Migrant Tales – “I am technically a New Zealander. My passport says so”…So why the racism?


A NZ passport can be a route out

Having a NZ passport won’t protect you from racism

“I just want to get this off my chest so I’m writing this here.

I am what people typically call a 1.5 generation Asian immigrant- I moved to NZ when I was just a little kid and grew up here. I had most of my primary, and all of my secondary and tertiary education in Auckland. I studied, got my job based on my degree, paid back my student loans and continued to work hard. But having graduated from the safety net of university, I finally started to witness racism in its raw and ugly state that is so deeply embedded in this society.

Racism doesn’t have to be blatantly obvious.
It’s always the subtle, little things that stay with me more.
The constant looks that are definitely not from innocent curiosity- always these unfriendly, almost hostile stares that last far too long- at least 5 seconds or more until I stare right back at them- measuring me as if they’re trying to ask “you are clearly not a tourist… so what are you doing here in our community?”
The awkward service when I go into shops and cafes, with people slowing down their speech as if they don’t expect me to understand English, even AFTER I respond in fluent English.

It doesn’t matter to them that NZ has been my home for the last 20 years.
It doesn’t matter to them that I am a tax-paying, hard-working individual.
It doesn’t matter to them that I am a legal NZ citizen.
It doesn’t matter to them the lack of belonging I feel in this country that is supposed to be my home.
It doesn’t matter to them that they remind me again and again that I am a foreigner in this country.

I explain all this to my European Kiwi partner, and he still struggles to understand. I can’t blame him.
He did admit that before meeting me, he would never have noticed all the small gestures and looks that people throw at Asians, how Asians are portrayed in the media, the subtle difference in how Asians are treated in a company… just how racist NZ can be.

I used to love NZ.
But the hatred towards immigrants that has been growing steadily in recent years and the idea that Asians can be mistreated, verbally & physically abused that is spread across this country makes me so mad.
Politicians don’t care about offending Asians. The media twists everything around so the public blames Asians for problems in NZ. Young teenagers are beating up Asian students and robbing them (but apparently this isn’t racially-motivated, according to the Council).
More money gets invested in anti-bullying campaigns than anti-racism. Their favourite slogan “DON’T BE A BYSTANDER” doesn’t seem to apply when it comes to racial discrimination against Asians.
When Asians voice their concerns or complaints we are told to shut up and stop being so precious. They say we should just deal with it because racism will always exist. They sure as hell don’t say that to victims of bullying, do they?

I am technically a New Zealander. My passport says so. When people yell at me to “go back to my own country” there is literally no country to go back to. But there are many people here that will never accept me as a “true Kiwi” because I look Asian and I wasn’t born in NZ.
Now I am always so full of anger and am constantly prepared for possible racist comments that get thrown at me, just so I can throw an appropriate response back. I am always on edge,
My newly-found aggressiveness worries me.
It also makes me incredibly sad.”

21 thoughts on “Migrant Tales – “I am technically a New Zealander. My passport says so”…So why the racism?

  1. Better think before you say slurs just to retaliate. You dont want to end up like me. Im back home now and they targeted me using gang stalking. My life now is ruined.

  2. The roots of these racism problems seem to be firmly grounded within our primarily white rulers economic policies.And yes immigration is a massive problem right now ,it’s out of control and absolutely irrelevant where the immigrants come from or what their skin colour is.The government needs immigration to maintain their financial and political control,they have made very little effort to ensure sufficient infrastructure and employment opportunities are in place prior to opening the floodgates and enticing people from all over the world to bring their life savings and come to N.Z.
    The financial and political leaders of this country are more than happy to allow immigrants to compete with the current residents of N.Z for jobs and housing,hating and blaming immigrants ensures that the people are otherwise occupied and will not assign the blame in the government lap where it belongs,meanwhile the rulers of N.Z enjoy their huge salaries cushy jobs and wealth such as they had not imagined nor deserve,the truth is immigrants are not competing with high level political leaders and do not pose a threat to them,the politicians financial freedom allows them to distance themselves from the populace and they are able to turn a blind eye to the huge social and economic problems their policies are creating in N.Z.Meanwhile we are raising a generation of N.Z educated young people who have very little chance of ever getting a reasonable paying job or achieving home ownership ,many of them do not even know what’s involved in having a job ,just a matter of time before the young educated people start leaving N.Z in huge numbers…..again.

