Israel Adesanya says NZ's first step to eradicating racism is to 'lean into uncomfortable feelings' about it

Israel Adesanya says in order for racism to be pushed out of New Zealand and effectively the world, people who are uncomfortable addressing the topic need to "lean into" that feeling and ask themselves why they are.

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The Kiwi UFC star has joined sportspeople around the world in supporting the Black lives Matter movement. Source: 1 NEWS

The Kiwi UFC star spoke to 1 NEWS today following his speech on Monday at an Auckland rally for the Black Lives Matter movement which has gained significant attention globally following the death of George Floyd in the United States last week.

Adesanya said the US isn't the only place that has racism issues, though, with some New Zealanders challenging why such a movement exists here and others afraid to talk about the issue altogether.

But the UFC middleweight champion says those feelings are the first step to addressing the issue.

"That feeling that makes you feel uncomfortable, lean into that, ask yourself," he told 1 NEWS.

"Even for me when I was younger and I'd see people shine, I've talked about tall poppy syndrome when I see people. I used to be like, 'Why am I feeling this way? What is that person taking from me that makes me feel inadequate?'

"That same feeling you feel when you feel uncomfortable because people start talking about racism, lean into that feeling, don't just look away from it, becuase you can't pretend. You can't be an ostrich. You have to understand."

One way Adesanya, who moved to New Zealand at the age of 10 from his native Nigeria, said people can start to understand how racism affects people daily is to show some empathy and put themselves in others' shoes.

"Imagine that feeling you'd get if you were in a low-income neighbourhood like South Auckland where you just walk around and you're on edge and sketchy," he said.

"Imagine that every day - but some of you won't even venture to South Auckland, some of them wouldn't even enter that area.

"But imagine what it is like for people from Otara, from Manukau, from whatever - imagine how they feel when they're in certain neighbourhoods or the city and they go into job interviews and you feel on edge because you don't know if these people will accept you for who you are.

"It's f***ed. Some people will never experience that or understand it, but you have to stand."