Education system accused of subtle racism and told it needs to 'brown up' video

University of Auckland

Brown People Get Everything They Want

An academic from Auckland University says the education system is filled with "subtle racism" and the curriculum needs to "brown up."

Sociology department senior lecturer David Mayeda is also taking on a much criticised TVNZ survey of what it means to be Kiwi which included statements that Maori benefit from "special privileges."

Mayeda created two videos in a campaign to tackle the racism he sees.

Xavier plays a Maori boy who experiences racism in the University of Auckland's video project
University of Auckland

Xavier plays a Maori boy who experiences racism in the University of Auckland's video project

The videos use children to act out mock scenarios - which Mayeda says underline the difficulties Maori students face as universities try to "brown up" their curricula.

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The children, aged 8 -12, pull off impressively complex scripts in the short clips, titled Brown People Get Everything They Want and Decolonising Education.

University of Auckland

I,Too, Am Auckland - Decolonising Education

Mayeda said his team used child actors to draw in viewers: "We know that having children portray [the situations] would pull on the heart strings of viewers a bit more."

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"If children can at least articulate the issues being addressed in the videos, then adults should be able to think critically about them," he said. 

The clips centre around a Maori boy, Xavier, and features instances of racial discrimination he might experience in his lifetime - and how the kids all work inclusively to over come them.

By the end of the clip the kids have worked through their "subtle racism" and all play together.
University of Auckland

By the end of the clip the kids have worked through their "subtle racism" and all play together.

Brown People Get Everything They Want shows Xavier being excluded from playing play-doh with the other kids on account of "special privileges" he would automatically receive over them later in life.

"Just because you're brown and get everything else handed to you, doesn't mean you can join us," the Pakeha boy said. 

"It's bad enough that they [Maori] get cheaper healthcare ... I hear that when we go to uni we'll have a harder time than that kid, who will get in just because he's Maori."

Then a girl pipes up with a particularly eloquent speech - acting as the group's voice of reason.

"Don't you think you're being really mean? He was born Maori and can't change the fact that so many wrongs have been done in the past.

"All of these injustices are part of a systemic racism which sees that Maori and Pacific people have the worst health outcomes and are more likely to be thrown in prison.

"We shouldn't think of these programmes as special [privileges], they are programmes to restore justice from current and past discriminations."

After a group discussion the kids decide to apologise to Xavier and play inclusively with the dinosaurs.

Mayeda said it was written in response to the national discourse around "special privileges" that Maori allegedly receive after the KiwiMeter was released earlier this year.

Over 220,000 New Zealanders took part in the TVNZ survey which asked questions about nationhood and touched on Maori culture.

The survey was slammed for it's "out and out racism" by Labour's Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis - who said questions around Maori receiving special treatment needed to be removed from the survey.

Mayeda said the second video, Decolonising Education, aims to encourage New Zealand education systems to indigenise or "brown up" their curricula - while avoiding victim-blaming of minority communities for the social disparities they experience.

"Finally, we wanted to communicate through both videos that Māori and Pacific peoples should not be solely responsible for addressing contemporary racism ... you'll note Pakeha children take active roles to intervene in constructive ways, even reflecting on their own 'subtle' racism."

He said the kids were a mix of colleague's children and those who responded to a casting call. 

"These are just average every day kids who have no acting experience, but their parents are interested in the themes we were addressing."

The videos are part of the sociology department's social media project I, Too, Am Auckland, which features several videos that tackle "subtle racism" of ethnic minorities with in New Zealand's universities and builds off the similar I, Too, Am Harvard project from the United States' university. 


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