Susan Devoy: Why we need to talk about racial profiling

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Image / iStock
Image / iStock

Racial profiling isn't a Facebook troll on social media- racial profiling is real, it's something that real people experience in their real lives.

When a person is treated differently by law enforcement or private security officers because of their ethnicity or skin colour: this is racial profiling - and together with discrimination it can be hard to measure and therefore hard to address.

Talking openly about discrimination is crucial if we are ever going to address it properly. Racial profiling isn't just about those high profile cases.

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It is as simple as the small boy in the toy aisle of a major retail outlet being asked to turn his pockets out when none of the other children are asked.

That little boy probably won't know what the term racial profiling means but he knows that he is the only boy being searched and he is also the only Maori boy in the toy aisle.

From that moment he knows that people in uniform may treat him unfairly because of who he is and not what he has done.

As that small boy grows up he may notice that he gets pulled over by the Police a lot more than his Pakeha mates. And when that boy has his own sons he may talk to them about how to behave when they get treated unfairly by someone in a uniform because of who they are and not what they've done.

Talking about racial profiling and discrimination is the first step to addressing it. Many people have the courage to talk about their experiences and we need to encourage this to happen more. We need more courageous conversations.

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Addressing discrimination isn't about simply being nice to people or giving them special treatment: addressing discrimination is about ensuring our society is the best it can be and that it treats all New Zealanders fairly - no matter who they are.

Dame Susan Devoy is Race Relations Commissioner.

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