If there's one thing that hardline racists and extremists all agree on it's that they want us to mistrust our neighbours, to fear people because they are different and to hate one other.

Today we're challenging New Zealanders to acknowledge that racism starts small and it needs your support to survive.

Every little bit counts. Because when it's fed, it grows and it turns into hatred. This is what we are seeing taking place across our planet and it's what we never want to see happen in Aotearoa.

Some of New Zealand's most beloved actors, musicians, athletes, comedians, journalists and comedians stand united and are asking you to Give Nothing To Racism. Give no acceptance.


Give no place. Give no indulgence. Give it Nothing. They're making a stand about the kind of country and people we are: Will you take up the challenge?

When we allow casually racist thoughts, actions or comments into our lives we feed intolerance.

So often when we encounter these little pieces of racism, because we're only human and we don't like tension, we'll try to laugh it off, excuse it, diffuse it, pretend it isn't what it is. And that covers it up.

And in doing these things, we passively agree. But what if we didn't? What if we frowned instead of laughed?

What if we blanked our mates instead of nodding? What if instead of walking past, we asked the woman being abused in a head scarf if she was OK? This is what we are asking of New Zealanders.

Racism starts small. I've lost count of the number of times a mum or dad has asked me what their child should do when they face racist taunts or worse on the way home from school.

It's a fact that every woman I know who wears a head scarf has been humiliated by a stranger right here in New Zealand.

And it's a tragedy that a retired policeman told me after we launched our campaign for an inquiry into horrific state abuse that every single child he took to the boys' home was a Maori child, and he took hundreds of them.

These people's concerns are not PC Gone Mad. Neither should they be expected to harden up. Far from it, we've been encouraging Kiwis to speak up.

Eight months ago some very brave New Zealanders shared their personal stories and helped launch our country's first nationwide anti-racism campaign, That's Us.

By raising their voices we enabled those of us who may not have experienced racism ourselves to understand what it looks and feels like. It seems Kiwis were keen to listen, so far we've reached more than 3 million people.

One of the first Kiwis to share her personal story of growing up in New Zealand was Liu Shueng Wong. She told us: "Racism starts small and is a light feeder. Racism just needs crumbs to get stronger and stronger."

We think Liu Shueng is right and that's why our campaign is focusing on those quiet, personal places where racism and prejudice is nurtured.

Do I think all New Zealanders are hardline racists? Of course not. Do I think we sometimes say and do things that are discriminatory and wrong? Most definitely.

How we treat each other is what we need to focus on. Of course we need to debate issues like immigration, but we need to do it without racism.

My friend has had a carload of screaming and laughing strangers abuse him for stealing their jobs and told to go back to where he comes from: which would be Dunedin, as his ancestors arrived here from Guangdong Province in 1878.

We are not calling for censorship or new laws: but we are exercising our own freedom of speech to encourage New Zealanders to treat each other with mana.

Racism and racial intolerance is a Kiwi problem. It isn't new and it's growing: one in three complaints to the Human Rights Commission is about racial discrimination; most people who experience racism don't complain; and we're seeing an increase in overt racist attacks.

If we look overseas, hatred and extremism is becoming normal in some places and we want to avoid that future for Aotearoa, one of the most ethnically diverse nations on earth.

Racial prejudice and intolerance starts small, in quiet places, in our everyday lives. When it becomes normalised it turns into overt racism and extremism.

We believe that racism has no place in our future and we hope you agree because while racism starts small, so too does hope.

• Dame Susan Devoy is the Race Relations Commissioner. A video made by Taika Waititi can be seen on the campaign website, www.givenothing.co.nz., from 6am today.