I have lived in the Newmarket area for a year, and I have totally fallen in love with the place. I love the diversity of everything in Newmarket, the only place in Auckland where dollar stores and convenience stores sit right next to expensive and exclusive high fashion houses and coffee shops. Broadway is the pumping artery of the district, handling tens of thousands of vehicles traveling between the city and the South; and teeming with pedestrians varying from businessmen having important meetings at cafés, to thousands of school children on their way home from the many schools in the area, to tourists taking in the shopping experience, to locals enjoying a bite to eat at the restaurants. Newmarket is a hive of activity and striking diversity of people, and now there is accusations that the business community in Newmarket is racist and intolerant toward Pacific Island peoples.
Newmarket's expensive shops and eateries, coupled with being the crossroads of the most expensive suburbs in New Zealand, naturally make the district a place not often frequented by Māori and Pacific Island peoples, though it is wrong to say they are not in Newmarket at all, especially when almost all public transport from South Auckland to the City Center run through Newmarket, and many Māori and Pacific Islanders have jobs in Newmarket. It is accused that security staff for clothing store targeted Pacific Islander children on racial grounds and ejected them from the store, despite having done nothing wrong. Other sides of the story are saying that they were targeted on suspicion after security were told to watch out for a group of Pacific Islanders who were committing crimes, while another side says they were ejected reasonably for removing security tags from products.
The Facebook Page
The whole incident has caused very heated arguments on Facebook and Twitter. The father of the two boys has created a Facebook page called 'New Market Cotton On - Against It,' which has nearly 1000 likes, and many people are talking about it. They've kept screenshots of the conversations in their photo album on the page.
The page has attracted many Pacific Island people, who have largely taken to the side of the family, and have used the page to show how they feel victimized by racism, drawing comparisons with the incident in Newmarket. Victim complexes are unhealthy, and all it's done is breed further separation and racism on the page.
Obviously with the attention and activity on the page, some have decided to troll it. Though a few comments have been interesting and provocative, including:
"would it still be racist if it was a pacific islander manager that did this?"
Labour Jumps On the Bandwagon
Nick Bakulich, the 2011 Labour Party candidate for Tāmaki who lost to Simon O'Conner and failed to enter parliament on the list, has used his time since the election to jump on this page. Also taking the side of the family, as a Pacific Islander and Labour Party member, though he does not feature on their website, maybe kept quiet while David Shearer prunes the dead wood. He posted a comment on the page that attracted some attention:
There is no room in New Zealand for the attitudes for this store manager, sounds like she owes the boys and their families an apology for the way they have been treated, if it's good enough to have these boys accused of something they did not commit it's good enough for an apology, an injustice towards these young men indeed! Own up and apologise, it's what any decent human being would do.
What Bakulich has missed is that Cotton On Group has apologized to the family, and offered them $200 to spend at their outlets, which should qualify them as decent human beings under his criteria. Whether he truly know what has gone on, or has simply jumped on the bandwagon is not clear. Information on the page is heavily one sided, and the actual information has yet to come out of the media.
The media have yet to publish a full story on this, we look forward to seeing the big picture. Either Cotton On Group, the Facebook page, or Nick Bakulich may be embarrassed by the facts.