A cartoon sign accused of racial profiling is circulating public swimming pools in New Zealand and sparking a heated debate about its intentions.
After being made aware of the controversy, Labour Party MP Tamati Coffey – who was elected by the people of Waiariki as a Maori electorate in 2017 – posted a picture of the controversial sign.
The contentious illustration depicts a blond, white girl reminding a young boy with darker skin named “Hemi” to use the toilet before swimming, for fear he might relieve himself in the pool.
“Anybody know which pool this sign lives at? Its been doing the FB rounds. I need to speak to the Manager,” Coffey asked in Thursday’s Facebook post.
Indy 100 said the sign sparked much debate over its apparent racism.
Others simply disagreed and did not see anything offensive.
A pool safety sign shows a young brown boy being reminded to use the toilet before swimming. Is it casual racism? 🙄🙄🙄🙄 https://t.co/QvlZSHJOQL
— Tuxsudo (@wellbuggermeday) January 18, 2019
If it was a Caucasian boy that would be racism also. Perhaps it should be a genderless raceless thing that needs to use the toilet but I fear that may not be PC enough.
— Richee Rich (@RichRichees) January 18, 2019
If it was a sign of a little white boy would that also be racist and should I then be offended? It is just a sign with obviously no intent to offense. The fact that a newspaper would print this serves no purpose other than to divide people, it is not news!
— Malcolm Carr (@mgcarr) January 18, 2019
One user noted the ignorance from all the negative comments.
Any controversy could’ve been avoided with a much simpler message.
Auckland Council general manager of parks sports and recreation Mace Ward told the New Zealand Herald that the sign was designed as part of a marketing campaign to maintain public sanitary conditions.
“The characters Hemi and Molly are used across Auckland Council’s marketing materials and were designed to appeal to young Aucklanders.”
“This particular sign was part of a series and it was not our intent to upset anyone. The campaign was created in response to potential public health issues and as a result we’ve had fewer pool shutdowns and less risk to human health.”
In another sign from the same campaign, the white girl says, “Oh no, I’ve accidentally pooed in the pool.” The boy responds: “Whoops! Make sure you tell the lifeguard straight away.”
Due to the backlash, however, Ward said the signs are going to be removed.
“We’re removing our signs from our leisure centres and will take a look at the whole campaign.”
On Friday, Coffey shared news of the council’s decision to take down the signs but mentioned his continued effort in working together to brainstorm other ideas.
According to the Herald, the council decided to restrategize their campaign by incorporating more “neutral” characters like ducks to appeal to kids.
“Neutral characters would save any kind of embarrassment for many young Māori and Pacific Island kids who might be unfortunately targeted around pools as being the sinister ones that are doing all the damage.”
“It’s quite hard anyway to get young Māori and Pacific kids to the pools, especially to learn to swim.”
“Anything that makes them wary about going in, i.e. little signs that target them about being the ones that defecate in the pools, is not necessarily a good thing.”
With all due respect, no, it is not.