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Source: Human Rights Commission

“Racism exists in many forms, from everyday microaggressions all the way up to violent acts. As New Zealanders we have a responsibility to do our best to ensure that we are taking action that will help to limit both the occurrences and the harm of racism. Recently with the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen a rise in bullying and harassment of people from Asian descent here in New Zealand. In unpredictable and anxious times such as these, we need to be doubly aware of the harm that racism can cause and equip ourselves as best we can to tackle it. “

Race Relations Commissioner, Meng Foon.

But how can you help? The Human Rights Commission has gathered some guidance that will hopefully give you the tools and confidence to make a difference. This advice has been gathered from multiple domestic and international sources, which are cited at the bottom of this page.

Be a model for inclusion, compassion and respect for others

Avoid making negative statements about any racial, ethnic, or religious group. Reach out to your neighbours and colleagues who might feel at risk because of their ethnicity, religion, or other traits.

Provide accurate information

Providing accurate information about people, events, and culture is important.  This is especially important when news reports have negative statements about any specific group. If you are unsure about the authenticity or accuracy of something you are about to share, perhaps try to verify or avoiding sharing as fact.

Avoid stereotyping people or countries

In order to avoid creating prejudice and mistrust, don’t focus on the nationality, ethnicity, or appearance of those who live where COVID-19 originated.

Where appropriate, intervene to stop any type of harassment or bullying

Speak up when you hear, see, or read discriminatory comments. We know that understanding the best course of action when confronted with racist behaviour or harassment can be difficult and will often depend on the specific scenario. So, we’ve done our best to bring together some resources that can help you make the best decision.

We’ve all been a bystander at one time or another. It can be uncomfortable. Often people don’t respond because they don’t want to be a target of abuse themselves. However, standing up to racism can be a powerful sign of support. It can also make the perpetrator think twice about their actions.

When responding, always assess the situation and never put yourself at risk. Your actions don’t need to involve confrontation.

Here are some things for you to consider when thinking about how you can respond:

1.What is Racial Harassment?

Look at HRC’s Racial Harassment PDF outlining what constitutes racial harassment, some examples and why you should act. As well as some practical steps of what you can do.

2.Support. Record. Report. 

Watch this video on what to do if a racist attack happens to you or in front of you. 

  • Support: Go up to the victim and ask if they are okay, ignore the attacker. Make sure the victim knows they are not alone. Support the victim during and after the attack, they will be feeling a range of emotions, fear, anger, embarrassment – make them feel better. Don’t be a bystander.
  • Record: If you can, record the attack on a phone. It helps to make sure we hold people to account. As soon as you can take notes of the time and place, as well as details of the incident in as much details as possible.
  • Report: Report the attack to the authorities. Call the police. Alert the bus driver, train guard or whomever may be around. Don’t let it slide.

3. Respond to racist behaviour

If you see racist behaviour in public, you could say something if it feels safe. It could be as simple as saying “Why don’t you just leave him/her alone?” or “could you be a bit kinder?”

If it doesn’t feel safe to say something, you could think about how you can support the target of the abuse. Go and sit or stand next to them and check if they’re ok. Tell someone responsible such as the driver if it’s happening on a bus or tram or a security guard if it’s happening at a club or venue. Call the police. Use 111 if you think that you or someone else is in danger.

If you see racist material online, you could report it. Most social media platforms (e.g. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube) can deal with offensive content. You could also make a complaint to the New Zealand Human Rights Commission or to the police.

If you see racism directed towards a classmate, colleague or team-mate you could say something as suggested above or perhaps encourage them to complain, most schools, workplaces and sports clubs will have a policy for dealing with bullying and harassment, including racism. 

4. Do you have a human rights complaint? 

If yes, then contact the Human Rights Commission. The first step is to contact our Infoline team. Just phone (0800 496 877), email ([email protected]), fax (09 377 3593), txt (0210 236 4253) or visit our website. We have Language Line and New Zealand Sign Language interpreters available. All information on this course of action is available here.

Here are some other useful resources from around the web that helped inform this page and which you might find useful*: 

•Tips from HRC’s That’s Us campaign

•HRC’s Give Nothing to Racism campaign website

•Western Sydney University’s Bystander Anti-Racism Project and anti-racism resources

•Austrailia’s VicHealth’s program on bystander action to prevent race-based discrimination

•Colorado’s Stop the spread of racism resources, in response to COVID-19

•Canada’s Stop the Spread Campaign, in response to COVID-19

For organisations and businesses

If you are a company or organisation that wants training and education in how you can go about reducing racism and discrimination from occurring both internally and externally, here are some organisations that may be able to assist:

Action Station

Belong Aotearoa


Other anti-racism initiatives

Finally, we wanted to acknowledge some of the work being done in the anti-racism space by other organisations across Aotearoa New Zealand. See below a list of organisations and their initiatives, should you want to find out more. We know they we will be missing many out from below, if you know of others that you would like to see added to this list and acknowledged here, please email [email protected] 

Z Energy – We’ve got your back campaign

Waking Dream Collective – This is us documentary

Ministry of Education – Te Hurihanganui

Social Equity and Wellbeing Network

Office of Ethnic Communities – Community messaging and education project

STIR (Stop Institutional Racism)- Campaign to end racism in health sector

Inclusive Aotearoa Collective – Using the Constellation Model to empower communities

Foundation Against Islamophobia and Racism

*Any links to external organisations are not to be taken as an official endorsement from New Zealand Human Rights Commission.