A royal commission into racism?

Al Gillespie, professor of law at Waikato University, suggests we need a royal commission type inquiry into ‘racism’. I have no idea how that might work let alone what it could achieve.

Stuff:  We need a royal commission on racism

To my mind, to ask the bigger questions is necessary because hate laws would not have stopped the murderer doing his heinous acts  in Christchurch. By the time he started killing, he was already fully radicalised and putrid with racial hatred. This means that if the goal is to stop the emergence of such evil in future, it is necessary to see if there was a swamp that nurtured him from which he emerged, or whether he was just an aberration.

Even within New Zealand few would argue that a new law on hate crimes should not be created.

I think that a lot of us would like to see a robust debate on this before any hate law is created.

However, many will argue about how to define “hate”. While most would agree that physically threatening and obscenely abusive language based around racism should be prohibited, any consensus will fall apart when debating whether simply offensive and/or insulting speech linked to different ethnic groups should also be considered “hate” and therefore prohibited.

If the country is about to descend into the debate foreshadowed in the above paragraph, and that discussion will replace a wider examination about racism and discrimination in New Zealand, then a serious mistake is about to occur.

This is a time to place the needs for hate-crime legislation within a much larger basket of issues and responses that are needed to improve this country on the particular consideration of racism overall, of which new laws on hate-speech, despite being important, are only one part of the puzzle.

For that to occur, I believe a public inquiry, or royal commission, on racism in New Zealand is necessary.

The truth of the matter is that neither side really knows definitively if there is a problem, and if so, its scale.

The only way to find answers to this is to have a public inquiry on racism. This needs to take stock of where we have come from, where we are, and where we are going. It needs to cover racism and discrimination, wherever it is found – or not – in the past, and in the present  (from the street, to the workplace to the internet) –for any New Zealand citizen.

 Any such inquiry then needs to show how these problems are avoided or created.  Successes need to be showcased, as much as failures. If failures are found, then the direct and indirect consequences of them need to be shown.

Finally, and most importantly, if more work is required to defeat the scourge of racism, exactly how this should be done, such as via targets and indicators which could be incorporated directly into law and policy, needs to be clearly set out.

This sounds more academic than realism.

How do you change deep seated prejudices in people via “targets and indicators”?

Racism, sexism, politics and religion are all very complex and personal, based on beliefs acquired over lifetimes. I don’t know how it would be possible to legislate to change any of them.

Leading by example would be a better place to start. What about a royal commission looking at the motives and behaviours of our politicians?