Waikato University staff lead project on racial oppression

11:59 am on 24 September 2020

Researchers at the University of Waikato are leading a new project that will investigate racial oppression and inequality in Aotearoa and the world.

Dr Waikaremoana Waitoki is a clinical Psychologist and Researcher at the University of Waikato.

Dr Waikaremoana Waitoki is a clinical Psychologist and Researcher at the University of Waikato. Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

From institutions in New Zealand and Canada, 21 researchers will contribute to the study, including experts in Māori and Pacific studies, will examine how racism is reproduced by examining the training of health professionals; inequities in housing, employment and technology; the role of privileged populations in excluding racialised communities and; how colonial narratives are maintained through national commemorations.

It comes as the university itself has launched an independent investigation into claims of structural racism at the institution.

The research will examine costs or impacts of racism at an individual and community level, how these inequities are created - and perpetuated - and what responses the government and other institutions can use to challenge racism.

The $10m grant from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is for the length of the five-year project.

The project aims to develop audit tools for measuring institutional racism and strategies to build relationships between racialised communities.

"Racism is evident in the inequitable outcomes across almost every indicator of wellbeing, including those within health, education, housing, employment and justice. While racism is systemic and structural, racism is also socially constructed and maintained and can therefore be dismantled.

"The links between racism and inequities are visible or hidden. When demands for attention are made, we must respond appropriately if we want to contribute to an inclusive and thriving society," the team of researchers said.

Dr Waikaremoana Waitoki is a Senior Research Fellow specialising in Māori psychology at the University of Waikato.

Waitoki told Morning Report the team has a number of projects looking at institutional racism.

"Every week we are seeing racism happening throughout society, throughout government, so one of the really interesting projects in relation to the Crown is looking at systemic racism in health, education, training and practice.

"We have research that looks at the way the justice system disproportionately affects racialised groups, so transforming the criminal justice system.

"We're looking at diversity policies, privilege and structural advantage and how that occurs across the systems."

Waitoki says it's hard to see how the research projects wouldn't translate into significant change.

"We know already from the research that Māori and Pacific communities are more likely to be living in unsafe homes, we know they're more likely to be living next to busy roads, so the health impact on them is a lot more, we know that they're more likely to not be employed in high paying jobs, so across the board, across a person's lifespan you can see that there's evidence of racism affecting them all the way."

"The evidence shows that racism occurs from birth," she said.

"Those most responsible and those who most benefit, what is it about them, or those systems, that they don't change."

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