Swimming pool sign - a splash of "casual racism"?

By Jessica Tyson

Waiariki MP Tamati Coffey has labelled an image on a safety sign at a swimming pool in Auckand as “casual racism”.

He posted a photo of the sign on Facebook last night in a bid to contact the manager.

The sign shows a cartoon image of two children at the pool.  One is fair skinned and the other, named Hemi, is brown and wearing a pounamu necklace.

In the image, a speech bubble shows the girl saying, “Hemi stop! Make sure you visit the toilet before you swim!”

Coffey says, “When I looked at it I wondered whether or not it was a bit of casual racism going on there which is the kind of stuff that people don’t think too deeply about.”

He says that being on the receiving end of casual racism can be "a bit tough and disappointing”.

“I think of all those other little brown kids that are there at the pools who may be unfairly targeted by this little bit of causal racist profiling of the little brown kid that goes to the toilet in the pools.”

The Auckland Council told Te Kāea the sign is part of their marketing in response to potential public health issues and as a result they’ve had fewer pool shutdowns and less risk to human health.

“We’d like to apologise for any offence it may have caused. We’re removing our signs from our leisure centres and will take a look at the whole campaign,” the council said in a statement.

Feedback on Facebook

Coffey's post has received comments from Facebook users with mixed opinions on the sign.

Simon Jansen wrote, "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."

Margaret Ralston, who says she is an older female of European descent, said she doesn't like the sign.

"If a sign is really necessary it should be one that reminds everyone to use the toilet before going in the pool."