(Image description: Screencap of CL dressed as a chola in front of background dancers in ski masks with “GZP” on the top and in black and white plaid shirts. Text overlaying it says, “2013’s Most Racist Moments in Kpop” and beneath it in the bottom left corner, “black-in-asia.com”)
Ah, the glorious world of Kpop, where cultural appropriation and racism run amuck and fan excuses (“oppalogists”) for their stars even more so. Although we didn’t have any stars calling Alicia Keys “pretty for a black person” (like Taeyeon of SNSD did in 2009), or saying that they were afraid to be around black people for fear of being shot (as Seungri from BigBang did in the past), 2013 was still filled with racist wonders galore!
I have blogged quite a bit about racism and cultural appropriation in kpop over the past year, and working together with my followers have put together this list of the year's Top 10 Racist Moments in Kpop.
Grab some popcorn and strap yourself in for the ride….
Dishonorable Mention: INFINITE’s Hoya saying the n-word
Before starting properly, a short shout-out to INFINITE’s Hoya for saying the n-word live in concert this year, like many, many kpop stars before him. That earns you a “dishonorable mention” and with that let’s move on to the top 10.
#10: Kai from EXO, the dark-skinned, corn-rowed “foreigner”
(Image description: Kai from EXO wearing cornrows, a black & white bandana tied around his forehead, sneakers, multi-colored tube socks, a black white and yellow shirt and grey shorts. The photo is labeled, “Foreigner” and beneath it “Kai”)
EXO has been embroiled in controversy time after time this year over the vitriolic colorist comments launched repeatedly against Kai, the darkest member of the group, by his bandmates. One occurrence of which I was personally witness to during a concert in Taiwan and was shocked by the blatant nature of their colorist microaggressions against him.
And of course, since he is the darkest member of the group, his label outfits him in cornrows and “hip hop” clothing (appropriating from black bodies and aspects of black culture) to label him as “The Foreigner” of the group. The darkest member made into a walking black stereotype to represent “foreignness,” even as Ben Ben (who is lighter skinned) is actually foreign and carries Canadian citizenship? And then couple all of that with the racist reaction of fans to Kai’s cornrows on top of everything earns EXO and SM’s fuckery a spot at #10 on the list.
#9: Taeyang’s “RINGA LINGA” Video
(Image description: Taeyang wearing grills, a black sleeveless shirt, a black cap, and his hair in 4 tight yellow braids, dancing in a warehouse in front of a group of dancers in “gang” clothing with bandanas and black and white clothing on)
Taeyang is a serial cultural appropriator and this year was no different in his quest to be a nigga, or, as haegurlhae put succinctly, “a light-skinned mofo” in particular. The video was filled with scenes of Taeyang as a “gangster,” wearing grills, “thuggin” out with his background dancers, the whole nine yards, and in addition to all of the bullshit he has done in the past, earns him a #9 spot on this year’s racist kpop countdown.
#8: BTS’s Rap Monster “talking black” as his “special talent”
(Image description: BTS at Rap Monster with sunglasses on saying, “Yo. Yo what’s up. This man is Shindong at Shim Shim Ta Pa we don’t wanna talk about it, you know what?”)
(Image description: BTS at Rap Monster with sunglasses on saying, “We don’t even wanna talk about it Shindong this is radio channel we don’t wanna talk about it and we just talking about other shit”)
Earlier this year BTS went on the Korean radio show Shim Shim Ta Pa and they were asked to “display their talents.” Rap Monster volunteered last saying that his talent was “talking like a black person.” Utter fuckery ensued, and can be viewed in full here, and he sounds like a complete fool on top of everything. His “apology” after this incident was a complete joke as well, and when we consider how he has said the n-word publicly in the past, he slides into our countdown at a smooth #8.
