Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cotton On To Newmarket Racism - Updated

*Updated: Whilst in Auckland, I've added information to this post.

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.


  1. Nice post Cameron; have added your blog to my blogroll.

  2. Just a question, when someone is told to leave a store because the Manager has no time for "Shoplifters" without any evidence of that behavior, doesn't that ring alarm bells? How did the Manager come to that conclusion? What prejudices in her mind lead her to make that statement and eject the boys from that store? Sounds like she was leaning on stereotypes to make that statement and justify saying it.

  3. Nick has a bit of a case of foot in mouth. You would think as a politician he would know that he has to get his facts right.
    On the actual topic tho, things like this do happen. When I go to Chinatown with my Maori friends, we are watched like a hawk by store owners from the second we walk into their shops to the moment we leave - even to the point they follow us around their shop so as not to loose sight of us. However if I go with my Asian friend, they don't bat an eyelid.

  4. Hi have lived in Remuera my whole life so have spent alot of time in New Market and not that it should matter but I am a Pacific Islander. You have to be joking if you believe you don't get treated differently in New Market if you are a Maori or Pacific Islander shop assistants automatically assume you are there to shoplift or your not worth approaching because you wouldn't have the money to spend in their stores. My father went to Frank Caseys in New Market with his Grooms men trying to find a suit for his wedding not one shop attendant stopped to ask if he needed help but proceeded to help customers who came in after him give me one good excuse why this would happen? My Dad left the store fuming and my uncle went back into tell the assistant that they felt the way they were treated was rude and he brushed him off without an apology. It wasn't untill my mother rang up and made a complaint saying that we live in Remuera it was the closest store to us and now my fathers has had to drive all the way out to Manukau that they quickly changed there tune. Needless to say Frank Casey's got no business from my family. Like it or lump it racism is alive and well in New Zealand. I'm sorry but an apology and $200 wouldn't make me feel any better if I had been discriminated against because of the colour of my skin. The store its self may not be racist as such but it doesn't mean the worker at question isn't. I'v worked with girls in retail that will follow around any brown person that walks in the store and have made it clear and obvious that's why. I'm sorry but until you yourself have been brown skinned and felt the stares you get I don't think you can claim it doesn't happen.

  5. Thank you for your input, the anonymous commenter "Hi have lived in Remuera my whole life so have." However I question your authenticity as an Aucklander spelling "New Market." That is an Australian spelling, and I know the Facebook group has been set up by family members in Australia. The Auckland "Newmarket" has been spelled as such for over a century.

  6. I love it when people have nothing better to do than pick on typos spell check changed the spelling of Newmarket actually I manage a retail store in Newmarket myself and I have always lived in New Zealand.

  7. or is it just that you couldn't believe a pacific islander was born and raised in Remuera or that I must be affiliated with family cause all us Islanders must be related....Classssiiiccc!

  8. I have PI friends in Parnell, I'm not surprised there are PI households in Remuera. Please troll elsewhere.

  9. Not a troll I think this is just an easy way out for you by trying to discredit my opinion. I just dont understand how you can say this dosent go on in newmarket when you clearly have not expierenced it seeing as your not brown.....It goes on every where just not every person with a bad expierence makes a facebook page about it.


Thanks for commenting and joining the discussion! Remember to keep the language classy, and I'm a stickler for grammar :P