I am a white Kiwi of English and Scottish decent. However I’m well travelled and consider myself open minded and accepting of all people regardless of colour, religion, gender, sexuality or star sign.
So while in Auckland I had the pleasure of visiting a client in Otahuhu, a suburb in South Auckland. South Auckland has a reputation for being a pretty rough area and I’d been strongly advised to not be there after dark and in fact not even travel there alone.
I agreed with the after dark thing – thats good advise to anyone in a strange environment & on their own – particularly, unfortunately, as a woman.
But in the middle of the day, in the middle of a busy shopping precinct, I very much doubted anyone would bother me.
The shops in this area are fascinating, the community is a complete melting pot of cultures, pacific island, asian and a large islamic community. Signs in the windows about Fijian foods and clothing for Ramadan. Brightly coloured window displays and merchandise from around the world.
As I sat eating my lunch from the bakery – hot chips and vegetarian samosa – I watched the various people going about their business, grandparents with grandchildren in pushchairs, the Muslim women with their scarfs, Indian women in the sarees, various Asian people… but very, very few white people and certainly no white women.
But no one bothered me, no one even looked twice. Why? Because, I was just another person on the street, The problem isn’t me or the people of Otahuhu, perhaps the problem is people who think its not safe to be there because of their skin colour? If you go into a place like this looking for trouble you will find it. If you are stupid or an arsehole, people looking for trouble will find you. Sure you maybe super unlucky and become a victim but that is the exception, not the rule. I could get run over my a bus on my way home or mugged at the ATM.
I did laugh while buying a pair of leggings in a store though, the woman serving said “you aren’t an islander“, I smiled and said “no, I’m from Christchurch” and she smiled back and said “ah, a pakeha” (white New Zealander). She wasn’t being rude or meaning to be offensive, it was simply a conversation starter.
Later in the day, I stopped at the Sylvia Park mall, a shop assistant giving out samples asked where I was from – again, I probably didn’t fit the demographic of the average shopper. But again, it was just a conversation starter, she didn’t mean anything by it. No offence meant, none taken.
I’d happily go back to Otahuhu, for the interesting food, the fascinating shops and the unique melting pot of cultures.