We heard a lot about casual racism when the furore over the use of the "n" word on Real Housewives of Auckland blew up.

Julia Sloane used the term "boat n*****" in a throwaway comment to Michelle Blanchard, a woman of Jamaican and British heritage.

The fact Sloane would use that word so freely and without a second thought shows a certain kind of attitude.

At the time, Blanchard's friends consoled her with the fact Sloane "runs at the mouth" and that she shouldn't worry about the things Sloane says.

Advertisement

But that particular scene was the catalyst for a discussion about the sorts of attitudes people hold - often without being aware that they hold them.

A caller to my radio show told me that he has worked his way up to a senior position within the construction industry.

He's the go-to man and he's Maori.

Yet every time there are visitors on site, they approach a white guy and assume he is in charge.

It's that sort of thing. It's not meant to be offensive, but it shows just how ingrained attitudes can be.

And we had another case in point this week.

Robert Lithgow QC was interviewed on National Radio, defending the judge's decision to discharge Losi Filipo without conviction after a violent assault, mainly because Filipo's burgeoning rugby career would be over if he had a conviction against his name.

The public response was immediate and furious and commentators laid into the judge.

Lithgow seemed outraged that the judge's decision was being questioned.

And then he said: "For young brown men, sport is virtually the only chance to break out of bad circumstances."

Seriously?! Live radio is tricky. I know that myself. And sometimes what we say is not what we'd say if we had the opportunity to revise and edit our words.

But talk about reducing young men to slabs of beef, only useful as grist to the rugby mill.
I know plenty of Pasifika men who are journos, academics, chefs, artists, lawyers and very successful businessmen.

Some of their backgrounds were tough. Some came from loving homes. But all have achieved success without once touching a rugby ball for profit.

Perpetuating the myth that young brown men are only able to achieve success on the sportsfield seems to me to be just another kind of casual racism - and this from a man who in my view should definitely should know better.