• Wed, 8, Jan, 2020 - 5:00:AM

TOP 30 OF 2019 - 17. It’s time for Pākehā to confront their Asian stereotypes

First published on Monday the 3rd of June, 2019, this piece comes in at number 17 in the top 30 most read Villainesse stories of 2019.

Recently, on a Waiheke ferry trip, my partner who I will call M (Filipino) and myself (Pākehā) grabbed a couple of coffees. As we waited for our orders, we perched on the parents’ seat. Chatting away, we didn’t notice the lycra-clad white woman approaching with a pram. Apparently, our (or rather, M’s) ignorance incensed her.

Looking squarely at my partner she explained, “this is the PRAM area, thank you very much.” We both hopped up instantly, but she was already on her tirade; “you have to learn to READ, this is meant for MUMS and BABIES!”.

“Sorry,” M replied, “we were waiting for our coffees”.

M’s non-broken English appeared to appease the woman, who nodded sharply. Returning to our seats, flat whites in hand, it sunk in what had happened.

“That…that woman was annoyed at you because you’re Asian,” I stammered. M looked at me as if I’d been born yesterday.

As a white person in an interracial relationship, you experience these exposing moments over and over. You’re exposed to other people’s racism – and you’re especially exposed to your own ignorance.

When I read about Fraser Milne, the 21-year-old  Pākehā man who drove a Chinese-New Zealand family off the road while screaming racial obscenities, my stomach dropped. When I discussed it with M, she told me she feared this. When she and her family take a trip to a small Kiwi town, she lives on edge. And when a Pākehā approaches the group, she braces.

Fraser Milne chased the family who angered him so much for over 7 kilometres, presumed they were here on an “illegal Visa”, and admitted he wished to hurt “any Asian in general”. He is of a different ilk to the lady on the ferry. But their tirades stem from the same place.

Most shocking to me, in the case of Milne, was his age. At 21 years old a person is forming their world view. In my experience they’re reading the books, watching the shows, and listening to the music they’ll come to call their ‘all time favourites’. But a person has lived a lot of life by 21 too.

The disdain Milne showed toward Asian people that evening was not created in a vacuum – he will have absorbed it from the culture, jokes, and attitudes that surrounded him growing up. And these attitudes are not exclusive to small towns like Milne’s Paeroa.

I was of Primary-school age when I first heard the term ‘Asian invasion’. I was on Queen Street, and it was an adult who uttered it. I remember laughing. Anything that rhymed was funny to me at the time. I didn’t understand the negative connotations.

“Asian invasion” I repeated, “That’s a good one.”

But it’s not a good one. Neither is it funny to announce that Asian people are ‘bad drivers’, Asian people are ‘submissive’, or to make other more offensive proclamations about Asian bodies.

It’s not acceptable to talk about ‘positive stereotypes’ either.

Racism is racism. These small grievances pile up until they’re monstrous. They make life more dangerous for the people on the receiving end, but they also seep into the minds of the non-Asian people who hear them. We’ve created a culture of casual racism that has proven itself to culminate in horror. It’s well past time to confront our own stereotypes.


  • Race /
  • Stereotypes /
  • Pakeha /
  • Asian /
  • Hate crime /
  • Culture /
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Comments ( 1 )

  • LiLi's picture

    LiLi - Tue, 2019-06-04 11:34

    I applaud your sticking up for Asians, they have been in this country for a long time and are New Zealanders just as much as Māori and Pākehā. I do however not applaud you doing the same thing, you have stereotyped Pākehā with this article, a sweeping statement that sounds like all Pākehā are racist and stereotype Asians. Have they never had this attitude from Māori at all or other races? It is not true, I am 51 years old, lived in this country all my life and have never come across this type of hatred or racism at all, these are two instances you have described and I am not saying there isn't this type of racism and stereotyping out there, just that it is not a Pākehā problem, it is an ignorant racist a**hole problem, and these people don't usually hate just one race, they hate anyone who isn't white. And when your partner her family take a trip to a small Kiwi town, she lives on edge and when a Pākehā approaches the group, she braces. Who is stereotyping now, I am pretty darn sure that every Pākehā that has approached them has not been ready to stereotype or insult the group. New Zealand is known for it's friendy people and this also didn't come from a vacuum. Maybe the headline should have read, "It's time to confront Asian stereotyping" or even "It's time to confront stereotyping". Why is it ok to make general statements about Pākehā in this way, if we do it to anyone else it is called racism. I am sorry your partner has to go through this at all but unfortunately I don't think we can ever get rid of the idiots all together, so with a deep breath and a thicker skin people just have to remember that the problem is their's not ours and we can be better than that. Sorry about the rant, you're entitled to your opinions but if you can't take criticism then maybe you shouldn't put it out there. As a white woman I am kind of sick of being scapegoated every time some idiot does something stupid, I am Pākehā and a New Zealander and a Kiwi, I am not racist and tired of being lumped in with others. We all need to check our behaviour once in a while, there is no such thing as a perfect person.
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