Warning: This story contains an offensive image
The woman who called out a “racist” sign at the end of her street in rural Marlborough says the matter has not been resolved, with the sign partially covered and an offensive image added.
Tineka Smith said on Thursday she was still rattled by the sign, but was pleased it had given people the chance to have a conversation about why the sign was not OK.
“It’s affirming for me that we’re not the only whānau that has been offended by it,” Smith said.
“It is concerning for me that if you don’t keep on pushing for something then it could quite easily just get left at the bottom of the pile … I just encourage [other people] to make sure they do stand up for what they think is right.”
Smith first noticed the sign on a bulldozer blade at the end of a driveway just after Christmas, when it read “ALM equal rights for Kiwi whites”.
‘ALM’ stood for “All Lives Matter”, a slogan associated with criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Black Lives Matter was a social movement demanding racial justice, centred around police brutality in the United States. The movement was reignited by the death of George Floyd, which led to widespread protests and riots across the US.
Police met with the occupant of the address on Wednesday, saying he “agreed to cover up the message”.
“Police acknowledge that the spray painted message caused concern for some members of the community,” a spokesperson said.
On Wednesday, the sign appeared to have been water blasted clean and spray painted to read “equal rights”. The crossed-out “for Kiwi whites” could still be made out. The new sign included an offensive image – a crude drawing of a body part – that Stuff has decided not to show.
Police on Thursday said they would continue to “engage with the occupant to encourage the covering-up of the writing and a more recent symbol”.
The occupant told police he was not responsible for the crude drawing, a police spokesperson said.
On Thursday, a truck had been parked in front of the bulldozer blade.
“Despite all the anxiety, I’m still rattled but I’m not as anxious as I was before. It still needs to be gone though, it’s not resolved yet,” Smith said.
Smith had complained to police, but with the sign still there last week she took the matter to the Human Rights Commission. She had also complained to the Marlborough District Council.
She had not heard back from the Human Rights Commission or the Marlborough District Council.
Meanwhile, a Renwick landlord with a house on the street approached Stuff this week to say he too had complained to police about the sign, but before Christmas. He believed he had made a formal complaint.
The man, who did not want to be named, told police he did not think it was appropriate for the sign to be up.
“The issue I have is that it’s a comment that could be quite polarising in people’s eyes and minds,” he said.
“Part of the issue I took at the time is that my tenants are Māori and I’ve had a few comments from neighbours.
“Renwick is a fairly quiet little community, most people get along quite well, there’s no real graffiti and to me that is not a very professional sign.”
A Human Rights Commission spokesperson said they could not comment on the sign due to the possibility of a complaint being received by their dispute resolution process.
Any decision about whether the Human Rights Act had been breached was the role of the Human Rights Review Tribunal, the spokesperson said.
“For wider context, it is important to distinguish that the Black Lives Movement (BLM) is a specific response to systemic racism in policing and criminal justice matters in the United States, it is not a claim that non-Black lives are not as important,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said the Black Lives Matter movement had prompted international debate and sometimes divisive rhetoric in response, including here in New Zealand.
The spokesperson said it was often misconceived that support of the Black Lives Matter movement compromised the rights of other groups.
“Many tangata whenua, minority, and ethnic groups in New Zealand similarly relate to BLM, because of the differential and sometimes racist treatment they can also receive when interacting with police and justice systems.
“Since this treatment is discriminatory, avoidable, and preventable, BLM and local supporters aim to highlight and call for action to address these injustices.”
The spokesperson said racism was a continuing problem across Aotearoa.
“We all have a responsibility to address racism through understanding and education.”
The commission had developed a voice of racism website to educate people who did not experience racism on the harms of racism faced by many in New Zealand.
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