How to counter racism with humanity

Humanity (noun): “The quality of having or showing compassion or benevolence”.   

Cheers to Google for that definition. It seems humanity is in short supply. As we watch from afar the US erupting over issues of racism, it is easy to get complacent and forget that we have our own issues here in New Zealand to address. 

Racism isn’t something taught by kiwi society — so why should it be accepted? There’s no denying that racism is prevalent. One third of all complaints to the Human Rights Commission are about racial discrimination. Māori and Pasifika are vastly over-represented in crime statistics. They make up two thirds of the people shot by the Armed Offender Squad, they have a much higher chance of being judged guilty in court and of receiving longer sentences, and Māori alone comprise over 50% of our prison population despite being only 16.5% of our total population. Māori and Pasifika are paid less on average than their Caucasian equivalents. This is simply not acceptable. 

Removing this blight on our society as a whole isnt an easy task. I’ve spent the entire last week asking people what we can do to counter racism. Everyone I asked took quite a while to think on it. Changing society as a whole takes a lot of time and effort. But for us as individuals, two overwhelming themes came through: we need to call out any racism around us, and we need to come to understand and respect each other better. 

Some people just don’t realise when they are being racist. Maybe they assume someone will conform to a stereotype, or they have some preconceived notion that people who look a certain way will act a certain way. Others will say overtly racist things. All of this stems from the same issue — a lack of understanding. It’s no good to tell a person not to be racist, you need to show them why.  

Learning just the little things about someone can make all the difference. Have you ever seen someone make a cashier smile with simple good manners? It’s not hard. And once you know some details about a person, you’ll very quickly find that what they look like makes no difference. What matters is what you can’t see, what a person thinks and feels. Understanding causes empathy, which causes compassion. So, make the effort to understand people. If you need to, make the effort to get others to listen. 

As students, we are in the perfect place to start making changes. We are more connected than any generation before us. So, if you come across a message that needs to be spread, spread it. If you see someone being racist, call them out on it. And if you find someone who’s doing a good job, let the world know how awesome they are. As we spread out around the country and begin making changes to it, let’s get people more onboard with being a good human being.  

Yes, racism is present in New Zealand. No, it does not have to stay that way. And yes, we can make a difference, just by showing a little humanity to each other, and asking other people to do the same. And once we spread that attitude through society, we can all stand up together against racism.  

R-E-S-P-E-C-T; see how great the world could be. 

By George Hampton