Taika Waititi has criticized his home country New Zealand for being racist.
In an interview for Dazed and Confused magazine, the half-Polynesian actor/director spoke frankly about his love for the place where he grew up, but called out the overt racism towards Maori and Polynesian people.
“I think New Zealand is the best place on the planet, but it’s a racist place,” said 42-year-old Waititi, who last year starred in a campaign for the New Zealand Human Rights Commission, aimed at tackling racism in his home country.
“People just flat-out refuse to pronounce Maori names properly. There’s still profiling when it comes to Polynesians. It’s not even a color thing – like, ‘Oh, there’s a black person.’ It’s, ‘If you’re Poly then you’re getting profiled’.”
He recalled a time when, as a youngster, he was not allowed to work on the cash register when he was employed at a grocery store.
“I really cherish the memories of how I grew up, (but) it was actually pretty s**t, growing up poor in the country,” explained Waititi. “I remember getting a job at a dairy and they would never give me a job at the till, I was always at the back washing vegetables. And then one day one of the owners asked me if I sniffed glue – like, ‘Are you a glue-sniffer?’ In my head I was like, ‘Motherf**cker, you grew up with my mom!’ And I knew for sure that he didn’t ask other kids in the store if they were glue-sniffers.”
The director of Boy and Hunt for the Wilderpeople is in demand in Hollywood, after his 2017 Marvel blockbuster Thor: Ragnarok, which starred Australian star Chris Hemsworth, was a critically acclaimed box office hit.
However, he said he still receives a “patronizing” reception from some people when he returns home to New Zealand from Los Angeles, where he now lives with his family.
“People in Auckland are very patronizing. They’re like, ‘Oh, you’ve done so well, haven’t you? For how you grew up. For one of your people,'” he shared.