Praise and condemnation for Waititi‘s ‘racist‘ claim

People are reacting to Taika Waititi‘s claim that New Zealand is a “racist place”.

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Mr Waititi made the claim in an interview with New Zealand-born musician Ruban Nielson for the Dazed and Confused magazine.

In a wide-ranging interview, both men discussed fame, their works, politics, cultural heritage and their personal experiences of racism.

Mr Waititi is the son of a Maori father of Te-Whanau-a-Apanui descent and a Jewish-European mother.

He described the type of racism he faced in New Zealand: “People just flat-out refuse to pronounce Maori names properly. There‘s still profiling when it comes to Polynesians. It‘s not even a colour thing – like, ‘Oh, there‘s a black person.‘ It‘s, ‘If you‘re Poly then you‘re getting profiled.‘”

Despite this, Mr Waititi insisted his homeland is still “the best place on the planet.”

Mr Waititi‘s comments caused a stir in his native homeland. Many people praised him for calling out racism and shared their own experiences.

While others took to social media to criticise Mr Waititi‘s observations.

Other commentators praised Mr Waititi for highlighting the issue of racism in New Zealand.

This week‘s curator of the People of NZ Twitter account, said Waititi‘s comments are valid: “There will always be work to do and the only way to get better is to acknowledge it. Doesn‘t matter if we aren‘t the worst, we can still do better.”

The editor of the online news website Stuff.co.nz, Patrick Crewdson, tweeted: “Challenging the country like this is exactly why really deserved that NZer of the Year award.” – Mr Waititi was recognised for his role in the country‘s film industry.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told RNZ‘s Morning Report “Of course there is racism in New Zealand. But what I‘m proud of is we‘re talking about it and openly combating it.”

Mr Waititi made his name in New Zealand as a director on the comedy series “Flight of the Conchords”, the vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows and comedy-drama Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

He has been hailed as “the finest New Zealand film-maker of his generation,” and his success at home has led him on the road to Hollywood. In 2015 he was invited by Marvel Studios to direct “Thor: Ragnarok”.

In 2017, he appeared in a tongue-in-cheek anti-racism video for the New Zealand Human Rights Commission‘s Give Nothing to Racism campaign.