That's us

On 1 September 2016 the Human Rights Commission launched New Zealand’s first nationwide anti-racism campaign that called on Kiwis to share our own stories about racism, intolerance and hatred.

It was named “That’s Us” because it’s about the kind of people New Zealanders want to be as well as the kind of country New Zealanders want our children growing up in.

The campaign supports outcome four of the New Zealand Migrant Settlement and Integration Strategy: Migrants participate in and have a sense of belonging in their community and to New Zealand.

Since its launch, more than 1.5 million people have seen the campaign’s posts, stories and videos and campaign content has been visited, downloaded, shared, liked or commented on more than half a million times.

When the Commission first began planning the campaign, it became clear that many people didn’t think racism was a problem in New Zealand. However, people from ethnic minorities told us a different story. Every one of them had stories of prejudice to tell us, but as one Wellington public servant told us: “Kiwis are polite with our racism. We don’t call it out, and instead we pretend it doesn’t exist. ‘Oh at least we’re not as bad as Australia’ is a common cry.”

The thing about so-called casual racism is that it doesn’t feel casual when it’s happening to you or your loved ones. Every year around 400 people make formal complaints to the Human Rights Commission about racism they’ve faced; they come from all over the country and from a wide range of circumstances. But we know the vast majority of people never complain or go public when a car drives past and the people in it scream a racist obscenity or when a teacher tells your child’s class that her religion is an evil one or when your son is called racist names as he runs down the sideline of a college rugby game.

Many people don’t think racial intolerance or racism is a problem - often because they do not experience it themselves. By raising the voices of those New Zealanders who face racial intolerance in their everyday life, we’re hoping other New Zealanders will take the time to listen. We suspect many of us don’t realise when something we say is unfair or biased, but we would if someone pointed it out to us.

We just need to look around the world right now to see what happens when racial intolerance and racism is normalised. We think New Zealanders are better than that. There are lots of debates about who we are as Kiwis. We believe our national identity is about who we are as people and how we treat each other on our streets, on our rugby fields, in our communities.

We need to ask, ‘Is that us?’

That's Us website

Written by Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy of the Human Rights Commission.