A public health sign at a New Zealand swimming pool has been slammed as racist for depicting a coloured child being instructed not to urinate in the pool.
The poster, displayed at a public swimming pool in Auckland, features a cartoon of a young white girl telling a dark-skinned boy not to pee in the pool.
“Hemi, stop! Make sure you visit the toilet before you swim!” the sign reads.
Labour MP Tamati Coffey posted the sign on Facebook, saying “I need to speak to the Manager”.
The sign sparked a polarising response. “I am an older female of European descent and I don’t like the sign. I very much doubt a little girl would running around saying this kind of thing to other kids,” one person responded.
“So it is not realistic and horribly drawn. If a sign is really necessary it should be one that reminds everyone to use the toilet before going in the pool.”
Another said, “It’s funny at first glance. But then you realise the racial profiling. And it’s not funny anymore.
“We are so conditioned to subtle racism, that we just laugh and say nothing.
“Bet if the sign had Hemi the lifeguard approach little Sally saying, ‘Hey Sally — have you been to the toilet first?’ … the complaints would be high and nigh impossible to silence! So yeah Tamati you go speak to the Pool Manager and have them take it down. Good on you bro!”
But others disagreed. “If it stops kids crapping in the pool it’s a good thing,” said one.
“Why is this culturally insensitive? Are people that precious? If it was the other way round I don’t think a single ‘white’ person would be offended. Stop being so bloody precious,” said another.
In another poster, the white child says, “Oh no, I’ve accidentally pooed in the pool”. The boy responds: “Whoops! Make sure you tell the lifeguard straight away.”
Auckland Council general manager of parks sports and recreation, Mace Ward, said he would be removing the signs and re-examining the whole campaign.
“The characters Hemi and Molly are used across Auckland Council’s marketing materials and were designed to appeal to young Aucklanders,” he told The New Zealand Herald.
“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 have fewer pool shutdowns and less risk to human health.
“We’re removing our signs from our leisure centres and will take a look at the whole campaign,” he said.
Mr Coffey said he was pleased the sign was taken down, telling the outlet: “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, ie. little signs that target them about being the ones that defecate in the pools, is not necessarily a good thing.
“I’m pleased that the council has taken time to review their campaign.”
Originally published as Public health sign slammed for ‘racism’