A dinner discussing racism and how to combat it has showcased a variety of views from a diverse range of Tauranga’s people.
Four speakers from Tauranga and race relations commissioner Meng Foon shared their thoughts and experiences at the Breaking the Barriers community dinner.
Rhema Chatiya Nantham wanted to highlight micro aggressions and her experience of them since moving to New Zealand.
The PhD candidate is a third culture kid, which are children that live in different countries and cultures because of their parents’ careers. Born in Malaysia, she grew up in the Philippines and attended international schools so meeting people of all cultures was the norm for her.
It wasn’t until moving to New Zealand for university that Rhema realised her way of life was different and that the majority of people she met, lived and went to school in the same place for most of their lives.
She had really positive experiences at university but upon joining the workforce and marrying a Kiwi man she began to notice some discrimination.
“It's the microaggression of discrimination that really gets to you.”
Rhema spoke about how acceptance is the way forward rather than tolerance.
“My thoughts are we need to be accepting, we need to stop seeing difference in a discriminatory way and really appreciate that difference. Aotearoa is my true home now.”
Yvonne Kalman was a university student in China, then in 1989 she escaped to New Zealand after the Tiananmen Square massacre.
She has lived and worked in both New Zealand and the United States since then and said she hasn’t experienced discrimination during her time in either country.
“My experiences may be different from a lot of other Asian New Zealanders or Asian Americans.”
Yvonne said people shouldn’t put too much emphasis on different races or different appearances because if you pay too much attention to those things it’s easier to have misunderstandings.
“We just should immerse ourselves naturally into the society wherever we live.”
Karen Gibney moved to New Zealand from Chile 20 years ago and said she has always felt welcome and comfortable here.
She said when she first got here there was no social media and not much technology so a few people didn’t know where Chile was or what the culture was like.
Karen said she didn’t take it the wrong way or that is was discrimination. She accepted that people didn’t know about her culture, just like she didn’t know about Kiwi culture at first.
“We just need to learn about each other and when we understand each other, then we can communicate big time.”
Ngāi Te Rangi's chief executive Paora Stanley spoke about his experiences of discrimination and that Maori understand how difficult it can be to be different.
“The racism that occurs in this country had its testing ground on my people and then they went to Chinese, then they went to Indian, and anybody else who was different.”
He said when faced with racism people need to be brave to challenge and resist it.
Paora knows what it feels like to live in another country and not know anybody. When he first lived in Quebec he drove 14 hours to Michigan “to go to a gosh darn hangi with a whole bunch of Maoris”.
“I know what it feels like to miss your people.”
While in Quebec he spent time on a first nation reserve, where he was welcomed by those people, because of that experience he suggested there be a powhiri for all visitors, permanent or temporary, to New Zealand.
“Why don’t we work together and have an open powhiri for all new, New Zealanders.”
Meng Foon talked about how diversity is a given for the future of Tauranga.
“Let's think of diversity as all of us that are here, from different backgrounds, from different countries, disabled people, LGBQTI, whoever we are, we are all human beings, that is the fundamental thing that we shall believe in.”
He said events like the Breaking the Barriers dinner are important.
“I think sharing stories is quintessential, knowing the back story of where people come from, how they have arrived in Aotearoa, their experiences.”
The dinner was a joint venture between the New Zealand China Friendship Society and Multicultural Tauranga.
Subscribe to our weekly Newsletter