#7: B.A.P’s “Badman Video”
(Image description: A black man in a hoodie holding up a gun)
Oh well this video just had amazing representation of black people, didn’t it? From setting up a side of wild, predominantly black rioters against a predominantly white group of riot police, to showing images of white people innocently kissing one another and being athletic and then flashing to images of a black guy shooting another one and stealing from the guy he shot… this was just… dandy. Of course in a video titled “Badman” you will set up all of the black people in your video (conveniently set in Detroit) as the wild, violent “bad” ones. Awesome. And then we have Yongguk, or “Jepp Blackman” as he goes by with his rap underground name who consistently fetishizes the African-American experience everytime he opens his mouth talking about how he “wishes he were a black person,” and then goes on to portray us as criminals. All of this easily earns them a #7 ranking on the list for this video.
#6: CL’s “Baddest Female” Video
(Image description: CL on left in a red and black plaid shirt with a black and white patterned bandana around her head. She has tattoos in shapes similar to water droplets down her arm. She is flanked by 3 men to her right, all in black and white wearing bandanas either tied around their foreheads or covering their mouths looking like “thugs”)
CL’s “Baddest Female” music video was a cluster fuck of cultural appropriation to say the least. In 4 excruciatingly long minutes and 3 seconds she managed to mock aspects of Latin@ and black gang cultures, wear grills, dress as a chola and “thug” black woman and get her hair done in the salon like a black lady too! The video made a complete joke and mockery out of the genre and people she was trying to give “homage to,” and was cringe-worthy to say the least. There is a much longer description of the problems with the video available here and with it, CL’s “Baddest Female” video slide into #6 on our racist Kpop countdown.
#5: Eat Your Kimchi (EYK)
(Image description: Simon & Martina from EYK)
If you’ve somehow been lucky enough to have no idea what EYK is, count yourself lucky. They are a white married couple who has been living in Seoul for the past 5 years and have a youtube channel that has tens of millions of views where they review kpop music and talk about aspects of Korean culture… you know, since they’re experts on Korea, even though they can’t speak a lick of Korean. They frame themselves as “not being experts” at the beginning of their videos, but then go on to give authoritative-sounding descriptions of issues from “Teenage Pregnancy,” to “Plastic Surgery” and standards of beauty in Korea. Why don’t they at least have a Korean person in their videos with them as part of the conversation when they talk about aspects of Korean culture? Isn’t that a reasonable thing to ask especially when you’re foreigners who don’t speak the language? Theirs is a subtle racism born from unchecked white & English-speaking privilege and internalized orientalist attitudes about their country of residence. Why are they even popular in the first place? Would a black couple in Korea doing the exact same work be even half as popular as they are or have nearly as many sponsors?
In 2013, despite repeated criticism, EYK continued to rate the English of Kpop singers in the videos they reviewed. All of this even as they can’t even pronounce the stars’ names properly in Korean and can barely speak any Korean after over 5 years there. Their excuses for not improving their Korean are pretty laughable and are a byproduct of their white and English-speaking privilege which doesn’t necessitate that they learn it in any meaningful way, allowing them to rest on their laurels. They also released a video this year knowingly putting on blackface and laughing about it and, in addition to a ton of other bullshit find themselves at #5 on this year’s list.
#4: Yesung of Super Junior’s Blackface Nick Fury
(Image description: Yesung of Super Junior wearing a dark brown showecap, with dark brown paint covering his face, a black eye patch over one eye and wearing all black clothing)
Any words necessary?
Credit: chulzi, houseofzero
#3: Min of miss A’s Rick Ross-Fried Chicken Debacle
(Image description: A screencap image from Min’s instagram, Rick Ross’s face is pasted on the body of Sunmi from miss A who is crawling toward a piece of fried chicken. The caption beneath it reads in English, “Rick Ross- Lacking 24 Servings”)
Min from miss A came into the racist headlines this year for posting this picture on her instagram of Rick Ross’s face pasted onto Sunmi’s body. That was all well and good… but notice the piece of fried chicken which the “Rick Ross Sunmi” is supposedly crawling toward. To add insult to injury Min captioned the photo, “Rick Ross- Lacking 24 Servings” proving all oppalogists wrong for the 1,000,000th time that their “biases” do in fact know exactly what they’re doing with their racist bullshit.
