As an Indian national living in Aotearoa, CVR Shastry (who simply goes by CV) has seen hate towards Asian communities manifest itself in multiple forms. Sometimes it appears as one-off incidents, but almost always it points to the underlying systemic racism and discrimination – whether it’s by getting rejected from job applications because you have “an Asian-sounding name”, experiencing unfair treatment at work, or while looking for accommodation, or getting lumped into a single box by those who think all people of Asian descent are the same. “People often talk about Asians as if we were a single monolith, but in reality, we come from vastly different cultures, countries, backgrounds”, he says.
CV came to Aotearoa in 2018 as a postgraduate student of Health Informatics at AUT in Tāmaki Makaurau. Since then, he’s met and made friends with people from all over the world – an experience he finds very enriching. Through his volunteering in the community, CV got to know Asian Family Services and the amazing mahi the organisation is doing for Asian wellbeing and mental health in New Zealand and decided to get involved.
A lot of Asian New Zealanders who may be going through a hard time, or cannot speak English that well reach out to CV for his support. If it’s a personal matter, he will mostly listen, but if it’s a specific issue that demands formal action, he’ll help the other person navigate the process and point them to relevant organisations or institutions. According to CV, building trust is key no matter the issue, and it’s not something that can happen overnight.
CV is no stranger to being bullied himself – he experienced bullying and discrimination as a student, employee, and tenant. He told us of a particularly distressing experience at the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020. At the time, he was dating an Asian girl and posted a few photos of them on social media. The next day, he was told he had to leave his apartment because “he might bring COVID home”. With time, CV has become more confident and learnt to stand up not just for himself, but for others as well. He is truly living and breathing the Pink Shirt Day values year-round – and wearing them, too. “I often like to wear my Pink Shirt Day t-shirt at work. I feel more confident and braver when I have it on”, he admits.
CV’s advice to anyone witnessing bullying would be to not just stand by. Stand up to the bully and let the person being bullied know you’re there, listen to their story and console them if it feels right. He recommends connecting the person with further support if needed. CV is unwavering in his belief: “bullying or discrimination on any basis is not okay. Hate against your fellow human is not okay.”
“What I would like to say to my fellow Kiwi Asians out there reading this is that in a lot of Asian cultures it’s taboo to talk about trauma and mental health. But things in Aotearoa have changed, it’s okay to speak about those things, it’s okay to open up and reach out for support if you need it.” CV is keen to stress the collective effort that has gone into making New Zealand a more inclusive and kinder place throughout the years – but also that there’s much more mahi to be done. We think CV is certainly doing his bit to help – we tautoko him!