Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy wades into Real Housewives race row

Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy says the episode is an opportunity to educate Kiwis about casual racism.
Maarten Holl

Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy says the episode is an opportunity to educate Kiwis about casual racism.

The Race Relations Commissioner is now involved in the racism row enveloping the reality TV show Real Housewives of Auckland.

Susan Devoy says other New Zealanders need to call out those who say "ignorant, offensive and racist things" – like Julia Sloane's use of a "hateful racist word" in the episode due to air on Tuesday.

Sloane, who is Pakeha, calls fellow housewife Michelle Blanchard, who is of English and Jamaican descent, a "boat n.....".

Sloane, who is Pakeha, calls fellow housewife Michelle Blanchard, who is of English and Jamaican descent, a "boat n*****".

Sloane, who is Pakeha, calls fellow housewife Michelle Blanchard, who is of English and Jamaican descent, a "boat n*****".

"I do not think that ignorant, overt racist behaviour is part of Kiwi culture so we all need to call it out when it rears its very ugly head," Devoy said. "People like Julia need to understand that using words like that is not how we roll here. That is not us." 

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She said she was interested to see whether the other Housewives stars called out Sloane on her use of a "hateful racist word".

Devoy said the episode was an opportunity to educate New Zealanders about casual racism.

"I'm sorry for Michelle but this episode will educate a lot of people about so-called casual racism – the thing about casual racism is it never feels casual when it's happening to you or your loved ones."

"If we watch this episode this week we need to think back on our own lives. Have we faced or witnessed this kind of racist abuse? What did we do? Did anyone challenge the abuser? If it happens again, how will we react?" Devoy said.

Blanchard said she was "absolutely shocked" by Sloane's comment.

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Sloane's husband, Michael Lorimer, told NZME the remark was taken out of context to "make Julia look bad", and that the couple had spoken to lawyers in an attempt to have the episode "amended".

Bravo said the slur would be "bleeped out" to adhere to Broadcasting Standards Authority regulations when it screens, but insisted the incident was a major point in the show's narrative.

 - Stuff

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