Liang Cui actively stands up against racist discrimination. She’s seen – and been on the receiving end of – too many examples of it over the four years she’s been living in Wellington.

Her first experience with racist discrimination happened just one month after she arrived from China to begin her PhD in Fine Arts. Walking home from the supermarket at night, a man stepped into her path and shoulder-charged her, nearly knocking her down. Loudly swearing and making racist remarks, he chased after her, her legs trembling as she tried to get away.

The incident made Liang feel “shocked” and “shaken”.

“For weeks after I tried to only leave the apartment between 9am and 5pm and avoided going anywhere that seemed potentially dangerous,” she says.

Sadly, her experiences with racist discrimination didn’t stop there. Someone spitting on her arm as she walked by and being called a “Chinese b****” by a stranger at the traffic lights are just some other instances she recalls.

Liang was worried that COVID-19 would fuel more racist incidents this year, and soon found she “was right to be fearful”. A recent study confirms 16.2% of Asian people surveyed had experienced racist discrimination in New Zealand since the outbreak.

Liang remembers racist discrimination peaking at Alert Level 4.

“I was out walking near our apartment in Wellington with my partner, a New Zealander with Japanese heritage, when a passing stranger shouted “Wuhan!” at us.

“Only a week later, when walking to the supermarket, a stranger told my partner to “f**k off.”

Liang grew concerned about this rise in racist discrimination and shared her experiences on her Facebook account and Vic Deals, a popular Wellington Facebook page.

While both her posts received many supportive replies from friends and strangers alike, Liang received abuse too. One commenter called her “racist” for referring to the person who abused her as a “white man”, and Vic Deals deleted her post. Another commenter called her “one of those ruthless Chinese” and sent her a personal message, which she deleted without reading.

Liang’s experiences with racist discrimination have shown her the “necessity of speaking out”, but she acknowledges that to do so “takes courage”.

“My decision to speak publicly may be met by more attacks, or it may be in vain.

“Or it may in some small way contribute to the current momentum against racism, both here in New Zealand and around the world.”

She says even minor racist incidents can “build up” and cause mental distress over time.

“The negative impacts from past racist incidents can fade away, but when you experience it again you feel that same sense of humiliation”.

Liang wants all people of every ethnicity to consider how they can confront racism in different and creative ways. Speaking up about racism when she sees it and receiving supportive comments online are some ways of challenging racism that have helped her so far. 

Another way that Liang has creatively challenged racism is by writing an article on it for The Spinoff earlier this year.

“People should feel ashamed of being racist. Racist bullying and discrimination should not be tolerated and we should fight against it.

“To do that, we need help from everyone, no matter which country you are from”.

She sees COVID-19 as an opportunity to come together and help to end racist bullying and discrimination. Distracting the person who is being racist or leaving the situation to find help are some other tactics we can use to end this bullying behaviour for good.

“COVID-19 is really the time to work together, not the time to call up hatred.”

Want to end racist bullying in your community? Find some more Upstander tips on how to challenge it here.

[1]Zhu, A. (2020). New Zealand Asian Mental Health & Wellbeing Report 2020: A snapshot survey. Asian Family Services.

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“Kōrero Mai, Kōrero Atu, Mauri Tū, Mauri Ora – Speak Up, Stand Together, Stop Bullying!”