Credit: elbot74, haegurlhae
#2: Onew and Minho of SHINee’s Brownface “Macarena” performance
(Image description: Onew from SHINee with a fake beard and mustache pasted on his face, a sombrero, and an open black tunic with a large embroidered silver belt)
(Image description: Minho of SHINee in a sombrero wearing a wig of faux dreads and two black bands pasted on his face meant to form a large mustache. He is wearing all black with a shimmering black top with a shimmering golden sash and a golden armband)
(Image description: Minho of SHINee jumping up and dancing while wearing a wig of faux dreads and two black bands pasted on his face meant to form a large mustache. He is wearing all black with a shimmering black top with a shimmering golden sash and a golden armband)
Not to be left out of the racist fun for the year, Onew and Minho from SHINee performed the “Macarena” together at SMTown Week on December 21st. Filled with racist caricatures of Mexicans including fake exaggerated beards and mustaches made of black tape which were clearly fake, they shimmied away in outfits that were incredibly racist and offensive.
(Image description: a Mexican man in a black and white still from a movie. He is wearing a sombrero and has dark hair, a dark mustache, the chin strap of his sombrero comes up under his lips which are flared as he is grimmacing. He also has a bullet belt slung across his chest while wearing a light white shirt and a dark vest)
Look familiar? If not, look up back at Onew and Minho’s costumes and then back again It’s called the bandito racist caricature of Latin@s from Hollywood.
As brown-face.com explains:
The Bandito is dirty and unkempt, usually displaying an unshaven face, missing teeth, perhaps a gold tooth, and disheveled, oily hair. The face is scared and scowling to complete the easily recognizable stereotype. He is vicious, cruel, treacherous, shifty, and dishonest; psychologically he is irrational, overly emotional, and quick to resort to violence… The bandito lives on in American film as Latino drug runners, Puerto Rican toughs in New York, and East LA homeboy gang-bangers.
Great job perpetuating all of those stereotypes, guys.
They made an utter and complete mockery of Mexican people with this brownface performance, earning them a late but very much deserved spot at #2 on this list.
Credit: jaddasroots (for images as well), chulzi, houseofzero
#1: G-Dragon Oh, G-Dragon…
Where do we even begin? G-dragon has an incredibly long, damaging history of serial antiblackness and damaging cultural appropriation and this year was no different. A handful of his racist highlights from the past year:
BLACKFACE (twice in one year!)
(Image description: Kpop star G-dragon in blackface while wearing a shirt pulled over his head.)
This picture was released two weeks after the Zimmerman Verdict and was rumored to be G-dragon’s homage to Trayvon Martin. His reps later denied this but given G-dragon’s past history of blackface and the fact that he is glorifying himself in dark paint even as black people get killed for having our skin color and dark skinned Koreans get shamed every single day. It is disgusting to say the least.
(Image description: G-dragon with black face paint and white and black hair grimacing with a gold grill on his canines)
BLACKFACE IS NOT OKAY! And using blackness as a costume for yourself, even for a fictional character IS STILL WRONG.
APPROPRIATING AND COMMODIFYING BLACK BODIES
(Image description: Instagram pic of g-dragon @xxxibgdrgn in which he is donning bleach blonde cornrows)
(Image description: G-dragon in an afro with an afro pic from his video “michi GO”)
Black people get shamed, ridiculed and lose jobs and opportunities every single day for our hair. Throwing on an afro or cornrows to look “edgy” for a day completely makes light of our struggles and perpetuates the commodification and objectification of our bodies.
