Opinion

Wilhelmina Shrimpton: Let’s stop racism before it starts

Opinion: I read something pretty hideous online yesterday. Something I’ve always wanted to believe doesn’t happen in New Zealand, and something I’m gutted to realise does. 

It was about a racially motivated attack on Auckland’s North Shore. A man of Chinese descent went to the Albany PAK'nSAVE to buy food for his kids when he was approached by another man. 

The other man reportedly said "go back to where you came from" before the attack turned physical. 

The father was kicked in the head and punched in the face before he tried to shield himself behind a shopping trolley. But the other man continued his attack, and at one point even threw eggs he had purchased. 

The victim suffered multiple bruises, and it’s understood his daughter a North Shore High School student, has raised serious concerns about the increasing level of prejudice in the area … saying there’s a rise in the willingness of people at her school to bully others because of their culture. 

This disgusting act of outright racism isn’t the New Zealand I know and love. This isn’t the country or indeed the city that’s known for its rich tapestry of culture. 

Auckland is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, with the fourth highest foreign-born population. Being different isn’t new … so why is it a problem? 

The clincher here is the fact that it’s understood the victim of this brutal and unprovoked attack came to New Zealand about two decades ago. He’s called this place home for 20 years .. that’s no way to be treated in your own home. 

Just because you look different doesn’t mean you aren’t a Kiwi. Just because you sound different doesn’t mean you aren’t a Kiwi … and just because you are different doesn’t mean someone has the right to abuse you for being you. 

The Christchurch terror attacks and the spike and the anti-Asian sentiment during COVID-19 are just more examples of the type of hatred we never want to see on our shores again .. so it’s no wonder minority groups are calling on Government to make the move around strengthening laws on hate crime.

The Royal Commission into the Christchurch mosque attacks found New Zealand's legal system didn’t adequately deal with hate crime and hate speech … and last year the Government unveiled proposals, including a new criminal offence with harsher penalties and protections for more minority groups, and invited public feedback.

So where are these tools, and where are these deterrents? How can we work towards stamping out racism when police and our courts aren’t properly equipped?

The longer we wait … the bigger the chances of more racist attacks like the one in Albany. 

I only hope that when, and if there’s another like it … it doesn’t end in tragedy. 

So let’s stop it before it starts.