  3. I have read the blog and the comments, and I have to say, although discrimination is a nasty thing, it is one of the most common things on the planet. There will not be a country anywhere in the world where migrant groups feel overly welcomed at this time.

    NZ is by no means unique with the rise in anti-immigrant sentiment. For the past 5-10 years, the world has been recoiling from globalisation and multiculturalism. We see this in Brexit and across Europe; we see this in Scotland and Catalonia in Spain; we see this in the growing support for Donald Trump in the US and Pauline Hansen in Australia; we see this in places like India, where Prime Minister Modi is clearly pro-Hindu; we see it in the Philippines where a nationalistic president was elected; we see this in China where China is now asserting its claim to the whole of the South China Sea; we even see it in places like Singapore where foreign workers have rioted due to their poor treatment and death threats against foreign nationals for daring to criticise people publicly.

    Oddly enough, it is probably growing global equality, and not inequality, that is causing anti-immigrant sentiment all over the world. Countries that were once poor are now rich, and countries that were once rich, are now less rich and less powerful than they once were.

    From the perspective of the once wealthy countries, they see migrants (or people who look or sound like migrants) as the cause of their decline. Trump blames China for the decline of the US. Hansen blames Asians for the decline of Australia. Farage blames European migrants for the decline of the UK. Little and Peters blame Asians for the decline of NZ, and so on. But what is perceived as a decline is actually not a decline at all, but rather the levelling of the global playing field. Poor countries are now richer, and rich countries a now relatively poorer.

    And with that shift in economic status comes a shift in power. And with a shift in power comes a crisis of identity: ‘I was once rich, and I was rich because I was superior’, now that ‘others are rich, and perhaps richer than I, does that mean I am now inferior?’ As the nouveau riche rejoice in their new found riches, the nouveau paurve wallow in their new found poverty. It is played out as a zero-sum game. If I am now poor, then someone must be making me poor, and it must be migrants, as they are ones the government has invited into the country. They are the ones with money and brains because they wouldn’t be allowed into the country if they had neither.

    So anti-migrant sentiment sees its foundation in intense feelings of insecurity – feeling inferior, when once people felt superior; feeling poor, when once they felt rich; no longer feeling good about themselves; no longer feeling in control of their own destiny.

    For new migrants, or the sons and daughters of new migrants, the migration experience has not played out like it was supposed to. Migrants seldom expect mass antagonism from the host nation. If they did, they wouldn’t have migrated in the first place. And so they cannot enjoy their new found riches for they become the ‘Jews’ of the nation they adopted. They are despised for their success. They feel a sense of non-belonging for they cannot return to their ancestry homeland, for they are foreigners there too; and they dislike staying in their adopted homeland because they are stigmatised.

    No one would have thought equality would cause so many problems.

    • If I am now poor, then someone must be making me poor, and it must be migrants, as they are ones the government has invited into the country. They are the ones with money and brains because they wouldn’t be allowed into the country if they had neither.

      The funny thing about that statement is the selection process in New Zealand as an example, is opaque – at least if you take their “we only want the best” rhetoric at face value, as, being someone who graduated from a University (not polytechnic) course with a 10% pass rate … I certainly didn’t receive any invitation.
      The people who did receive an invitation to stay, as an example:
      – someone who worked on repairing slot machines
      – another person who graduated with a degree in accounting, but then worked as a cashier, became pregnant and is now a single mother
      – person (with no qualifications) who was formerly bonking a young male Ph.D holder, she’s now a single mother in Tauranga, meantime the Ph.D holder is shacking up with a local girl from Singapore (he’s now at the Nanyang Technology University)

      These are just a few examples of the “so-called” meritocracy practiced in New Zealand immigration, in so saying, I have other interesting ventures to explore which is why I didn’t press too hard to stay on in the place I now consider a “colonial outpost”.

  4. Thank you for posting that. Your post really resonated with me.

    I feel your pain – that is pretty much my story as well. My parents immigrated to NZ 18 years ago and I have grew up here. Like you I went to high school and university here, got a well paid job (thanks to having a couple of open minded UK immigrants as my bosses), bought a house on my own and doing my best to settle in.

    But lately the anti-immigration sentiment is really starting to make me feel uneasy. All I hear is Asian getting blamed for all sorts of problems – rising house prices, pushing Kiwi out of jobs, causing traffic accidents to even the declining popularity of rugby (sigh…).

    I guess unlike you I don’t have any families here. My parents went back home years ago, finding it too hard to settle in. And to Kiwi women, an Asian man is not seen as a desirable partner, no matter who successful I am. So I am isolated and staring down the prospect of dying alone here.

