Is New Zealand a racist country?

Tonight at 8.30pm on The 3rd Degree Duncan Garner and Guyon Espiner will take opposing sides in a debate about whether New Zealand is a racist country.

This is a fairly complex issue. To summarise the take home message from my doctoral thesis, my view is that prejudice, including racism, is born out of a worldview of either competition (ie, it’s a dog eat dog world, and you have to step on others to succeed) or danger (ie, the world is a dangerous and threatening place, and we need to band together to protect ourselves).

In my opinion, prejudice in New Zealand is generated more  from a sense of competition than a sense of threat (although both do exist, to varying degrees, and religious-based prejudice stems more from a sense of danger than competition). By comparison, in the US prejudice is likely to be driven by both competition and threat. Religion in the US plays a significant role in generating fear, and so do US politicians.

As an aside, here is a report on a survey which shows that New Zealanders feel warmer than Australians do toward people from Asia. In two different surveys New Zealanders and Australians were asked to rate their feelings towards people from specific countries, using a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 meaning you feel very warm and favourable, and 0 meaning you feel very cold and unfavourable.

There results were:

  • China – New Zealanders’ warmth rating was 69, compared with Australians’ warmth rating of 59
  • Japan – New Zealanders’ warmth rating was 74, compared with Australians’ warmth rating of 70
  • India – New Zealanders’ warmth rating was 66, compared with Australians’ warmth rating of 58
  • South Korea – New Zealanders’ warmth rating was 69, compared with Australians’ warmth rating of 61

Racism certainly exists in New Zealand, but relative to many other countries I don’t think New Zealanders are really that racist.

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