Racism is hardly a new phenomenon for the Asian diaspora. Across the globe, Asian communities have long been the subject of xenophobia to varying degrees, but the resulting political rhetoric around COVID-19 has ramped up anti-Asian sentiments to alarming levels.
Since the virus began its spread, reports of racially motivated attacks—both verbal and physical—have jumped. In the U.S., with former president Donald Trump doubling down on his “China-virus” and “Kung-flu” verbiage, racists have felt even more empowered to express their hatred. Violent Asian hate crimes escalated, and it all came to a boil with the tragic shooting in Atlanta, Georgia. The resulting outrage sparked the #StopAsianHate movement, which has found support worldwide.
近段时期以来，有关袭击亚裔的报道与日俱增，其中不乏有口头和身体上的攻击。在美国，前总统特朗普的“中国病毒”和“功夫流感” (Kung-flu) 等错误言论，令种族主义者的仇恨情绪持续激增、针对亚裔的暴力犯罪不断升级，最终导致了发生在佐治亚州亚特兰大的枪击事件。一场声势浩大的 #StopAsianHate 运动就此展开，并获得了全球的支持。
Now, a few short months later, #StopAsianHate is fading from the headlines, and it’s clear that the issues it brought to light are no less closer to resolution. To keep the conversation going and these issues at the front of public consciousness, art is showing itself to be one of the most effective weapons in the arsenal.
In the U.S., the posters of Thai illustrator Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya became one of the most well-known projects in support of #StopAsianHate—being featured on subway billboards in New York and even on the cover of Time magazine. But the artworks, which depict portraits of Asian and AAPI women and powerful messages, were conceptualized in August 2020, when she noticed the growing stigma around Asians and the decline in business in Chinatown. As reports of senseless violence against Asians ramped up in the subsequent months, her work seemed to carry more weight.
But the reality is that anti-Asian discrimination isn’t only relegated to the States, and aside from Phingbodhipakkiya, other Asian artists and creative types around the globe have been no less active in the fight for equality. For many, their fight began way before the pandemic and will go on even long after the virus has been curbed.
在美国，泰国插画家 Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya 的海报成为支持 #StopAsianHate 运动最著名的艺术作品之一。她的海报出现在纽约的地铁广告牌上，还登上了《时代》杂志封面。其主要描绘了亚洲和亚太裔女性肖像，并附上了强有力的文字表现。这些作品创作于 2020 年 8 月，当时的她注意到社会对亚裔的污名化日益严重，唐人街的生意人去楼空。在接下来的数个月里，针对亚裔的暴力行径，她的作品也在时代背景下显得意义非凡。
实际上，反亚裔歧视运动不仅仅存在于美国，除了 Amanda 之外，世界各地的亚裔艺术家和创意人也同样在积极参与其中，争取平权。对许多人来说，他们的抗争早在疫情之前便早早开始，并一如既往地坚持下去。
In Berlin, un.thai.tled, a collective founded by a team of Thai creatives looks to curb Asian racism through education. The name alone distills the group’s values into a portmanteau—by spreading knowledge about Thai culture and championing Thai creatives in the local art scene, the team aims to discard the easy labels and stereotypes that have been given by a white-dominated society.
With offline events that showcase the creativity of both Thai and German artists, they’ve brought together a community of Thai and Thai-German creatives who are keen on using art as a facilitator of socio-cultural exchange between the two countries. Since the group was established, their mission and ambitions have grown, and their platform is now used to address racism of all forms, sexism, and other politically charged issues.
在柏林，由泰国创意人建立的团体 un.thai.tled 致力通过宣传教育，消除针对亚裔的种族歧视，团体的名字也诠释了他们的价值观——支持当地艺术圈内的泰国创意人，推广泰国文化，打破白人至上的社会对他们的标签及刻板印象。
Aside from un.thai.tled, Soydivison is another group in Berlin that’s rallying together Asian creatives in the German capital. The team of Indonesian artists, filmmakers, and musicians hosts a myriad of offline events that aim to share knowledge about Indonesian culture. But aside from only art, food has become a key component of storytelling and culture sharing for the group. Empathy Supper is an ongoing series of events organized by Soydivision. Over the communal experience of dinner and performative art, which sees different menus and artists in each edition, guests will walk away with new insight into the Asian archipelago.