APPROPRIATING ASPECTS OF BLACK CULTURE
(Image description: Instagram picture from g-dragon @xxxibgdrgn, 2 figures posturing for the camera in black with golden chains and “bling” accessories)
(Image description: G-dragon in a handstand “twerking” in a tweet @diplo “sorry for the late reply bro. Couldn’t do the Harlem Shake but i’ma still express myself #expressyourself”)
(Image description: G-dragon wearing a grill)
(Image description: G-Dragon in foreground wearing a black shirt with light red embroidery on the chest and with 2 large golden chains with an eagle and the letter A enclosed in a circle on each one. He is wearing a black wig with long straight hair with bright red tips and a top hat. He is posturing for the camera looking “cool,” using his cane in a “pimp” look, outstretched toward the camera and off the screen. )
And then his “dope” “HOMIE”
(Image description: Picture of taeyang in a large baggy white jacket, big dark sunglasses and a black and white bandana tied around his head from g-dragon’s instagram @xxxibgdrgn, tagged “Today’s Special Guest Give it up for My Homie @youngbeezzy Thanz Bruh #taeyang #teydaddy #oneofakind #worldtour in Japan #fukuoka #swag #dope #juunj”)
So congratulations, G-dragon! For not one but two instances of blackface in one year, for perpetually appropriating from and commodifying black bodies and aspects of black culture and just consistently shitting on black people as you have been for a long time now. For all of that you earn the #1 spot on this year’s list.
And I will just end by saying this to all of those on the list and all of the damn oppalogists out there:
Blackface is not okay, it’s anti-black and it has a long, damning, racist history behind it. If your oppa or unnie has “black friends” (we can turn the token thing around, too) it's even worse, and there’s this little thing called the internet so please don’t pretend like there’s no way that they can’t know, especially when so many of them have been called out on this many times before. Also, don’t come at me with this bullshit about Korea not having a history of blackface so your biases “don’t know." THERE IS A LONG, DAMAGING HISTORY OF BLACKFACE IN KOREA. Don’t defend it.
Cultural appropriation is not okay. It’s capitalism in action and it’s incredibly destructive. Mocking and appropriating from black and latin@ gang culture. Using black hair and stylings (which we get shamed for, lose jobs over and even get killed over [“oh it made you look so threatening and ‘thuggish’ Had to shoot first and think later!”]) as props is not okay. My body, skin and hair color is not a costume that you can just put on when you want to “look cool.” Commodifying black bodies and aspects of black and latin@ gang and hip hop cultures, and separating them from their roots completely to a point that it mocks and just serves to perpetuate the commercialization and consumption of those cultures by other peoples… All of that is not okay. And yes, it’s “problematic.” And also, YES, it's also problematic when stars like Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry appropriate aspects of Asian cultures. BOTH ARE WRONG. Don’t defend it.
You can “like” a culture, as it’s clear that some of your stars do, while at the same time totally and completely shitting on that culture and its people. You can think that you’re giving homage and being respectful, when in actuality you’re just making a joke out of it, perpetuating destructive oppressive systems, fetishizing and glorifying a culture (e.g. black and latin@ gang cultures) that you’re not a part of and appropriating from them to look “cool” on top of that. Malign intent is not a requisite for antiblackness and malign effect. And G-Dragon and the other stars on this list may fit in this boat because sure they might mean well, but what they’re doing is actually very wrong and destructive. And the fans (particularly international ones) who defend this type of stuff just serve to enable this bullshit and prevent accountability in the kpop world as these stars continue to be blatantly racist and antiblack. Of course you can enjoy their music, but defending cultural appropriation, brownface and antiblackness is just wrong.
And on that note, I’m done, and on to praying that 2014 is at least somewhat better than the racist fuckery we endured in 2013.
A succinct way to end this year’s discussion…
(Image description: Anonymous ask: “Kpop’s eternal struggle: finding the balance between stealing from black people and shitting on them. Kpop fans eternal struggle: finding all kinds of ways to hate everything black without actually saying you hate black people. Too bad their oppar and unnies are too busy being ghetto (kpopfancodeword for black) and not innocent/pure (kpopfancodeword for Asian). It’s all just so shameful. The longer I follow kpop the more it resembles a Jerry Springer show. I can’t look at this car crash anymore.” Blackinasia response: “^All of this”)