About three years ago, JC Lau, a game developer, was one of a handful of women of Asian descent working at Bungie, a large video game studio in Bellevue, Wash. At the office, which had an open-floor plan and a staff of predominantly white men, co-workers regularly mistook her for one of the other Asian employees sitting in another row nearby.
大约三年前,游戏开发者JC·刘(JC Lau)在华盛顿州贝尔维尤的大型电子游戏工作室Bungie工作,是工作室里的几名亚裔女性之一。办公室采用开放式布局,员工主要是白人男性,同事们经常把她误认为坐在附近另一排的另一名亚裔员工。
On one occasion, multiple colleagues congratulated Dr. Lau, who identifies as Chinese Australian and holds a doctorate in philosophy, on a presentation led by a colleague of Korean heritage. “These were people I worked with on a daily basis,” she said.
Dr. Lau, 40, left the company in 2018, after two years, and said a major factor behind that decision was the feeling that she wasn’t being recognized for her contributions, which included testing games and founding the company’s diversity committee. She suspected that her gender and race — and her co-workers’ inability to even recognize who she was — put her at a disadvantage, especially at a large company.
“We have to do more to stand out from any other Asian we might be mistaken for in order to advance,” she said. Dr. Lau left Bungie to become a producer at a smaller games studio.
JC·刘辞去了Bungie游戏开发者的工作,她感觉自己的不利境地跟种族身份有一定关系。 Jovelle Tamayo for The New York Times
White-collar professionals are preparing to return to the office after more than a year of working from home. It hasn’t been a year of just video calls and Zoom happy hours, though. In the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement that soon swept the nation, it’s been a year of reckoning over racial injustice in America. In the corporate world, that injustice manifests in unequal career opportunities for professionals of color. The country has also seen a rise in hate crimes against people of Asian descent, with victims who have been beaten, verbally assaulted and, at worst, killed. In response, many companies have begun “diversity, equity and inclusion” programs aimed at recalibrating their office cultures to be more supportive of minority workers.
在家办公一年多之后,白领职场人士正准备重返办公室。不过这一年可不是只有视频通话和Zoom上的工余时光。经历了警察杀害乔治·弗洛伊德(George Floyd)事件和“黑人的命也是命”(Black Lives Matter)运动迅速席卷全国,这一年是美国对种族不平等进行反思的一年。在企业界,这种不公平表现为有色人种职场人士获得职业机会的不平等。在这个国家,针对亚裔的仇恨犯罪也在增加,受害者遭到殴打和辱骂,最严重的情况是被杀害。作为回应,许多公司开始实施“多元、公平和包容”项目,旨在重新调整办公室文化,更支持少数族裔员工。
But as a first step, what many Asian American professionals need is simple. They want their colleagues to bother to learn their names.
Yes, it’s probably happened to all of us, no matter our identity: An acquaintance or colleague mistakes you for another person with the same hairdo or a similar name. But for people of Asian descent, it happens without question when there are a few other Asians in the office, even when they look and sound nothing alike.
In nearly two dozen conversations with professionals of Asian descent in recent weeks, and in 15 years of my own experience in the workplace, the consensus was clear: It happens again and again, from one job to the next. While the problem is prevalent in the United States, the mix-ups also frequently happen in other countries where people with Asian heritage make up a minority, like Canada. There’s even a term for it: the interchangeable Asian.
“That particular microaggression of being mistaken for another Asian American is unique,” said Jeff Yang, an Asian American culture critic. “It stems from this different place where people tend to collectivize us in their imagination.”
“被误认为是另一名亚裔,是只有亚裔美国人需要面对的微侵犯,”亚裔美国文化评论家杨致和(Jeff Yang)说。“它源于这个不同的地方,人们倾向于在他们的想象中把我们集体化。”
As part of our conversation on this topic, Mr. Yang posted a callout on Twitter: “Any of you have funny-not-funny workplace #SorryWrongAsian stories to share?” The post generated more than 350 responses from a wide range of people, including professionals with South and East Asian heritage. Workers recounted receiving emails meant for other colleagues, being thanked for meetings that never happened and getting lectured by a supervisor for paperwork that someone else filled out incorrectly.
约翰·杰伊学院的心理学教授凯文·纳达尔研究的是微侵犯。“大多数有色人种都要面对这些微侵犯,他们被认为和他们群体中的其他人一样,”他说。 An Rong Xu for The New York Times
I spoke with people working across industries, including marketing, academia, tech, publishing, health care and entertainment and only one person said she had never been mistaken for another Asian at work. (She is a novelist who never had co-workers.) For everyone else, these were regular occurrences. The name bunglers were usually white colleagues, but in rare cases, they were people of color. A common reaction was to shrug it off as an uncomfortable moment that was ultimately an innocent mistake.
