lower paying roles.
This is why diversity and inclusion matters, and why affirmative action and anti-racism policies are needed.
Check on colleagues from minority groups to see if they are being treated equally. Look for opportunities to be inclusive and to help all people achieve.
We all absorb the biases of our society, so we don’t always notice if we’re treating other people differently or reacting in a certain way because of their race. While each instance might seem small to us, the impact can be incredibly harmful over a lifetime.
For example, research shows that unconscious racial bias contributes to Māori and Pacific people being treated differently in the health system, leading to negative outcomes including avoidable death.
Reflect on your own biases and be open to challenging and changing them. Resolve to act in a way that addresses them.
Rejecting or denying cultural beliefs and traditions because they don’t align with your own is harmful to other people’s sense of belonging, and limits your ability to learn.
Racism can prevent many young people from ethnic and minority groups from accepting themselves. This can lead to poor mental health outcomes and long-term negative effects on their lives.
Be open to new ways of doing things at work, school, and in daily life. Speak to people with different backgrounds and embrace being challenged by new experiences.
When we think in stereotypes, we deny people their individuality. Everyone is unique: Not everyone in other racial groups is the same, just like not everyone in your racial group is the same. Stereotypes are harmful even when they are meant to be ‘light-hearted’.
In extreme cases, it casts a negative and false presumption onto entire groups or populations of people. In 2019, this led to the Christchurch Mosque Attacks where 51 Muslim people were murdered. In 2020, many Chinese and Asian people have been harassed due to stereotypes associated with COVID-19.
Silence racism by challenging and rejecting racial stereotypes. Seek new information and media sources that will help you avoid stereotypical narratives and assumptions.
Call out racist verbal abuse, and make sure the victim is supported.
If you witness a physical attack, do what you can to make the victim feel safe. Ask if they are okay and make sure they know they’re not alone. Ignore the attacker. Record the incident on a phone, take notes of the time, place, and details. Report it immediately, don’t wait for it to escalate. If you ever feel unsafe, call the Police.
The Voice of Racism is made up of words and actions that were directed at real people here in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Every day in Aotearoa, people experience racism which hurts them, prevents them from reaching their potential, or from living their lives feeling welcome and secure.
This incessant racism has a measurable impact on health and wellbeing, and it is contributed to even by those with good intentions. People may think one joke, one comment, one assumption, one stereotype doesn’t matter, that they are trivial, but they do matter – and the cumulative effect on people experiencing these is huge.
The Human Rights Commission calls everyone to listen to the Voice of Racism, to understand the experience, to appreciate the harm, and learn how to silence racism.
To create the Voice of Racism, more than 200 people shared their experiences of racism in New Zealand. These were curated into a collection of everyday experiences, to represent the racism that exists in the lives of many. These experiences include things that were said to them verbally and through people’s actions, and the internalised racism they live with.
These moments became ‘the Voice of Racism’, one collective voice that articulates the racism people exhibit both intentionally and unintentionally.
The Voice of Racism is performed by Taika Waititi.
“Can you just believe us when we say racism exists in New Zealand?”
Recipient of racism
Racism lives in our everyday words and actions, our systems and our practices. To stop it growing we must begin by acknowledging and confronting where it exists in ourselves and others. Then give it no tolerance, no power, no welcome, no acceptance, and no voice. Give nothing to racism.
Businesses and organisations all over New Zealand are making a commitment to give nothing to racism. If you have an idea about how your business or organisation can contribute to silencing racism, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The more we educate ourselves about racism, the more we have the power to resist it. Here are some places you can go to keep learning.
If this website experience has been distressing for you, please ask for help. Here are some places you can turn to:
If you experience or witness a racist incident, please report it.
Always call 111 if you or someone else is in immediate danger.
Contact Police here or on 105 to report a crime
If you’ve been racially discriminated against, you can file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission or talk to them here:
If you’re experiencing online bullying, abuse or harassment based on your colour, race, ethnicity or nationality, Netsafe have a free and confidential service to give you advice and information.
If you’re the victim or witness of a racist attack, either physical or verbal, do whatever you can to keep yourself safe.