Stereotypes chip away at the idiosyncrasies that make us human, leaving only generalizations that fit a false narrative. In our hyperconnected world today, racial stereotyping lurk in different places and in different forms, though at times they might not be immediately obvious. One thing is certain though: stereotypes are always rooted in ignorance, serving only to widen the divide between us as people. Joyce Teng, a 22-year-old artist from Hong Kong, has lived and studied in the UK for most of her life and experienced her share of racial stereotyping, which range from subtle remarks to in-your-face racism. These experiences, along with her observations of the one-dimensional preconceptions of Asians in the West, led her to create ConfrontAsian.
刻板印象如同梳子，将现实生活中独立的个体或事物统统梳理成自己想象中的样子，一概而论。即使在互联网与信息爆炸的当下，这把梳子依然随处可见，它就隐藏在我们日常生活中，显得很不合时宜。究其原因，或许是大众媒体荼毒、缺乏平等教育机制等诸多社会现象所致；论其后果，会形成某种片面、激进的认知，伤害到他人；倘若放在种族的语境之下，或称它是种族主义甚至种族歧视的诱因也不为过。22 岁的香港女生 Joyce Teng 已在英国生活与学习多年的时间，她切身地体会到西方群体对亚洲的片面认识，小到一句问候，大到言语攻击，这些种族刻板印象所造成的后果，促使她完成了 ConfrontAsian 系列作品。
On Polaroids, lines of black-and-white text are scrawled atop each snap. Despite the informality of it all, closer scrutiny of the writing is enough to induce pause. Every photographed individual is part of the Asian diaspora, and the hand-written copy relays their personal experiences with racial stereotypes.
The idea for ConfrontAsian began in 2018. Teng—then studying sociology—was given an assignment where her ideas had to be conveyed in a visual format. Her teacher showed her photographer Jim Goldberg’s Rich and Poor series, which similarly used text and photography to shed insight on the lives of different individuals. This became the creative jolt she needed. “Polaroids feel more ‘authentic,’ and there’s an interactive element to it as well,” she says. “The people in the photos are real individuals who are keen to tell their true stories and experiences.”
There’s also a certain playfulness to Teng’s Polaroids that makes the weighted subject matter more approachable for the average person, one that piques people’s interests and makes them willing to join the conversation. “If you try to force people to understand, it’s preaching to deaf ears,” she says.”
2018 年，一次课业要求以图像、影片等媒介来完成的项目，让本是研究社会与文化课题的 Joyce 开始思考如何将想法以照片的形式兑现。在老师的推荐下，她看到了摄影师 Jim Goldberg 的《Rich and Poor》系列作品，作品运用相片和手写文字的方式讲述了每一位镜头下主角的人生，影响她采用拍立得和记号笔完成 ConfrontAsian 这个项目，Joyce 认为：“拍立得可以提高真实和互动性。照片里都是真实存在的人，传达着亲身经历和感受。” 而相比于长篇阔论，拍立得照片显然更带有趣味性。
她接着说道：“强行解释对受众而言，很有可能是对牛弹琴。” ConfrontAsian 的呈现方式在严肃的话题下反倒令人印象深刻起来，不过幽默与风趣的形式并没有缺失丝毫的穿透力。
While ConfrontAsian didn’t fully materialize until 2018, the idea for such a project examining issues of race and identity had actually been abrew since Teng’s teenage years. Born in Hong Kong to an American mother and Hong Kongese father, she struggled to find a sense of belonging after realizing she didn’t have much in common with her peers. These personal experiences are what led to her interest in sociology and her belief in equality, but this vision doesn’t exactly mirror reality. “There aren’t many cultural institutions in Hong Kong, so job opportunities in that sector are even more scarce,” she says. “So, five years ago, I decided to study abroad in the U.K., and hopefully leave with some takeaways of how I bring social change to Hong Kong.”
ConfrontAsian 项目是 Joyce 在英国留学期间展开，从 2018 年开始一直持续至今。而项目决定选择 “刻板印象” 的话题并非 Joyce 一时的突发奇想。早在青少年时期，她便对生活产生了共融的向往。虽然出生在香港，但半美式家庭背景却令她陷入尴尬，会因为与同学没有共同话题而面临不友好的境地。从那时起，Joyce 开始关注社会，在她眼中，人和人没有任何区别，但现实好像又不太一样，她说：“香港文化类机构、就业机会既少又单一。于是五年前，我展开了英国留学之旅，期望学成归来，能够为我生活的城市带来一些文化性、社会性的改变。” 从伦敦艺术大学（University of the Arts London）毕业之后，目前 Joyce 正就读于伦敦大学金匠学院（Goldsmiths, University of London），主要研究文化、社会风及种族平权等主题。
This year, racism has become a hot-button topic. Yet, despite the growing awareness in the wake of BLM, Joyce believes armchair activism can be counterproductive to the cause. She says that change must first begin with examining the stereotypes we unwittingly perpetuate in our day-to-day lives.
In the UK, Joyce was often considered a stereotypical “Asian nerd” by teachers and peers. She was often questioned about her identity because many people couldn’t grasp English proficiency, and at the height of the pandemic, she was even refused a ride by a cab driver. These experiences are indicative of the stereotypical Western perceptions of Asians, but beyond these encounters, she understands that discrimination takes on a multitude of forms. But due to cultural differences, Asians are averse to confrontation, and so many of these experiences are kept bottled up.