    And I know exactly what you mean when you say your ‘newly-found aggressiveness worries me. It also makes me incredibly sad.’. I am normally a calm and caring person but I find myself getting short-fused, angry, bitter and just want to see the world burn. I guess that is what happen when one group of people is marginalized and no one cares.

    • It’s kind of relieving and also sad at the same time to know that there are others like me… You are so right. No one really cares about Asians in NZ, do they? I’m turning into a more and more bitter person and I hate it. I feel like it’s only a matter of time before race-related hate crimes start increasing here in NZ just like England post-Brexit.. It’s quite scary

      • There are so many non-white immigrant who grew up as a kid here who feels the same. We don’t fit the stereotype or the narrative the media portray when they want to talk about immigrants. We are the one who come top of high school, top of university and then becomes doctors, lawyers and engineers etc. When we do well, we are referred to as Kiwis, even though we don’t get treated like one. But heaven forbid if we ever goes off the rail, it is definitely the immigrants in us causing that.

        Sometimes I ask my friend, ‘What the hell are we doing here? Why are we working our ass off saving lives and building this country when we get treated like crap?’

        And I agree race related crime will start soon because of this housing issue. Every time I read the comments on stuff relating to this topic immigrants (particularly Asian) get the brunt of the blame. And then there is Winston Peters who fans the fire as election comes near.

        I am not really in talking terms with my parents but sometimes I really want to ask them what were they thinking bringing me here, putting me in a no-win situation like this? I still remember the day we left. I was just a little boy, crying my eyes out at the airport not wanting to leave my friends and everything I know behind. I guess despite their best intention they never factored in how important it is to have the right skin colour.

        • Yes, you are too right. That’s what I always say to people around me, until most of them start looking uncomfortable at the topic itself and I just close my mouth.

          NZ doesn’t realise that immigrants aren’t just non-English speaking people unwilling to integrate into society that brings down the quality of working conditions that apparently “NZers fought so hard to achieve.”
          Like you said, immigrants are the high-achievers at school, the ones that go on to become doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants etc. and contribute so much towards this country.
          I always joke to my partner- fine, let NZ kick out all the Asian immigrants and truly make “NZ for NZers (as in European and Maori NZers)” then let’s see what’s left of it.
          It won’t just be the dairy shops and sushi takeaways that are empty, it will also be hospitals, law firms, engineering firms, dentists, optometrists, insurance companies and laboratories that are empty as well.
          NZ society won’t be able to function well without Asians.

          I feel bitter because I went through the same thing as well.
          I did well at school, I studied my butt off at university, I got a job and worked hard.
          All for what?
          Just to be treated exactly the same as when I arrived here, to be stared at everywhere I go and treated as if I’m one of those “evil non-resident Chinese investors here to steal NZ houses” simply because I am an Asian.
          My parents always told me to work hard and eventually those dumb racists won’t be able to say anything because of my achievements.
          Um, no.
          Unless I am a super talented young female golfer, I am still not accepted as a Kiwi and I still get those dumb racists coming at me (and let’s face it, even though I fully support Lydia Ko, if she ever hits a slump in her career NZ media will be calling her “South-Korean born” and not “Kiwi” golfer)

          Winston Peters is just one of many, unfortunately..
          I was horrified when Little specifically pointed the finger at Chinese on national television for the housing crisis and even more horrified when nobody hit back at him for that.
          Then there was the politician from the Maori Party who told Melissa Lee to “go back to her own country” for simply mentioning that she was surprised that NZ shops closed quite early- nothing malicious, just an observation when she first arrived in NZ.

          This country is a joke when it comes to acknowledging racism towards Asians.

      • Hope things get better for you, I have known immigrant friends who became depressed because they could not accept the reality. Take care.

    • Cheer up KC, there are plenty of overseas people in NZ these days so you don’t have to limit yourself to socializing with locals only. Hope things get better for you.

  5. “Pakeha with 1/2 Chinese children reporting in. Sometimes you’ll get a racist old biddy say “she almost looks Chinese” before launching into a rant about the Chinese because I’m white so obviously my kid is all white too and all white people agree with the old peoples racism, right?

