New Zealand's racism far more casual than elsewhere, says academic

1:10 pm on 5 September 2019

A Christchurch academic says people are being made more aware of casual racism in New Zealand.

Ekant Veer, who is an associate professor at the University of Canterbury, is one of four tertiary students and staff that spoke to RNZ about racism they have experienced in New Zealand.

He said New Zealand's racism is far more casual compared to other places in the world.

"I get these weird sort of comments that people make that they think is a compliment or they are looking to make a connection and you're kind of like, 'well that's a weird thing to say'," Dr Veer said.

He said he's had students come up to him and compliment his English skills for being a foreigner, despite growing up in England.

"It's meant as a compliment, but why would you say that to me? You would never say it to a white person," Dr Veer said.

Dr Veer, who was born in the United Kingdom, said during his first ever semester teaching in Christchurch, a student filled an anonymous survey saying the one thing they would change about the course was Dr Veer's ethnicity.

"I remember it vividly, because it was the first class I ever taught at Canterbury. The question was, 'What is one thing you would to change to make this class better?'" Dr Veer said.

"And the student just wrote, 'his ethnicity'."

Dr Veer is of Indian ethnicity.

In another instance, Dr Veer was complimented for being a good example of a white education.

"I had someone say to me that I am a fantastic example of what a white education can do to a brown person," Dr Veer said.

He said while racism existed in New Zealand, it was less violent compared to what he experienced in the UK.

"Growing up in the UK in the 1980s, was a pretty rough place at times, there was a lot of racial tension there especially with people from India," Dr Veer said.

"I've been in plenty of fights, almost on a daily basis sometimes with just regular bullies, and if it's not because you're brown it was because you're too fat, too tall or too skinny."

But all the fights had a racial element to it, Dr Veer said.

He said it had been good to see New Zealand's leaders talk about improving race relations.

"Is it enough? Obviously I will always say there can be more [done]. It's great that now at city council level at national level we see more funding being poured into things that will bring us closer together."