Both groups were established long before pandemic, but with COVID-19 worsening anti-Asian discrimination, they’re approaching their work with even more urgency.
另一个柏林团体 Soydivison 则汇聚了德国首都城市的亚裔创意人士。来自印度尼西亚的艺术家、电影制作人和音乐人举办了许多分享印度尼西亚文化的线下活动。而在艺术之外，美食也是该团体讲故事和分享文化的重要组成部分。Empathy Supper 是 Soydivision 当前组织的一系列活动，包括共享晚餐和表演艺术，每一期都呈现了不同的菜单和艺术家，参与者可以从中获得对印度尼西亚这个亚洲岛国的全新认识。
Meanwhile, in New Zealand, Migrant Zine Collective looks to both visual art and literature in combating racism. In direct response to the worsening discrimination against Asians, the indie publishing house worked with Strange Goods to publish Anti-Racist Soup, a zine that doesn’t only examine racism against Asians but delves into xenophobia on a macro level. Through illustrations and think pieces by creatives of color, the publication puts the pressing issue of racism into sharp focus.
Tackling tough conversations is hardly new territory for Migrant Zine Collective, especially when it comes to issues of race and inequality. The activism-minded platform was founded in 2017 by Helen Yeung, a Hong Kong-Chinese writer who’s long been led the vanguard of inclusivity in New Zealand. Since its inception, Yeung has steered the collective with an uncompromising vision of creating a place where people of color can have a voice. Aside from the zines that they’ve published so far, the collective also often works with other activist organizations and art institutes in events that can help give further visibility to Asian culture.
处理难题和争端，对于 Migrant Zine Collective 不在话下，尤其是涉及种族和不平等问题。这个积极行动的平台于 2017 年由港籍华人作家 Helen Yeung 创立，长期以来，她一直领导新西兰的包容、平权等运动。自成立以来，Helen 一直以坚定不移地，渴望为有色人种提供一个发声的平台。除了目前出版的杂志外，该团体还经常与其他社会活动组织和艺术机构合作，举办各种有助于进一步推广亚洲文化的活动。
In London, a platform making similar strides is Paperboy, an app championing diversity and inclusivity through illustration and design. It was founded by British-born Vietnamese artist Matt Nguyen, who’s experienced discrimination due to his Asian heritage all his life. The noticeable shift in the political climate following the pandemic cemented his resolve to work towards change. On the Paperboy site, he shares various racist encounters that he faced following COVID-19, such as a shop assistant unwilling to serve him due to his race and strangers mock coughing and laughing at him in the street. “The only time we were seeing Southeast Asians in the mainstream was covid news coverage, articles with scary headlines accompanied with stock photos of Asians wearing masks,” he writes. “This repeated visual conditioning, racist rhetoric, and the association of ethnicity with the virus is all toxic. Left unchecked, we risk normalizing this behavior and dehumanizing anyone that looks like me or my family… Ignoring the complex and rich story behind my family’s diaspora and my proud Vietnamese heritage, reduced to little more than a judgment based on my appearance.”