Joyce says: “First of all, we need to identify what kind of behavior is stereotypical, and you need to understand why it’s not a friendly gesture when someone comes up to you and says ‘ni hao.’ Not every Asian is Chinese. Asians should also begin standing up against this behavior but in a calm and collected way. This is how we can help them understand us better.”
2020 年，“种族歧视” 一词被更多次提及，但相比于剑拔弩张的对抗态势，Joyce 认为反对更应该从平日生活中开始着手、试着从改变身边的刻板印象开始做起，而不是空喊几句口号就作罢了。在英国生活的几年里，Joyce 会因为成绩优异而被老师归类为亚洲的 “书呆子” 学生；会因为地道的口语和亚洲的外表被身边人质疑身份；甚至会因为疫情爆发后被出租车司机拒载……这些行为或多或少地从侧面反映出西方普遍对亚洲的刻板印象，然而身边类似的例子不胜枚举，也在不断发生。
Stereotypes exist everywhere, and every race can hold stereotypical views of other unfamiliar cultures. Bigotry may be influenced by friends, family, the media, or even propaganda. And so, it’s more important than ever for us to identify and reject these falsehoods. To begin, Joyce believes people must reflect on their worldviews. “We need to find the root of the problem, and understand why it’s so bad to be stereotyped based on our race,” she says. “We need to learn how to be more empathetic, and stop hurting one another because of racial differences.”
ConfrontAsian encourages Asians to be more vocal with their experiences, confronting not only others but themselves. “Once you confront yourself, you’ll realize stereotypes are oftentimes at odds with reality,” she says. “And so, you should realize that people should be treated the way you want to be treated. By looking inward and taking actions in your everyday life, this concept can grow into something bigger.”
Some Asians that Teng has spoken to are not too concerned by stereotypes, and she’s even talked to individuals who disagree with racial stereotyping being a prevalent phenomenon. “I’ve had to convince many people to participate, by explaining the different reasons, whether it be cultural, historical, or views propagated by media,” she says. Despite the frustrations she’s faced along the way, Teng has remained persistent. “Maybe because many Asians grew up with more conservative values, we’ve become ok with the injustices that we often face. But if we want to promote cultural diversity and lessen the gap between us as individuals, we need to step out of our comfort zone.”
其实，刻板印象在每个人身上都存在，当我们面对和自己不同种族的人群，多多少少会被身边人、媒体和政府的宣传所误导。为了对抗这种固守的观念，Joyce 认为我们应该从与自身的对质开始，她说：“我们需要自我对质，找出问题根源，明白别人以种族刻板印象来标签我们带来的问题的严重性，继而学会如何将心比己，逐步消灭种族歧视及其带来的伤害性。” 这也是 ConfrontAsian 项目取名的来历，由 “Confrontation (对质)” 和 “Asian (亚洲人)” 两个英文单词组成。她接着说道：“和自己对质后，你会发现自身的很多刻板印象和事实完全不符。从而，也应该明白到，别人应该怎样被对待、我们应该怎样被对待。先做好自己、改变周围的氛围，你才可能慢慢扩大这理念。”
在 Joyce 接触的亚洲群体中，一些人对西方的刻板印象并没有太过在意，甚至一些年长的亚洲人对种族议题的探讨感到抗拒，她认为这是移民潮时期遗留下的诟病，一些人为了顺利地留在移民国而忍气吞声，她说道：“我为此花费了不少口舌，在向他们细心解释这些行为背后的文化、历史、媒体原由之后，一些人才决定参与。”即便困难重重，但 Joyce 也未曾考虑过放弃，她接着说：“可能因为相对保守的文化环境，让我们咽下了很多生活中的不公。但想要促进文化的多元和互通，我们都需要跳出舒适圈。”
In 2018, Teng exhibited the project for the first time in the UK. It was well-received by Asian and Western visitors alike, and at the exhibit, many shared their own experiences with racism with her. Seeing the reaction of viewers in person affirmed in her the importance of this project. “I want other Asians to be more aware of these issues of race and stereotyping, and I think I succeeded on a small scale,” she says.
To completely eradicate the negative stereotypes of Asians in the West is a bit unlikely, but if it can make even one additional individual more mindful of these issues around racism, that’s enough for Teng.
Due to the pandemic, the latest showing of ConfrontAsian, which was originally scheduled to take place in London, has been moved online. Click here to browse the exhibition.
2018 年，Joyce 的作品首次在英国进行了展出，获得了亚洲和西方参观者的赞许和认可，不少人前来与她探讨种族问题。通过这次成功，Joyce 更切身明白到 ConfronAsian 项目的重要性。她说：“我希望可以帮助其他亚洲人提升对于种族议题的敏感度，而我也的确做到一点点。” 对于一个年仅 22 岁的女生而言，改变西方对亚裔的刻板印象或许太过沉重，但能影响更多人意识到问题，哪怕是一小撮人，ConfrontAsian 都是 Joyce 非常乐意去做的一件事。