Accusing someone of being 'racist' or 'race baiting' is now one of several default tactics used to silence critics when they don't have an actual argument to fall back on.

Unfortunately, this nonsense is becoming far too common.

Take for instance, Green MP Golriz Ghahraman's recent accusation that the leaders of NZ First and National were "race-baiting" because they dared to question why Kurdish-Iranian author Behrouz Boochani was given refugee status in New Zealand.

Given that Ghahraman met Boochani at the airport on his arrival in November 2019, it's not unreasonable for questions to be asked concerning preferential treatment.


After all, Boochani overstayed his one-month visa and then gained refugee status and a pathway to citizenship.

Hence, NZ First leader Winston Peters asked: "He [Boochani] came here on a one-month visa, did not honour it, was offered refugee status by the United States which begs the question: why did we end up [with him]?"

National Party leader Judith Collins went further by making Official Information Act requests about the process concerning Boochani's refugee application.

"I'm asking to see it, and I'm asking for reassurance for the public of New Zealand and I think that's important," Collins said.

Fair enough. I'm sure most New Zealanders would expect our politicians to be asking questions about this matter given the circumstances.

Peters and Collins had every right to question the handling of Boochani's application for refugee status.

In response to Peters and Collins, Green MP Golriz Ghahraman said, "It is race-baiting and it is really disappointing and New Zealand will demand better this election."

Race-baiting? No, what is "really disappointing" is that Ghahraman reverted to 'race' to shut down any questioning of an issue that deserves attention.


The decision to award Boochani with refugee status may well have followed due process and been fair, in which case Ghahraman could have stepped to the side and allowed us to see that for ourselves by way of open and transparent answers from officials to Collins' OIA request.

Instead, we're left with 'race-baiting'.

In the language of my students: LOL. Or perhaps FFS might be better.

It is becoming more common to use 'race' to silence critics.

Let me share my enlightenment: Defaulting to race is not an argument.

Yes, racism exists, and we should fight it, but calling something racist when it isn't or referring to race when it is irrelevant only works to delegitimise incidents of actual racism ie. The Boy Who Cried Wolf.


It's also amusing that Ghahraman said that Winston Peters – who is Māori – was 'race baiting', is it not?

Given the Greenies are advocates for everything Te Tiriti, it's probably not a good idea to come to Aotearoa as a refugee – no matter how long you've been here – and accuse someone who is tangata whenua that they are 'race baiting'.

I am, of course, joking.

After all, we Mowrees only racebait those white fullas.

- Steve Elers is as an academic at a university in Palmerston North and writes a weekly column on social and cultural issues. His views are his own and do not represent the unnamed university. He can be contacted via his website: