The best of intentions can sometimes blow up in your face.

Whanganui High School saw the upcoming visit of boxing champion Joseph Parker as a great opportunity to engage some of its more reluctant students.

With Parker's Samoan heritage in mind, it targeted Maori and Pasifica boys for a "closed motivational session".

The heart was in the right place - it was about focusing on strugglers rather than excluding other students who might want to get up close to a Kiwi celebrity. Maori and Pasifica youth are over-represented in the school strugglers league, as education data bears witness, so here was a chance to maybe turn a few of them around.


But the corollary of that was to deny others who would also want to spend time with a sporting star whose appeal goes well beyond ethnicity and gender. It was not a good look.

When I first saw the flier that stated attendance at Parker's session was based on race, I assumed it was a mistake.

You could see the backlash coming a mile away.

Accusations of "racism" followed as sure as night follows day but the school was really just guilty of naivety.

Racism has been elevated to a most heinous crime in the popular consciousness which doesn't help matters.

Most of us are inadvertently guilty of it at some time, so perhaps we need to be a little less sensitive about the colour of people's skin.

It would have been better if the school had opened up the Parker talk to all students from the get-go, compiled a list of who was keen and then, if space was an issue, selected those whom it felt would benefit most - regardless of ethnicity or gender.

The good news is that lessons have been learned, and Joseph Parker will be at the High School on August 21 at a session open to all.


Parker has gracefully made it clear he doesn't want anyone left out, and hopefully there will be plenty of inspiration and motivation for everybody.