Racist taunt at Devonport beach shocks Māori family

A racist taunt shouted across the road on the Devonport waterfront has left a local Māori family feeling shocked and powerless.

Glenfield residents Kobe Shaw, 24, and Wiki Hiku, 29, were on a small beach in front of the former Masonic Tavern with their sons Parker and Iverson aged 3 and 4 and one son’s godparents when two carloads of young men drove past honking their horns at about 8pm on Saturday.

Shaw said one young man leaned out of a vehicle and shouted across the road to the group: “F*** you, n******! Get out of our neighbourhood, we don’t want you guys here!”

She described the young man as having “blond hair, fair skin, had sunglasses on”.

Shaw, Hiku and their son’s godmother are all Māori and their son’s godfather is Cook Island Māori.

“My partner is quite dark-skinned for a Māori person,” she said.

She said no one in her group responded, but they left quickly.

“We just got the kids together and left,” she said.

“There were other people around but no one did anything, no one was interested. It was just like they were more concerned about the fact that there were cars driven through Devonport.

“I personally felt powerless. There was just a total disregard that we are human beings, I guess.”

Shaw said the others in her group did not want to make an issue out of the incident, but she felt “disheartened” because she had never experienced such racist abuse before.

“My son’s godparents, when I spoke to them they kind of just were like, not accepting it, but they were really like, ‘It’s normal’,” she said.

“They had obviously seen it before, they were saying, ‘Let’s move on from it.’

“I felt different because I’m adopted, so the people that adopted me, they are white, so for a large majority of my life I never thought there was any difference between me and other people.

“But now I’m older and it does feel more like people do judge you based on what you look like, not for who you are.”

The incident has sparked universal outrage from dozens of people who commented on the Devonport Locals Facebook Group. One who described herself as “71 years a true Devonportonian” said she never heard of such abuse in her younger days but “this is not the first time in last couple years”.

Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon told the Herald that the incident reinforced the need for stronger laws against hate speech.

Ironically, both Shaw and Hiku actually grew up in Devonport.

“Both our dads were in the navy,” she said. “My father-in-law has retired but my dad is still in the navy, both have very strong ties to the navy.”

She lived in Devonport until her family moved to Australia when she was 14. Hiku’s family lived there until he was about 18.

She said she had not yet made an official complaint because she did not know how to, but she described the two vehicles involved as “a black truck” and “a black SUV”.

“It was the black truck that was honking and carrying on,” she said.

Foon said he was very sad to hear about the young men’s “despicable behaviour”.

“If I could apologise to the family for receiving such bad racist abuse, I would,” he said.

He said the incident showed the need for guidelines to stop the use of the “n” word even in school history lessons.

“Unfortunately the ‘n’ word is still being used in some schools in teaching American slavery history and teachers have had to come out together to stop it,” he said.

“If people hear it, other people are victimised. If people can stand up for them, be an ‘up-stander’ [not a bystander], that would be great.”

He said the police were setting up a process to collect data on hate speech and the Government was expected to introduce a stronger law against it in Parliament soon.

He said former Justice Minister Andrew Little had a law change “ready to go” before the election and he hoped the new Justice Minister Kris Faafoi would act on it soon.

“We will be developing a national action plan against racism this year,” Foon said.

“It will be like the Health and Safety Act – if you are going to be a service provider, procure to the Government, you will need to have an action plan to eliminate racism in your business or organisation.”

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