    I have a family full of horrible racist people, my uncle got famous for taking some guys keys because he was driving while asian, my mum bitches about the asian drivers with her chinese grandchildren in the car, my nana will go off on a rant about how smelly asians are…. I have been exposed to a lot of racism towards Asians in my life, but outside of hillbilly redneck families and old biddies on busses, kiwis are pretty ok.” https://www.reddit.com/r/newzealand/comments/3lxlj7/is_it_true_that_kiwis_are_very_racist_toward/cvage3d

    “My last name is Young, Scottish name, my mum is a teacher and had a students parents request their kid move out of their class because they didn’t want an ‘asian’ teaching their kids.

    You’d be hard pressed to find many genuinely racist people in the younger generations, but older people may have either straight up or subtle racism in what they do.” https://www.reddit.com/r/newzealand/comments/3lxlj7/is_it_true_that_kiwis_are_very_racist_toward/cvax2rd

  6. The real problem is obvious. How much do kiwis know about for instance Asia. Take China, our largest trading partner and largest source of immigrants, how much is the media writing about China to inform Kiwis about the real China. What is life and people really like. What freedom and life do they really have. I have personally approached The Herald and asked that they engage Kiwi writers in China to write about China. All I really got was silence and virtual “fingers”. All we see is published gross racial abuse. One of the worst occurred recently just in the The Herald. The headline was “’A bloody harvest’: Thousands of people slaughtered for their organs, new report claims”. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=11664848 This could be cut straight out of the Hitler era Goebbels hat campaigns against Jews in the 30s Nazi Germany. This is exactly how they worked. This is almost a copy, word by word. The editors will defend themselves that it is the regime they are targeting, but it is not. That is not the perceived message, and the editors know. It depicts Chinese as blood thirsty criminals. It is racism, lies and spreading false and malicious rumours. When we will see a change, there will be a change.
    Retired writer in China

  7. I’ll echo the comments of others.
    My family immigrated in 1967.
    I was 4.
    I went to NZ schools, did and NZ trade apprenticeship

    but still, get called a pommie this or pommie that on a daily basis. And that’s usually by folk who are descendants of the mother country but seem to think that birth here gives them some greater rights.

  8. They hate Americans. I’ve been here 15 years and I would like to get on a plane and leave…after all this time. It never gets better.

  9. Trust me, its not just Asians that Kiwis have a problem with, it’s also the English (like me) and many other nationalities. They are poor, pathetic, insecure simpletons that cover up their short comings with full blown jingoism.

    Be proud to be Asian. Beats the hell out of being a small minded loser Kiwi any day of the week 🙂

  10. The abuse isn’t just towards Asians.

    We are from England and on our initial application to come to NZ we had it sent back to us saying that all members on the form over 12 years old had to complete an ESOL English language test at the cost of $300 per person. When I wrote back explaining that we had always spoken English as a primary language, they decided to drop that element of the application.

    The day we got off the plane in Auckland we were verbally abused by a gang of youths in a car driving past our hotel. The general comments although in reality more abrupt were “Whitey’s go home” and “why don’t you pale *kers go back to where you came from”. Months later the abuse was still coming at work with comments like “over stayers” and “how come you come over here and take our jobs”. Even after 10 years as a NZ resident one of our neighbours (82 years old White European descendant) continually tells me to “ck off back to where we were dragged up” and “your daughter has no rights to be out in your garden”. He means it, he doesn’t say it as a joke, he makes threats, I laugh at him, but that is the mind-set of some of the individuals that came from elsewhere around the planet to begin with.

    I find it amusing that without the diversity of cultures that move to these isolated shores there would be no New Zealand. It would be a barren wasteland devoid of food, vegetation or culture. Ask some Americans where New Zealand is and they often don’t know or think it’s a small Australian island, it hasn’t a true identity of it’s own. Maybe New Zealanders are so insecure they have to react to civilised cultures. After all more Kiwis them seem to spend a lot of time trying to leave and go overseas to the places we came from, I think most probably haven’t even explored New Zealand.

    I’ll always be English, that won’t change, it can’t. If people don’t like it that’s their problem, they have to deal with it. They must also be prepared to take as good as they give. In my experience they can’t, they are shocked when you respond, most whimper under the pressure or squirm behind the racist label.

    The sad fact is a lot of New Zealanders are racist, but mainly, I think due to the naivety of their own race or the isolation and insecurity of living in a place far away from the real world.

  11. Large numbers of Kiwis are racist assholes! It would be great if this were not the case, but it is! New Zealand, as a country, lives in denial. It tells lies covering just about everything you can name, to anyone who will listen and believe them. I feel seriously sorry for the poor people who actually believe NZ is racially tolerant; or clean and green for that matter.

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