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  • Our Words Matter

Casual racism, stereotyping, unjustified assumptions - the reality for our children

This article was written by a teenage Maori boy

We have not identified him as we would like people to read his article, without risking him being further targeted, and understand that this is not just his reality, but the reality for many New Zealand school children. He has chosen to use his words to express his views about the deep-seated issues that matter to him. For him, he lives in a society that stereotypes kids because of their ethnicity, reinforces unjustified assumptions and encourages casual racism.

For all of us, this article is a wake-up call – it is reality and there is no place for this behaviour in our country. We need to look at our own role in allowing institutional rascism that sends messages to our children that one culture or language is more valued than another. We need to be progressive in our thinking and action change – this has to start with us. And right now.


New Zealand, we're held in high regard about how multicultural we are, how we’re so inclusive, how we don’t judge each other based on race. Now let me tell you the reality is much different.

Races don’t mix, it’s pretty obvious if you ever walk into a New Zealand high school. I’ve lived in a genuine multicultural country in the Middle East where all the different cultures, and there were many, genuinely mixed. Everyone was different and because of this we didn’t have those stereotypes that get reinforced here. We just treated each other based on each other’s character.

When I returned to New Zealand for high school I had the biggest shock of my life.

I started out my NZ high school experience at a rich private school. Majority were white because in this country if it ain’t like 70% white it’s not a private school. I lived in the hostel there and immediately the Pakeha boys were surprised I wasn’t on a scholarship. They were surprised a Māori boy could afford their 36,000 thousand dollar a year school. Then came the assumptions, "ah he must be good at rugby", "ah he must know how to not get caught stealing", "he’s probably a naughty boy", "ah he’s definitely tried drugs before".

I tried fitting in with them but I just couldn’t handle it when the casual racist sayings just kept on being said.

For example, I repeatedly got asked "oh u must know gang members, probably have some in your family", or "you don’t have to say Taupō it’s pronounced Towelpo". After having an argument with one of the boys that Māori are not a sub race, I told him he should go die in a pit. He then came back and said I should die in a kumara pit. From that day for the rest of my schooling at that school I got called "kumara". It got so bad that the word was banned from being used as a nickname when we did work online on websites like kahoot. I repeatedly got told "fuck niggas" by the white boys.

They had been brought up with the stereotypes that Māori are all hoodlums and are criminals.

I had a lot of physical fights there with them and eventually got asked to leave the hostel.

I later went to a rugby boys school. It’s majority Māori. I’ve found here that it is kinda the opposite way around. Here it’s the white boys who kinda get looked down upon. Because of the large amount of Māori, it's white people in the minority for the first time. They mostly stick to their own groups never really mixing with the Māori. They get made fun of here.

Because of this us Māori boys get told “don't bully the white boys, they’ll be your bosses", which reinforces the stereotype that us Māori will never be able to achieve much in our lives.

Another thing that separates everyone is the gangs. In my first year there the majority gang was Black Power. The kids who affiliated with them called themselves "yos" or "niggas" which is kinda ironic. Their colour is blue, their main saying is "Yoza".The other gang which has taken over the school this year was Mongrel Mob. They pretty much call themselves "dawgs" (dogs). Their colour is red. They used the term "sieg heil dawg" to show unity or "suck it to my tete", followed by loud barking. I chose to associate with them because of my cousin who had fallen into wearing red and saying "sieg". It actually got pretty scary at times because boys would ask you what you rep and every time I said it I either got told "you saying any of their sayings and I’ll give you a hiding" or "watch out mutt", which is Black Power's nice word for Mongrel Mob.

Naturally the white boys try affiliating with the gangs too but the Māori ones reject them. There were heaps of fights last year all the time between them. In my last 2 weeks of school at the end of last year there was at least 2 fights a day. One boy even brought a hammer to school to smash someone in. This year it’s kinda turned around. Probably because most of the Black Powers have left. One of my mates who affiliates with them is seriously scared of being at my school now because it’s dominated by mob and he’s worried he's going to get a hiding. The Asians and Indians keep to themselves as well - almost never mixing with the Māori.

Another major problem I've found in public schools is the heavy usage of drugs and alcohol by almost everyone. It has become the popular thing with kids as young as 8 drinking and smoking up. There is such big access to all these substances that most people can get weed easily. There are kids who sell in school , making it even easier to get.

The reality is disturbing and no one really seems to be doing anything about it.


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