Māori experience racism everyday in North Shore - study

From Checkpoint, 5:20 pm on 13 June 2018

Māori on the North Shore grow up facing racial slurs and everyday racism, an Auckland masters student - who faced it herself before researching it - says.

Ani McGahan

Ani McGahan Photo: SUPPLIED

Ani McGahan, from the University of Auckland, interviewed more than a dozen Māori and spoke to many more from affluent suburbs for her masters research.

Of those she has spoken to some said they were made fun of for doing kapa haka, given strange looks for speaking Māori, called names, followed at shops and pulled over multiple times while driving their parent's car.

Jerome Te Paa's childhood memories of speaking te reo Māori with his dad at Shepherds Park in Beach Haven were tainted by the stares and strange looks people gave them. 

He said not much had changed by the time he was a teenager.

"The prime example is when I'd shoot up to the mall and then get told to take my hoodie off, and the odd occasion where I'd get followed by the security guard," Mr Te Paa said.

Jerome Te Paa

Jerome Te Paa Photo: Supplied

He had friendly neighbours and a nice childhood, but there were other things that stood about living in the area, Mr Te Paa said.

He was pulled over by police three separate times between 2006 and 2008.

"I can see it's a bit out of touch for a teenager to be driving a newer model sports car, but one officer made me stand outside the vehicle and started asking me what my father did for a job and if I was sure that it was his vehicle."

Another North Shore local, Tyson Grootjans, said he had been a victim of racism countless times growing up in the region. 

From being teased for passionately doing the haka at primary school, to people mocking his use of English at high school and treating him like he was stupid. 

He remembered being put on the spot as the 'voice for all Māori' by Pākehā family friends as a teenager. 

Tyson Grootjans

Tyson Grootjans Photo: Supplied / Tyson Grootjans

"The foreshore and seabed or even just treaty issues, they would bring up those kind of things and ask questions like 'Oh haven't Māori had enough?' and those kinds of questions that get thrown at me ... I didn't really understand the implicit racism in it."

Mr Grootjans said there were so few Māori in the area the community had not developed an understanding of Māoritanga. 

"It might be accidental ignorance, or I don't know whatever it is, but I think it definitely is breeding grounds for racism be it deliberate or accidental."

While growing up in Beach Haven, people would hassle Ms McGahan for studying te reo Māori and she was the target of racial slurs, she said.

Ms McGahan said it was her own experiences that drove her to look further. 

"People used to delight in calling n***** or abo or really sort of those old-fashioned forms of racism. You also experience being in a predominantly Pākehā space - the visibility of your skin - so my skin colour definitely was a target and something that made [me feel] really ashamed."

Her findings showed Māori copped racism and micro-aggressions like that every day on the North Shore, and it was intergenerational, she said.