Local businesswoman questions what it means to be a New Zealander

Chief cookie officer/owner of the Moustache Milk & Cookie Bar, Deanna Yang. Her blog post challenges the racism she ...
ROBERT KITCHIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Chief cookie officer/owner of the Moustache Milk & Cookie Bar, Deanna Yang. Her blog post challenges the racism she faces as a New Zealander of Asian descent.

When a Kiwi businesswoman was the target of a racist post on social media questioning whether she should be featured on a local advertisement, she hit back.

New Zealand-born Deanna Yang, who is of Singaporean-Chinese descent, has been running the Moustache Milk and Cookie Bar for the last four years.

The 26-year-old was featured recently on a Visa pay wave ad and then in an Instagram post smiling and holding up a cookie.

One of the comments on Instagram said: "Asians on a NZ ad. God help us."

READ MORE: 
Guy Williams: The quiet racism of New Zealand 
NZ's racist justice system: Our law isn't colourblind 
Kiwi woman overwhelmed with support after roadside abuse 
New Zealand is no paradise: Rugby, racism and homophobia 

Yang has written a strong blog post in response to that commenter and to the many others who still see her as an outsider in her own country. She said after 26 years of it, she has learnt to shrug it off.

Yang said she wrote the post, which is titled, What does a Kiwi business-owner look like? Well, not like me  –  because I look Asian, in order to be transparent about both the good and bad in her life.

She has been humbled and touched by reactions to it. "I know that for every bad experience there are always more New Zealanders who have shown acceptance and aroha towards Chinese New Zealanders."

She said Asian culture sometimes tended to sweep issues like this under the carpet.

"My blog is not so much about creating a gap where there is a 'them' and an 'us', but just sharing my experiences to hopefully open up a rhetoric about an issue that is usually stigmatised within Asian culture to discuss openly.

Ad Feedback

"The more we are honest about our experiences and show vulnerabilities to each other, the more we realise we are all just human in the end – regardless of race or gender or sexuality – and the more we can understand each other and bring down those walls," Yang said.

In the blog post she said she wasn't born yesterday. "I get it  –  in fact, I'm used to it. I was born in Waitakere Hospital, West Auckland, 26 years ago and since then have been conditioned to accept being screamed on the streets by 'Kiwis'. 

"But, even if I'm used to it, I still do find it a) amusing b) interesting and c) a very good starting point for some rhetoric about an issue we all know is there but often Asian people themselves don't speak about openly."

Yang went on to say that she adored New Zealand despite the many racist encounters she had on a day-to-day basis.

"I have been stopped abruptly in supermarkets in Gisborne  –  some people having never interacted or spoken to an Asian person before.

"I've been screamed at by carloads of people on more than three occasions in Hamilton (and I daresay I probably haven't been to Hamilton much more than three times either).

"I have been stopped in carparks on my way to the public toilets by groups of boys to jeer at me. Heck, it happened to me right outside my house the other week at the traffic lights through my car window where a guy looked at me deadset in the eye and yelled 'Ni Hao Ching Chong'.

"Dude, if you're old enough to drive, you're old enough to owe me at the very least a smarter racist remark. I've heard that one from 5-year-olds before, mate."

She said there was a lot of heated debate about the issue, and the over-inflated property market in New Zealand wasn't helping. 

"It is an awkward place to be. Growing up in a country where as a child you are constantly shown that because of the colour of your skin, you are not as worthy to be here, that you are less than others, that you, no matter what you do, will never truly be considered a 'real New Zealander'.

"You live a split identity. Neither here nor there."

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers
Ad Feedback