This week, former Bachelorette star Georgia Love was called out after uploading footage to Instagram of a cat sitting in the window of an Asian restaurant in Melbourne. "Shop attendant or lunch?!" she wrote across the footage, along with a shocked emoji and crying-laughing emoji.
Following backlash from Instagram followers and many Asian Australians, the TV star shared an apology on her Instagram, in which she said her post was intended to be a "joke" and "meant absolutely no insinuation about the type of animal nor the type of restaurant."
A day later another post of hers from 2013 resurfaced, which showed an animal hospital located next to an Asian restaurant named 'China Chef', and a cartoon underneath of a dog saying, "That's suspicious..."
Love had captioned the image, which has since been deleted, with one word: "Best".
In her apology for the cat footage, Love said herself that "we need to make sure we are all accountable and do better."
I agree. We all need to be held accountable for our actions, particularly people of influence with huge followings on social media platforms.
The incident also reminds us that we need to have meaningful conversations about what casual racism actually looks like. We need to own up to mistakes and realise making a 'joke' is not an excuse for projecting microaggressions. Regardless of the intent to offend, these tropes significantly impact BIPOC communities.
Writer Evie Muir describes a microaggression as "an everyday behaviour which intentionally or unintentionally communicates hostility, discrimination or prejudice towards an individual and community."
As a South Asian Australian, I've had strangers come up to me and say 'Namaste' – a microaggression whether they realise it or not because my non-Indian friends wouldn't receive the same greeting. Or people have made jokes about our community being just taxi drivers or 7-Eleven owners.
"The apology from Georgia Love is more of a 'sorry not sorry'," said Chew. "The fact that she has done this twice is an indicator she has not learned her lesson, nor does she have any understanding that the social media posts she made about the connection of animals/pets and Chinese/Asian restaurants is not only offensive, but racist."
Chew said the social media post is another example of how racism "isn't taken seriously in the Australian mainstream" and that "using terms like 'it was a joke' is a double-down approach to hide the racism beneath."
Molina Asthana, who works alongside Chew as the Victorian Convenor of the Asian Australian Alliance, said the "unconscious bias and casual racism" perpetuated by people of power is all the more alarming.
"This is particularly harmful coming from influencers as they have a wide reach and an ability to influence views and actions, and it needs to be called out."
Chew said it's important that communities who face racism continue to "stand up and call it out louder", and "talk within our network to spread the message that a 'racist joke' is not a 'joke' as it causes harm to others."
Vietnamese Australian woman Alyssa Ho's Instagram posts and Instagram story highlights reacting to Love's blunder demonstrate the devastating impact casual racism can have on communities, as well as the importance of education.
"To those triggered by that, I'm so sorry," she wrote. "I'm sorry to every single Asian person who has ever had to sit there in embarrassment, anger and discomfort as someone pulled the whole dog/cat eating joke."
Ho said calling out this behaviour "isn't cancel culture, it's asking for accountability."
"Because when we don't demand that, what happens? Exactly what happened today. People like Georgia seeing absolutely nothing wrong with not just filming that, but writing her little 'funny' caption and hitting send thinking everyone would indulge her."
The Daily Telegraph has since reported a source had confirmed that Love's employer, Channel 7, is investigating the incident. The former reality star works at the network as a Melbourne-based news reporter.
Refinery29 Australia has contacted Georgia Love's management and Channel 7 for comment.