MasterChef Australia Contestant: Why Greeting Asians With ‘Ni Hao Ma’ is Racist

A contestant in MasterChef Australia has put a local radio station on blast for the “ignorant” way of greeting her in Chinese. 

What happened: Contestant Sarah Tiong, who was recently eliminated from the cooking competition show, said a presenter from Triple M Sunraysia greeted her with “ni hao ma” (Mandarin for “How are you?”) off-air, before a phone interview.

  • Tiong shared the incident via her Instagram Stories, saying: “I do not believe this went to air. However, I felt uncomfortable and shocked. The call was ended immediately.”
  • The morning radio host also asked her whether “it would be lei ho ma?”
  • Tiong, who is of Malaysian descent, was born and raised in Sydney.
  • “This is racism. What an insensitive, tone deaf thing to say. Please, check yourself and do better,” the 29-year-old cook explained in her posts.

The backlash: When some of Instagram users questioned how such actions are considered racist, Tiong pointed out how problematic it is to make assumptions simply based on a person’s skin color or looks.

  • “It is racist to assume I identify as Chinese and speak the Chinese language,” she responded to an Instagram user. “Even if I have referenced such heritage or knowledge in the past, it is privileged and ignorant to assume anything about me based on the color of my skin. It is rude and privileged to assume that I understand that Asian language, just because I appear of that descent.”
  • Tiong added: “The mere presumption that I speak or want to speak Mandarin or Cantonese with you… Followed by the flippant dismissal of distinguishing the two different languages is racist. It is dehumanizing. And no… ‘My partner is Asian’ is not an excuse for your racism.”
  • MasterChef judge Melissa Leong came to Tiong’s defense and condemned the interview on Instagram, noting that the contestant’s experience, “is a mere daily occurrence for many POC.”
  • “It is not funny, or clever. It just illustrates how deep rooted racial toxicity is in this country, and anyone with a voice in media should know better,” Leong said.
  • In a statement to Pedestrian.TV,  Triple M said: “Triple M Sunraysia unreservedly apologises for the offence caused by comments made to Sarah Tiong off-air this morning.”

Feature Image via @fillmytummy

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