Yet scholars of sociology, psychology and Asian American history said there was something serious — and damaging — behind this phenomenon of casual Asian-face blindness that borders on cavalier. Some pointed to unconscious biases that make office workers less inclined to remember the names and faces of Asian colleagues, in large part because of their lack of exposure to people of Asian descent in their personal lives and in mainstream media. Others labeled the carelessness a form of discrimination derived from stereotypes with deep roots in American history that people with Asian heritage all behave and look alike — an army of nameless automatons not worth remembering for promotions.
“Most people of color face these microaggressions where they’re presumed to be like everyone else in their group, and one way this manifests is people can’t get their names right,” said Kevin Nadal, a professor of psychology at John Jay College in New York who has led studies on the impact of subtle forms of discrimination against marginalized groups. “They’re grouping them with each other, not taking the time to acknowledge their contributions, successes and capabilities. That very much can have an effect on people’s ability to succeed.”
“大多数有色人种都会面对这些微侵犯,他们被认为和他们群体中的其他人一样,其中一种表现形式就是人们不能正确地说出他们的名字,”纽约约翰·杰伊学院(John Jay College)的心理学教授凯文·纳达尔(Kevin Nadal)说,他领导了关于微妙歧视对边缘群体影响的研究。“他们把有色人种归为一类,而不花时间去承认他们的贡献、成功和能力。这对人的事业前程有很大影响。”
If one requirement to ascend in your career is to be distinguishable to people in power, it may come as no surprise, then, that Asian Americans — who make up 7 percent of the U.S. population and are the fastest-growing racial group — are the least likely group to be promoted in the country, according to multiple studies. Even in Silicon Valley, where people of Asian descent make up roughly 50 percent of the tech work force, a rare few rise to the executive level; most peak at middle management. The problem is especially acute for women. In one study with a sample of about 9,200 Asian female professionals, only 36 had reached the executive level.
Dr. Lau, the game developer, understands the day-to-day experiences behind those numbers: the challenge of pushing for a promotion if people don’t know your name.
“If at any point a person says, ‘I don’t know who this person is or their contributions,’ that is a dire threat to any sort of advancement,” she said.
The ‘Interchangeable Asian’
Winnie Cheng, a nurse in Vancouver, was working a recent hospital shift alongside her colleague, a male doctor. Although the two had been treating patients together for several years, the doctor referred to her as Hannah — the name of another hospital worker of Asian descent. Ms. Cheng froze. After some thought, she decided it would be too awkward to correct him.
维妮·程(Winnie Cheng,音)是温哥华的一名护士,最近她和一名男医生同事一起在医院值班。虽然两人一起治疗病人已有多年,但医生叫她汉娜(Hannah)——另一名亚裔医院工作人员的名字。维妮·程愣住了。她想了想,觉得纠正他太尴尬了。
To her chagrin, the case of mistaken identity went on for several hours, with the doctor calling her Hannah even in front of patients. Ms. Cheng, 28, asked another hospital worker to call her by her name in front of the doctor in the hope that he would correct himself. This failed. Finally, another co-worker called him out on the mistake. The doctor, who is of Indian descent, she said, was extremely embarrassed and apologetic.
Months later, Ms. Cheng was called Angela by a white male colleague. She said she was frequently mixed up with the two other Asian women she worked with directly, incidents that made her feel that people recognized her for her race, not as an individual.
When she was training a new hire, a tall white man, and introducing him to others, everyone on the team was excited to get to know him. While she was training him, she never heard anyone mistake him for one of the dozens of other white men working at the hospital, and she wondered if they ever would.
“You can see how that accumulates over a lifetime of work,” Ms. Cheng said. “Four years of, they don’t know my name, but after saying his name once, everybody is superinterested in him and giving him opportunities.”
维妮·程是温哥华的一名护士,她多次被叫错为另一名亚裔医院工作人员的名字。甚至一位与她共事多年的医生也把她的名字搞错了。 Jackie Dives for The New York Times
The stereotype that all Asians look alike was an idea sown into the American psyche more than 100 years ago. When politicians were enacting laws to exclude Asians from immigrating into the United States — the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which prohibited immigration of Chinese laborers, and the Immigration Act of 1924, a blanket ban on all Asian immigrants and some other groups — they used language that likened them to “another grain in this pile of sand, another drop in the ocean, that was threatening to overwhelm this nation,” according to Mr. Yang. And in subsequent decades, when America fought wars in Japan, Korea and Vietnam, soldiers were trained to treat all Asians as though they were part of one evil, collective mass.
