29 May 2020

Race relations commissioner speaks out over student's blackface selfie

6:28 pm on 29 May 2020

New Zealand's Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon wants an Auckland high school to apologise and educate a student who wore black face.

Meng Foon Race Relations Commissioner and former Gisborne mayor

Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon has stepped into the fracas over a student posting a racist image to friends over Snapchat. Photo: Supplied

The all-girls school is investigating after one of its students sent a blackface selfie with a caption including the n-word to friends over Snapchat during lockdown.

The image has been shared widely online and caused outrage with many social media users, who called on the school to take a stand against racism.

Foon said he was disappointed and expected the school, the girl and her parents to learn about the impact and harm caused by her actions.

He said educational reform was needed and steps to stamp out racism were underway.

Anti-bullying program KiVa was finishing its controlled trials to drive down racism and Foon hoped to see more schools access this.

He was hopeful there could be further change if racial issues were taught, after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced late last year that New Zealand history will be taught in all schools and kura by 2022.

"Race-based history in schools will help students to understand the dynamics of our country, living in a multi-cultural society."

Foon was worried about the high probability of racism towards people of Asian descent following Covid-19 and encouraged people to report any evidence of racism they encountered.

A nationwide campaign, Give Nothing to Racism, will be launched in July.

Ministry of Education spokesperson Helen Hurst said students deserved to feel safe at school and in a learning environment that connected with their identity and culture.

Racism was taken seriously and they were working closely with the principal and school to support their students, parents and community.

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