The New Zealand Human Rights Commission has slammed two newspapers and a cartoonist over “insensitive” drawings about the government’s new food in schools policy.
Cartoonist Al Nisbet’s drawings, depicting Maori or Pasifika adults scheming about how they can abuse the food program, have sparked a backlash since being run in the Marlborough Express and The Press this week.
The Marlborough Express cartoon shows four adults dressed in school uniforms, along with several children, lining up for free breakfasts. Two Maori or Pasifika adults discuss how they’ll have more cash for “booze, smokes and pokies”.
In the The Press cartoon, one adult is commenting on how free food in schools eases their poverty, as their family stands around a table stacked with Lotto tickets, alcohol and cigarettes.
Bloggers and social media users attacked the cartoons as racist and poking fun at people in poverty.
Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy is similarly unimpressed, and wants to meet both newspapers’ editors to discuss the matter.
“This is not particularly clever and many will find it hurtful and offensive. The worst aspect, in my opinion, is that it stigmatises efforts to address the situation that sees too many of our children living in poverty,” she said.
“Beyond that, it is glaringly obvious that the cartoon portrays Maori or Pacific as the butt of its attempted humour. Using such negative stereotypes in this way is insulting and derogatory in the extreme.”
Dame Susan encouraged people offended by the cartoon to make their views clear to the newspapers’ editors, or the Press Council.