“亚裔长得都一样”这一刻板印象早在100多年前就在美国人的意识里扎了根。杨致和说,当政治人士制定法律,禁止亚裔移民到美国时——1882年的《排华法案》(Chinese Exclusion Act)禁止中国劳工移民,1924年的《移民法案》(Immigration Act)全面禁止所有亚裔移民和一些其他群体——他们用语言把亚裔比作“沙丘中的一粒沙,大海中的一滴水,聚在一起,威胁要淹没这个国家”。在随后的几十年里,当美国在日本、朝鲜和越南打仗时,士兵们接受的训练是把所有亚裔当作一个邪恶集体的一部分来对待。
“The interchangeable, nameless, faceless but also thoroughly dehumanized Asian American was further solidified during wars,” said Shelley Lee, a history professor at Oberlin College in Ohio. “When the Americans fought in Asia with the goal of killing as many Asians as possible, that also encouraged Americans to dehumanize Asian people, to not empathize with the enemy you’re seeking to destroy.”
“亚裔美国人可以互换、没有名字、没有面孔、被彻底非人化,这种观念在战争期间得到了进一步巩固,”俄亥俄州欧柏林学院(Oberlin College)的历史学教授谢莉·李(Shelley Lee)说。“当美国人在亚洲作战,目的是尽量多杀死亚洲人的时候,这也鼓励美国人将亚洲人非人化,不要去同情你要消灭的敌人。”
Nancy Yuen, a sociologist at Biola University in California, said the inclination of white office workers to more easily remember white colleagues’ faces and names — and fail to tell people of color apart — could be linked to a phenomenon known as cross-race bias, the tendency for people to more easily recognize faces that belong to their own racial group. This behavioral pattern, studies have shown, diminishes as a person has more interactions with people of other races. Citing 2014 data from the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute, Dr. Yuen noted that 75 percent of white people don’t have any nonwhite friends.
加州拜欧拉大学(Biola University)的社会学家南希·袁(Nancy Yuen)表示,白人办公室职员更容易记住白人同事的面孔和名字,而不能区分有色人种,这可能与一种被称为跨种族偏见的现象有关,即人们更容易认出属于自己种族的面孔。研究表明,当一个人与其他种族的人互动更多时,这种行为模式就会减少。南希·袁援引无党派机构公共宗教研究所(Public Religion Research Institute)2014年的数据指出,75%的白人没有任何非白人朋友。
“It comes from the fact that they’re not friends with enough people of color to even be able to tell the difference,” Dr. Yuen said.
The absence goes beyond people’s individual social circles. In a recent national survey for a civil rights nonprofit, 42 percent of Americans said they could not name a single Asian American, not even Vice President Kamala Harris, who has Indian heritage.
这种缺失超越了人们的个人社交圈。在最近为一个非营利民权组织进行的全国调查中,42%的美国人表示,他们无法说出一个亚裔美国人的名字,连有印度血统的副总统卡玛拉·哈里斯(Kamala Harris)都不知道。
The Invisible Asian
在喝彩奖卡颁奖典礼上,演员朱莉·李获得了一个奖项的提名,但典礼上却展示了她的亚裔同事莫妮卡·洪的照片。 Philip Cheung for The New York Times
On a recent Tuesday evening, Jully Lee and her boyfriend curled up on the couch and turned on the TV to watch the Ovation Awards, a ceremony honoring stage work in the Los Angeles area that was held virtually this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Ms. Lee, an actor, had been nominated for her role in the play “Hannah and the Dread Gazebo,” which was in production before the pandemic.
最近一个周二的晚上,朱莉·李(Jully Lee)和男友蜷在沙发上,打开电视观看“喝彩奖”(Ovation Awards)的颁奖典礼。这是一个表彰洛杉矶地区舞台作品的典礼,由于新冠大流行,今年是在线上举行。朱莉·李是一名演员,因为在舞台剧《汉娜与恐怖凉亭》(Hannah and the Dread Gazebo)中的角色而获得提名,该剧在疫情暴发前进入了制作阶段。
Ms. Lee, 40, had submitted a prerecorded acceptance speech in case she won. During the ceremony, each nominee’s photo was shown as his or her name was announced. When Ms. Lee’s category arrived, her name was called, and a photo appeared on the screen. A photo of the wrong Asian: her colleague Monica Hong. The announcer also mispronounced Ms. Lee’s name.
