“All in all, it’s disgusting behaviour. People don’t deserve that at the end of the day,” the 2019 MAFS contestant told HuffPost Australia on Tuesday.
The reality star, who recently welcomed a son with Love Island contestant Eden Daly, said she hadn’t personally faced racism since the COVID-19 crisis, and that she’s “pretty happy it hasn’t happened towards my son either because he is half-Asian at the end of the day”.
However, Cyrell said she had witnessed “people making racial comments” during a recent day out in Sydney Chatswood – a suburb with 34.1% of its population being of Chinese ancestry, according to most recent census data.
“I’d love to say for everyone to stop but even without the coronavirus, we live in a society where racism doesn’t stop. It just keeps going. If it’s not the coronavirus, it’s the colour of your skin in general,” she explained.
Cases Of Racism
In recent weeks many people of Chinese ancestry living in Australia have said they have faced a wave of racism, both in person and on social media, since the coronavirus outbreak.
Queensland surgeon, Dr Rhea Liang, said the “misinformation” about the virus that began in Wuhan, China, had led to racially-motivated remarks, one of which were made to her at work.
During a consultation at her clinic on the Gold Coast, the general and breast surgeon (born in New Zealand and of Chinese heritage) was taken aback by a caucasian male patient who refused to shake her hand in light of the coronavirus outbreak.
“I was running my clinic and we had seen a patient and he came in, and it’s usual for us to shake hands with patients,” Dr Liang told HuffPost Australia.
“He stuck out his hand and then made a joke, ‘I probably shouldn’t shake your hand because you might have coronavirus’. This was in front of a nurse, two medical students, and a few other people standing.”
University student Rachel Zhang also spoke out about the racism. She was born in Melbourne six years after her parents migrated to Australia from Shanghai, China.
She said experiencing racism in the past means she will “never be fully welcomed in the only country that I’ve ever called home”, but “it is in moments and crises like this where it really solidifies that fear”.
“Personally, it is the subtle racism of every day activities which hurt the most,” said the 23-year-old.
“When I walk on the streets, I’ve seen people lock eyes with me and run across the street so that they have to come into my vicinity. The other day I was at a supermarket and I merely coughed to clear my throat and almost everyone around stared at me. I even saw one mother usher her kids away.
“Whilst taking public transport to work I’ve had people give me a zone of clearing, or immediately move away as I sit down. It is gotten to the point where I am nervous for the flight I have tomorrow to Sydney, because I fear how people will treat me.”
Expert Weighs In
University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) Professor Andrew Jakubowicz, who specialises in race relations and media studies, said a global crisis like this can often fuel unpleasant, racist behaviour, and in this scenario the “coronavirus is a godsend” for bigots.
“Crises license bigotry. Racists trawl for opportunities to ramp up the dissemination of racist tropes, memes and discourses and crises are always gifts for racists,” he told HuffPost Australia.
Australia has 100 confirmed cases of coronavirus, including three deaths.