‘Black Guy Repellent’ canister for Maori employee sparks Twitter outrage

An alleged discrimination case which saw a Maori man being handed a ‘Black Guy Repellent’ sunscreen canister at his workplace stirred outcry on social media, with Twitterati claiming “racist” Australia has sunk to a “low place.”

McDuff Tupetagi is seeking damages from Queensland tour firm Rainbow Beach Adventure Company and two of its employees, Mervin O’Neill and Joel Mahon, over the alleged discrimination, which one of them claims was just a joke between friends.

Tupetagi claims he has had to take sick leave after being left with anxiety and distress after receiving a sunscreen canister wrapped in fluorescent yellow tape with the words “BLACK GUY REPLLENT [sic]” and “CAUTION! ONLY USE ON BLACKS” written on the tape in black marker.

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The incident happened in 2016 after the complainant had asked his boss, Mervin O’Neill, for a sunshade to protect him from the sun as he worked on the company’s cars.

Tupetagi repeated the request three months later, and O’Neill referred it to the manager, named as Byron Rush in a statement of facts lodged by Tupetagi to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission and seen by Fairfax Media. Byron allegedly refused to provide the sunscreen, saying something “to the effect of ‘because you’re black.’” 

In November 2017, Tupetagi was told by his coworkers there was a “present” awaiting him in the car. He found the canister in the footwell of the front passenger seat.

Alleged offender Joel Mahon says the commission should consider the “close personal relationship” between himself and Tupetagi, “in which practical jokes and banter, including referring to one another by reference [to] their skin colour, was commonplace.”

The incident sparked outrage on social media, with people claiming it is yet another example of Queensland’s pervasive racism.

Barry Downes, the general manager of Website Travel Group, the parent company of Rainbow Beach, said in a statement to Fairfax Media: “We value all our employees and are supporting the proceedings.”

The case will appear before court in a few weeks.

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