40岁的朱莉·李提交了事先录好的感言,以备获奖之用。在颁奖典礼上,每位被提名人的照片都会在宣布名字的时候显示出来。轮到朱莉·李的评奖单元,她的名字被叫到了,屏幕上出现了照片——一张错误的亚裔照片:她的同事莫妮卡·洪(Monica Hong)。播音员还念错了朱莉·李的名字。
“I was just stunned,” Ms. Lee said. She added that after a pause, she and her boyfriend started cracking up. “When things are awkward or uncomfortable or painful, it’s much safer to laugh than to express other emotions. It’s like a polite way of responding to things.”
The LA Stage Alliance, which hosted the ceremony, disbanded in the wake of outrage over the blunder.
在对这一错误的愤怒暴发后,主办该仪式的洛杉矶舞台联盟(LA Stage Alliance)解散了
The irony of a mix-up like this wasn’t lost on Ms. Lee. It was rare to even be performing with other Asian actors, rather than competing for the same part. “It’s so funny because when there’s so many Asians, then you can’t tell them apart, but in media there are so few Asians that you can’t tell us apart,” she said. “What is it?”
The invisibility of Asians in pop culture is part of what, scholars say, contributes to the “wrong Asian” experience: When people aren’t accustomed to seeing Asian faces onstage or onscreen, they may have more trouble telling them apart in real life. To put it another way: If all you really have to work with are John Cho, Steven Yeun, Aziz Ansari and Kal Penn, that’s not going to go a long way in training you to distinguish among men of Asian descent offscreen. In contrast, Hollywood has given everyone plenty of training on distinguishing white faces, Dr. Nadal said.
学者们说,亚裔在流行文化中的隐形是导致“认错亚裔”经历的一部分:当人们不习惯在舞台上或银幕上看到亚裔面孔时,他们在现实生活中可能会更难将他们区分开来。换句话说:如果你需要分辨的只有约翰·赵(John Cho)、史蒂文·元(Steven Yeun)、阿齐兹·安萨里(Aziz Ansari)和凯尔·潘(Kal Penn),这对训练你区分银幕外的亚裔男性方面没什么帮助。纳达尔说,相比之下,好莱坞给了每个人大量的机会练习如何区分白人面孔。
Out of Hollywood’s top 100 movies of 2018, only two lead roles went to Asian and Asian American actors (one male and one female), according to a study by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
根据南加州大学安纳伯格传播与新闻学院(University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism)的一项研究,在2018年好莱坞票房最高的100部电影中,只有两个主角角色由亚裔和亚裔美国演员担任(一男一女)。
Donatella Galella, a professor of theater history and theory at the University of California, Riverside, said that popular culture has long reflected the Western world’s xenophobic views toward Asians, which resulted in placing them in diminished roles onstage and onscreen — the villain, the sidekick. That entrenched a kind of marginalization feedback loop.
加州大学河滨分校(University of California, Riverside)戏剧历史与理论教授多纳泰拉·加莱拉(Donatella Galella)表示,流行文化长期以来反映了西方世界对亚裔的排外观点,这导致他们在舞台上和银幕上的角色被削弱——反派、跟班。这形成了一种边缘化反馈循环。
Before becoming a full-time cartoonist, Gene Luen Yang was a computer science teacher at Bishop O’Dowd, a Catholic high school in Oakland, Calif. His friend Thien Pham, a visual arts teacher, was the only other Asian American man working there. Parents and students constantly mixed the two up during Mr. Yang’s 17-year tenure. School forms intended for Mr. Pham often ended up in the hands of Mr. Yang, and vice versa.
在成为全职漫画家之前,杨谨伦(Gene Luen Yang)是加州奥克兰奥多德天主教高中(Bishop O’Dowd)的计算机科学老师。他的朋友、视觉艺术老师范单(Thien Pham,音)是除他以外唯一在那里工作的亚裔美国人。在杨谨伦17年的任教生涯内,家长和学生总是将他俩搞混。为范单准备的学校表格往往最终给了杨谨伦,反之亦然。
Mr. Yang got his big break in 2006 when his graphic novel “American Born Chinese” became the first comic book to be a finalist for a National Book Award, and it went on to win several other prestigious prizes. A friend who was also a cartoonist told him to expect a flood of phone calls coming from Hollywood agents bidding to adapt his book into a movie or TV show. Mr. Yang secured a media agent. Yet no such calls or offers came in. “The Asian face just isn’t salable or marketable enough,” he said.
