If you are non Asian, you are probably looking at this incident and thinking “how is it racist to greet someone who is of Asian background with “Ni Hao”.? It may appear innocent and fun to do so without realising that this is problematic. First of all, it is an assumption that all Asians in Australia don’t speak English and that we all only speak “Chinese”, and as Jinghua Qian wrote in her well articulated Huff Post Australia opinion piece, by doing so is ” a way of othering you, of telling you that English isn’t yours (even if it’s the only language you speak) and that you will never be just Australian.”
Masterchef contestant Sarah Tiong who was recently eliminated from the competition, recently shared her experience online where she ended an interview with Triple M, where she was greeted with “Ni Hao”. Tiong explains:
“Today, in an Australian radio interview with Triple M Sunraysia, the host greeted me by saying ‘ni hao ma’,”
“I do not believe this went to air. However, I felt uncomfortable and shocked. The call was immediately ended.
“This is racism. What an insensitive, tone deaf thing to say. Please, check yourself and do better.”
And rightfully so. I mean, to assume that just because we are all Asian, it doesn’t mean that we greet each other in Chinese. Comments coming from this validating that because Tiong is of Malaysian background maybe she should have been greeted in Bahasa is not the excuse to make and it is a redundant argument. The fact is, if we Asians can and want to speak Chinese, we will on our own accord and we don’t need any racial stereotypes of “othering” as Qian states in her piece placed upon us.
Masterchef judge Melissa Leong who has pretty much revolutionised the show itself and added the right amount of “Asian flavours” to the series has weighed in on this racism incident. She writes on Instagram:
“The incident inflicted on Sarah Tiong is a mere daily occurrence for many POC. It is not funny or clever. It just illustrates how deeply rooted racial toxicity is in this country and anyone with a voice in media should know better.”
But I do wonder whether this situation happening is a teachable moment for non Asians to check themselves and keep themselves accountable for their racism. With the rise over the past few months of COVID related racism in Australia inflicted upon Asians in Australia, I think the positive will be is that it will elevate issues like Tiong’s situation as a teachable moment. Good on Tiong for making this a big issue!
Images via Instagram
To read Jinghua Qian’s Huff Post opinion piece, please click on: MasterChef Australia: What’s Wrong With Saying ‘Ni Hao’?