Saturday, 1 November 2014

"Oh, you come from a poor neighborhood? No candy for you."

I just saw this on the news and it made me angry.  Like really, really angry.  As in writing letters to the editor angry.

In the Auckland suburb of Remuera (and a couple other upscale ones), some residents are asking where the children trick or treating go to school.  If the answer isn't a local school, these adults are telling the kids to go trick or treating in their own neighbourhood, that they aren't wanted here.  If it is a local school, they get candy.

Now, Halloween isn't really much of a thing in New Zealand.  Many people do not participate and have some good reasons for it.  And that is fine.  It is an individuals choice to participate, and I am not going to say that all New Zealand should adopt Halloween. 

What I am saying is that I do not believe it is right to deny a child candy on Halloween because they come from a poor neighbourhood.  Remuera is a wealthy suburb.  Clearly a number of people there choose to hand out candy to children on Halloween.  Some go all out too.  I am sure most people participating there are happy to give candy to all kids who come to their doors, irrespective of where they live.  But a few on the news tonight were not.  They felt that Halloween was not a welfare activity and that these children from poor areas should stay on their side of the tracks.  I am aghast.  Seriously.  Adults, probably well educated, from a wealthy suburb, telling children that they were not welcome in said wealthy suburb. 

1.  People living in a wealthy suburb can probably afford to buy a few more candy bars.  If they can't, perhaps they should reconsider participating at all.

2.  People have every right to go to another neighbourhood to trick or treat.  There is no Halloween law stating that one must stay within ones school district.  In fact, it may be safer to trick or treat in a wealthier suburb.  A poorer neighbourhood may have fewer people able to participate, fewer people willing to spend money on candy (I spent $5 on 24 mini chocolate bars knowing I would get no more than half a dozen kids coming by...small town and all...but if you were expecting fifty kids, or a hundred all adds up when you haven't got a lot of cash).  When I was a kid, we trick or treated in our (relatively) poorer neighbourhood then moved on the the wealthier area up the road.  Guess where the better candy was?  And no one ever, ever asked what street we lived on and told us to go back to where we came from.

3.  These are kids.  They may or may not be aware of their socio-economic status in life, and regardless, they are children.  They were born to a family that is living in a poorer area.  They are not to blame.  Regardless of your opinion on whether or not to blame the parents, I would like to think that we can all agree that THE CHILDREN ARE NOT TO BLAME.

4.  Again.  These are kids.  What are you doing to their self-esteem?  Telling them they don't belong, that they are different to you and are unworthy of your candy bar because of where they live, because they don't have a big house in a wealthy suburb.  Because their parents are shift-workers and factory workers and retail workers instead of executives and doctors and lawyers.  You are telling them that they don't belong in your world, that they cannot hope to be anything more than the place in which they live, the school to which they go.  You are giving them a label and telling them they must wear it for life.  You are denying them admission to your world, to even a glimpse of it.  You are treating them as less than equals.  As sub-human.  AND THEY ARE CHILDREN.

5.  Race.  I don't really know the demographics of the wealthy suburbs mentioned (Remuera, Sandringham, Otahuhu) nor of the poorer suburbs mentioned (not mentioned by name), but I would be very curious to find out.  I think simply saying this is discrimination based solely upon which side of the tracks you live on is perhaps not looking at the whole picture.

I have no idea how long this link will work, as I think TV3 removes things after 20-odd days.  I think the way the story is presented has contributed to my anger.  To me, it sort of comes across as something they find "mildly amusing" rather than "infuriating that children are being treated differently based on where they come from on a trivial but child-focused holiday like Halloween".

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