2006年,杨谨伦的人生获得了重大突破,他的漫画小说《美生中国人》(American Born Chinese)成为第一本入围国家图书奖(National Book Award)的漫画书,并获得了其他多项著名奖项。一位同为漫画家的朋友告诉他,好莱坞经纪人将会纷纷打来电话要求将他的书改编成电影或电视节目。杨谨伦聘请了一名媒体经纪人。然而,并没有这样的电话或邀约到来。“亚洲面孔就是没什么销路或足够的市场需求,”他说。
The Asian Glass Ceiling
There is a Japanese proverb that states, “The quacking duck gets shot.”
It stands in stark contrast to the Western idiom “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.”
At the Ascend Foundation, a firm that analyzes the progress of Asian Americans in the work force, researchers see the two idioms as one way to understand the numbers they see.
在上升基金会(Ascend Foundation)——一家分析亚裔美国人在劳动力中的发展的公司,研究人员用这两句习语来理解他们看到的数据。
In one study citing national employment data from 2018, the Ascend Foundation found that white men were 192 percent more likely to become executives than Asian men, and white women were 134 percent more likely to become executives than Asian women.
Another study, from 2013, found that while there were nearly as many Asian professionals as white professionals working at five big tech companies (Google, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, LinkedIn and Yahoo), white men and women were 154 percent more likely to be an executive than their Asian counterparts; Asian professionals tended to peak at middle management.
In its report, the Ascend Foundation said part of the problem was implicit bias misguided by the belief that Asians prefer technical roles and do not aspire to leadership levels. But it also suggested that part of the issue may be cultural. Many Asian professionals interviewed by the researchers said that they were taught by their parents to do good work and keep their “heads down.” While Asian cultures differ vastly among ethnicities from South Asia to East Asia, some common values include a preference for harmony and conflict avoidance — the danger in being that quacking duck.
上升基金会总裁安娜·莫在旧金山。 Craig Lee for The New York Times
Is getting comfortable as a squeaky wheel the only way to succeed in corporate America?
Anna Mok might argue yes. She is the president of the Ascend Foundation, and as one of the first Asian American women to rise to an executive role at the consulting firm Deloitte, she experienced her share of mix-ups along the way. She encourages people to speak up for themselves and bond with co-workers over common ground, like shared enthusiasm for a hobby or sports team or coming from the same hometown.
安娜·莫(Anna Mok,音)可能会说是的。她是上升基金会的总裁,并且是第一批在德勤(Deloitte)咨询公司担任高管的亚裔美国女性之一,她在此过程中也经历了一些误认。她鼓励人们为自己发声并在共同点上与同事建立联系,例如对爱好或运动队的共同热情或来自同一个家乡。
“People remember you because they remember what we have in common,” she said. “You have to lead with that a little bit. I don’t think you can lead with, ‘I’m Asian.’”
But advice about making small talk over sports could shift the burden onto marginalized employees rather than the people making decisions about promotions, and it also may not sit well with younger people. Jenn Fang, a scientist who writes a blog about Asian American feminism, said the problem with Asians being treated as interchangeable in the workplace is a systemic one that needs to be discussed with company leaders.
但是,这个随口聊聊体育的建议,可能会将负担转移到被边缘化的员工身上,而不是那些做出晋升决定的人,而且这种建议可能也不适合年轻人。撰写有关亚裔美国女权主义博客的科学家珍·方(Jenn Fang,音)表示,在工作场所亚裔不被当作个体对待的问题是一个系统性问题,需要与公司领导进行讨论。
“It’s not something where you can necessarily change your behavior and expect to survive and overcome,” Ms. Fang said. “You can do all these things to try to make people remember who you are, but that isn’t going to change anything to make them change the bias.”
Dr. Nadal, the psychology professor who has led studies on microaggressions, agreed. “If you’re a person of power and privilege, then you have to make those efforts to know people’s names and understand that if you mess up someone’s name, there are real dynamics that are being created and consequences as a result.”
Ms. Mok has a counterpoint: Asian workers need to make an effort, too, at the very least by correcting people when they get misidentified. An overwhelming majority of workers I interviewed said they did not clarify to their colleagues that they had been mistaken for the wrong Asian because they wanted to avoid confrontation. “We should use that as an opportunity to teach a colleague something and redirect it, otherwise it’s like a bad habit that no one tells you about,” Ms. Mok said.
That does require people to acknowledge when they are wrong, though, which doesn’t always happen. Dr. Lau, the game producer, said that in February, she was chatting with a group of ex-Bungie employees on the app Discord when a former co-worker alerted her to a potential job opportunity that was irrelevant to her work experience.
She realized he probably had intended to share it with another ex-Bungie employee for whom it would have been a good fit, a Filipino American named Cookie. When Dr. Lau pointed this out, he responded, “r u sure?”