11 May 2016

Media rhetoric 'reinforces racist attitudes'

8:48 pm on 11 May 2016

Dr Raymond Nairn is a self-described Pākehā of Scottish and English descent.

Does NZ have a problem with anti-Maori racism?: RNZ Checkpoint

Does NZ have a problem with anti-Maori racism?: RNZ Checkpoint Photo: RNZ / YouTube

He has studied the way media portrays Māori his whole career, and says not much has changed.

In fact, he said the recent experience of Andrew Judd is a textbook example.

The New Plymouth mayor has publicly called himself a "reformed racist" and said he had been the recipient of racist behavior - including having been spat on in front of his children - for pushing to have Māori representation at the council table.

Dr Nairn said he admired Mr Judd's position, which shone a light on the realities of how Māori are often portrayed.

"Māori are essentially separated out from other New Zealanders.

"People who support Māori in efforts to have a voice in politics, or to advance Māori interests, they're labeled radicals, extremists, activists, and seen as a threat."

In 2012, he helped publish a study comparing the way Māori stories were told in English-language media versus Māori-language media.

"There was literally no comparison. The English-language coverage was very selective, it focused on particularly Māori men being violent, aggressive, harming children.

"There was no balancing narrative, it was as if there were no Māori in the respectable 'Middle New Zealand'."

TVNZ to review Hosking's comments

This week, broadcaster TVNZ said it would review comments made by presenter Mike Hosking following a story on Seven Sharp last week involving Andrew Judd.

After the story aired, Mr Hosking called the mayor "out of touch with Middle New Zealand" for supporting Māori seats in local government, and said Māori who want to be on council should be elected only if you're good enough.

Mike Hosking

Mike Hosking Photo: TVNZ

Following a second interview with Mr Judd, the Seven Sharp presenter followed up the segment by saying "democracy's democracy, and either you like it, or you don't".

Some viewers complained to TVNZ saying the comments were racist, and asking the organisation to apologise.

Dr Nairn said while media organisations do not invent racism, they often adopt discriminatory language because they believe it is more accessible to viewers.

"They use this kind of language, sometimes because they don't know any other, and sometimes because it never occurs to them that the way they're constructing the world or thinking about the world is demeaning, racist and destructive."

He said organisations like TVNZ can do a lot to educate their staff about stereotypes and the way they view Māori.

"They could do a lot to enable their staff to get their heads around what it means to be embedded in this 'settler common sense', in which Māori are the enemy, are the unacceptable 'other' people."

He said if apologising helps address this problem then it should happen, but it was not enough.

"It's much more important that they do those types of professional training processes, so they're not this vulnerable to this kind of off-the-cuff everyday racism."

What do ordinary New Zealanders think about racism?

Drew, an IT consultant from Christchurch, said there was a problem in New Zealand with anti-Māori racism.

"Some people are ignorant and they have a small-minded attitude towards people in general and culture."

Samuel Evison-Robey,27, said it was less of a problem among younger generations, but it was still present.

"Just generally you hear it out and about. I wouldn't say it's a huge problem but it's definitely something you come across.

"I think for me the most important thing that people can be is kind, which is something my mother always said to me growing up, and so I tend to judge people on whether they're a kind person."

Bec Sandys said it wasn't a blanket problem but it was a problem in some areas.

"People can be quite ignorant because they're not exposed to it. So if they haven't grown up with a diverse mix of people, there can be that kind of sentiment bandied around a bit I think."

Gabriel Bradley said racist sentiments were widespread, but usually not in the open.

"It's definitely common, it's done behind closed doors though, out of the public eye.

"You won't see it written on any blog anywhere but in private conversations over the dinner table it's definitely very prevalent."

Mr Bradley said he himself isn't racist.

"I quite admire Māori that get off their ass and do something, just like any other person out there in society.

"What I can't handle is even a white Pākehā that sits on the street begging for money and then goes down and buys liquor at the next opportunity."

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