Though he recognized his powers were limited, he believed that Paperboy could unite people through art and design. To that end, Paperboy isn’t only envisioned as a platform for Asian artists. Creatives of all races, backgrounds, gender, and sexual orientations are welcome. In June, Paperboy worked with 19 international illustrators to sell prints in support of Stop Asian Hate. A portion of profits went to the artists themselves, while the rest were donated to Besea.n and Hackney Chinese Community Services
另外，伦敦的 Paperboy 也在作出同样的努力。这是一款通过插图和设计倡导多元化和包容性的应用程序，由出生于英国的越南裔艺术家 Matt Nguyen 开发。从小到大，Matt 都因亚裔身份而饱受歧视。疫情后的政治氛围转变更坚定了他推动改变的决心。在 Paperboy 网站上，他分享了自己在疫情之后的各种种族歧视遭遇，例如，有店员因为他是亚裔而不愿为他服务，大街上的陌生人假装咳嗽来嘲笑他。他写道：“我们唯一看到东南亚裔出现在主流媒体中就是关于新冠肺炎的新闻报道、各种可怕的标题和戴着口罩的亚裔照片。这种反复的视觉暗示、种族主义言论以及将病毒种族化都是很危险的。任其发展，就会令这种行为正常化，物化我和家人等亚裔群体……抹杀掉我和家人作为侨民复杂而丰富的经历，以及我引以为豪的越南血统，简单地以貌取人。”
虽然他承认自己力量有限，但他相信 Paperboy 可以借助艺术和设计将大家团结在一起。为此，Paperboy 不仅有志于成为亚裔艺术家的平台，也欢迎所有种族、背景、性别和性取向的创意人士加入。今年 6 月，Paperboy 和另外 19 位国际插画家合作，出售支持 “停止仇视亚裔” (Stop Asian Hate) 的版画。收入一部分归艺术家本人所有，其余部分则捐赠给 Besea.n 和 Hackney 华人社区服务。
But even places in Asia aren’t exempt from the rise in anti-Asian racism. In Hong Kong, for example, South Asian ethnic minorities have become fresh scapegoats for COVID-19. As the virus spread, these migrant workers were seen as unsanitary and falsely accused of being vectors for the virus. The Hong Kong government even singled out migrant workers with certain policies, such as a proposal banning domestic helpers from leaving their employer’s house on their only day off. The caveat is that this lockdown wouldn’t apply on their working days when they were expected to shop for groceries and run other miscellaneous errands.
Other discriminatory mandates that have been implanted in the wake of the pandemic have only encouraged the racism that these foreign workers have long experienced in the region, even before the pandemic.
Xyza Cruz Bacani is a Filipina photographer whose intimately familiar with the plight of domestic helpers in Hong Kong and her photography looks to shine a light on their untold stories. Having worked as a domestic helper for almost a decade herself, she’s seen how migrant workers from Indonesia and the Philippines have been neglected.
In 2018, she published We Are Like Air, a photo book that examines labor migration in Hong Kong. It includes images of her own mother, who spent most of her life working as a domestic helper in Hong Kong. The bilingual publication is an unflinching look at the harsh realities that hide beneath the city’s shiny veneer and what life is truly like for migrant workers. With her work catching the attention of media outlets and art institutions worldwide, she has become a crucial voice for the once-invisible migrants of Hong Kong.
菲律宾摄影师 Xyza Cruz Bacani 对香港家庭佣工的困境很了解，她也希望能通过自己的摄影作品，揭示他们不为人知的故事。她自己曾做了近十年的家庭佣工，对于印度尼西亚和菲律宾的外籍劳工被社会忽略的问题，她有着切身体会。
2018 年，她出版了一本关于香港外籍劳工的摄影集《We Are Like Air》，其中就包括了她母亲的照片。她的母亲大半辈子都在香港担任家庭佣工。这份双语出版物赤裸裸地揭示了隐藏在这座城市光鲜亮丽外表下的残酷现实，以及外籍劳工的真实生活。她的作品引起了全球媒体和艺术机构的关注，她也因此成为了曾被人们所忽略的香港外籍劳工的重要发声者。
Even though the fight against racism and ignorance may often seem like an uphill battle, those dedicated to pushing the conversation are making equality that much closer a reality. Ultimately, the fight extends beyond racism against Asians. The bottom line is that hate has no place in our world—and despite skin color, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation—we all have a whole lot in common.
By wielding art as a universal language, we can hopefully teach, inspire, and raise awareness of these issues. Through these lessons, the hope is for more people to finally recognize our commonalities as human beings. One day, we will be able to triumph over ignorance, and when that day comes, the barriers we’ve constructed between us will inevitably come tumbling down.