Migrant New Zealanders experience fear, loss of culture and identity due to racism

Migrant New Zealanders experience fear, loss of culture and identity due to racism

March 25, 2021

Migrants across the country have for the first time extensively shared their lived experiences of racism in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

In the report “Drivers of migrant New Zealanders’ experiences of racism”, published by the Human Rights Commission, migrants have expressed continued institutional, personally mediated and internalised experiences of racism. 

Many respondents said that racism deeply wounded their sense of self-belief resulting in fear, disengagement in society and loss of culture and identity. Many expressed how racism led to exclusion, colonised thinking and even judgement of their own culture. 

As a result, many migrants said they had to change how they looked, dressed, spoke, or acted to fit into Eurocentric expectations in New Zealand. 

“Our migrant communities should not have to change themselves to fit into white society. Migrants must feel safe in expressing their language, culture, and identity. This is their home,” Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon said.  

The impacts of racism felt by our migrant communities were extensive and spanned across all aspects of wellbeing, including health, housing, employment, education, governance, and the justice system.  

Migrants pointed out that colonisation, fear, ignorance, a need to blame others, white privilege, racial supremacy, and a limited response to racism within the country were among the drivers of racism. 

“The impacts of racism are traumatic, intergenerational, broad and affect all aspects of wellbeing. Racism leaves deep-rooted scars that often don’t heal,” Foon said. 

“No one should be made to feel they do not belong in Aotearoa, worry about their public safety, or experience negative mental wellbeing because of discrimination or racism.”  

Migrants identified numerous opportunities to influence change and strengthen responses to racism including honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi, having diverse representation in all levels of leadership, teaching a balanced New Zealand history, education, and strengthening identity among others.  

“We must support our migrant communities to identify their own solutions to racism. This will empower their voices, validate their lived experiences and help them take ownership and action in response to racism.”  

The research findings will also help inform the national action plan against racism to ensure it is evidence-based in its development, implementation and review.  

“We all have a responsibility to foster harmonious and inclusive communities that preserve dignity and respect for all people across Aotearoa,” Foon said. 

Click here to download the report.

Click here to download an accessible version of the summary.