Sunday, 17 February 2008

poll on discrimination

i had a good look around, but i couldn't find this reported anywhere else*. it's the latest poll by the human rights commission on discrimination. the news is apparently good, in that:

the proportion of New Zealanders who see "some" or "a great deal" of discrimination against Asians has dropped from a peak of almost 80 per cent in 2003-04 to just 68 per cent at the end of last year.

but asians are still perceived to be the group that is most highly discriminated against. more relevant perhaps is how these minorities feel about the discrimination they face:

The polls of 750 people by UMR Research found that 71 per cent of Asians themselves still feel that New Zealanders discriminate against them - 26 per cent "some" and 45 per cent "a great deal".

Pacific Islanders feel more accepted. Only 4 per cent feel they are discriminated against "a great deal" and 58 per cent feel "some" discrimination.

But Maori feel even more heavily discriminated against than Asians - 24 per cent "a great deal" and 49 per cent "some".

of course this is all about perceptions. i guess it's really difficult to collect hard data about discrimination. HRC can count the number of complaints they receive, but very few people make formal complaints. often it's very difficult to prove, and sometimes the discrimination is something that it's perceived by the recipient but not intended by the other person.

the drop in the initial number (from 80% to 68%) may relate to 2003-2004 being the time of the infamous orewa speech by one dr don brash. it was a time when racial tensions were particularly heightened. although the 2005 campaign did have that immigration speech by dr brash and the "end of tolerance" speech by mr peters, which didn't help matters much at all.

it will be interesting to see how campaign 2008 affects race relations. john key has decided not use race relations in the way brash did, as can be evidenced by his taking the young maori girl to waitangi last year, his friendliness with titewhai harawera & tame iti this year, and his trying to attend every major ethnic event on the calendar. i think he's figured out that ethnic minorities can vote too, and that support from the maori party is going to be crucial for him.

this leaves the field open to minor parties, at least one of which is likely to use immigrants as a target this time around. being tough on immigrants has been a regular vote-catcher. only the right kind of immigrants though. not this guy, who is white, from england, and apparently has plenty of money. and certainly not this guy, who is also from england and has plenty of money. we don't know if he's white, but it seems pretty likely.

i wonder what the narrative would have been if these two gentlemen had been from asia? isn't it strange that when there is media outrage about an immigrant not being allowed to stay, that immigrant is invariably white? i have yet to see a story of outrage about a non-white immigrant not being allowed to stay. instead, the stories of brown immigrants are usually about the crimes they have committed or the damage they inflict - zimbabweans bringing aids to the country, rich asian immigrants pushing house prices up, and so on. of course i'd love to be proved wrong on this, so please let me know of any stories in the major dailies going out to bat for non-white immigrants. [post script: i just thought of an example - the iranian overstayer who converted to christianity. can't think of any others]

the worst story i've seen would have to be the one headed "refugee rapist dies in crash". imagine how this man's family felt, having to deal with his death, then having this headline appear in the paper. it's a level of cruelty beyond belief.

it amazes me that we accept this kind of reporting. we accept the unequal media treatments of immigrants of colour. here is an area where we can get some hard data. i'd love for the human rights commission to start documenting positive and negative stories relating to migrants, taking into account the race and nationality of the migrant. then we'd know a lot more about discrimination than we do now

*(for further details of the research, see here).

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