Quick Coverage: ENGENES… A New and Surprisingly Antiblack Idol Fandom

I’ve been keeping up with what’s been going on with ENGENES (the fandom for BE:Lift’s flagship boy group Enhypen) for a hot minute. The most concise description of what is ongoing is here at @ENbackup on Twitter, the first three tweets in a thread detailing the issue with one member of the group and multiple members of the fandom on Twitter and fandom platform Weverse:

On 25th June 2021, the video [EN-CORE] ‘BORDER CARNIVAL’ MUSIC SHOW BEHIND EP.4 was released on ENHYPEN’s YouTube channel. At the 10:50 mark, a member is heard saying a racial slur. This has caused disappointment, offense and shock amongst ENHYPEN’s international fanbase.

ENGENE has demanded a statement from BELIFT, ENHYPEN’s label to clarify this situation. However, BELIFT does not have a public email address for fans to contact them in case of such situations. This neglect has forced fans to take to social media to voice their concerns.

Concequently, BELIFT continued failure to act has exposed ENGENE to harassment, slurs, death threats and violent images on all social media. Posts and hashtags demanding for the label’s actions have been suppressed on Weverse while vile racism roams on the feed unsupervised:

@ENbackup goes on to showcase several examples of extreme antiblack racism on fandom platform Weverse in that thread:fw

  • Racial slurs (the n-word with both -er and -a endings).
  • A drawn image of a lynching and a photograph of a lynching with the desire for more of those to happen to real Black people,
  • Threats of posting more lynching images,
  • And claims that Black fans don’t belong in ENGENE, aren’t “real” ENGENEs, don’t belong in fandom, or are making K-pop fandoms worse/ruining everything

The account has posted screenshots of the antiblackness across Weverse and I have documented several images myself, saving the posts via screenshot on my phone and tablet. Many of the posts – like the images of lynchings and the one post from a fan named Mahalia who told black fans to “go back to your baby mama, hood rat, gang culture, and stay away from ours” despite not being Korean herself – are deleted by the poster or were reported until the platform moderation then took them down.

When it comes to moderation, I currently cannot figure out what Weverse’s moderation polices look like. In their Terms of Service, there’s no explicit statement that bigotry will get someone removed from the site. However, members are created from creating the following content:

 (1) Content that defames the reputation of or slanders (without basis) the Company or third parties (including artists affiliated with the Company)

(2) Activities or content that are contrary to public morals such as swearing, obscene/vulgar content, or violent content

(3) Content that causes persistent fear or anxiety without basis

(4) Content related to fraudulent acts prohibited by law

(5) Content that discloses content that qualifies as a trade secret or state secret under law

(6) Content whose purpose is the commission or aiding/abetting of a crime

(7) Content that is prohibited from being posted under other relevant laws and regulations

(8) Acts prohibited under Article 7 (3) to Article 7 (5) hereunder including the act of repeatedly posting the same or similar Member Content

Technically, racist content – and content that is threatening or wishing violence on other users – should be banned from the Weverse platform as well. However, I’ve seen someone say that the post they reported with a hard -er usage of the n-word was deemed not against the Terms of Service. I would like to know how the site moderates itself and what plans they have to keep different artist hubs from being antiblack cesspools – I know information about artists gets yeeted quickly, but antiblackness about fans does not, as far as I know.

Anyway –

These ENGENES being antiblack are doing so in the name of a member – who many fans say is Heesung – who was supposedly singing along to SZA’s “Love Galore” and sang the “Skrrt, skrrt on niggas” line. Since I’ll be writing more about this and other instances of idols and rappers using the n-word in covers – as well as the Korean words 내가 and니가 (roughly pronounced “naega” and “neega” respectively) serving as phonetical replacements for it in their own songs – I won’t linger on that here.

I will say that regardless of whether Heesung used the actual n-word word or a phonetical replacement, the responses by ENGENES on Weverse and on Twitter to Black fans are absolutely out of bounds.

These are not proportional responses to conversations about antiblackness or a desire for the idol or their company to be held accountable.  It is never an acceptable response. I talked about this two years ago with Stays, Stray Kids’ fandom, when their leader Bang Chan had cornrows and the fandom went… kinda wild, where I said that:

“The response to Black people – in and out of your fandom spaces – talking about antiblackness on ANY level should never be to turn around and drop a racial slur in their inbox or tell them that that’s why they’ll never be seen as equal.”

If I say that an idol did something antiblack – or that a fandom did – the response should not be further antiblackness. I’ve written about other fandoms where I directly have been attacked for speaking about antiblackness – not idol fandoms so far. I’ve talked about how this sort of backlash is normal. However, it shouldn’t be.

Whether or not you agree with the people saying Heesung said or was intending to say the n-word, there’s literally no reason for the fandom to behave the way it has been over the past few days.

There is no reason to be calling other people slurs, declaring K-pop fandoms a space that’d be better off without Black people, or posting images of lynching or self harm or monkeys in reference to us.

If you do that, or turn your head when you see it happening, you are part of the problem. This goes beyond “fandom” to racism and real fans being hurt – not just emotionally, apparently at least one Black fan may have self harmed as a result of antiblack harassment from other ENGENES.

Fandom should be a safe space for vulnerable people.

It has never – regardless of the fandom – been that sort of safe space for Black fans. While I am having my best K-pop life over with ARMY on main, I recognize that this is a weird amount of privilege from having a locked account and from people not “pinging” me as a fan at first even though I have criticized “my” group or fandom.

What’s going on with ENHYPEN’s fandom is something that happens with other fandoms, truly.  This is a norm across fandoms, and it shouldn’t be. This is not what any fandom is supposed to be like and it does not bode well for the evolution of this fandom because ENGENE are barely a year old and this is how antiblack a chunk of the fandom chooses to be?

Yikes.

As we wait for BE:Lift and Enhypen (and Weverse) to figure out what take they will have and how they’ll handle this (if they handle it), I need to make it clear that I believe it is currently up to the fans to recognize and fix (or shut down) this antiblackness.

Why?

Because the slurs, the images of lynching, the declaration that Black fans don’t belong or are doing harm by speaking about potential antiblackness? That’s on the fandom first. Because they’re the ones doing the thing and have moved this beyond an idol using the n-word in a cover of a song semi-off camera. They moved it beyond the issue that can be fixed with a conversation and apology.

They’re the ones being antiblack as hell. They’re the ones putting an idol who has probably not seen the criticism – and who will likely not register it unless the company makes him– above the people in this fandom who are being harmed by other fans.

If you don’t want your fandom to be tarnished as an antiblack one, especially this early on, please speak up. Please report antiblackness in the fandom (on Weverse and Twitter) and protect Black ENGENES from racists in fandom turning on them for talking about whether or not Heesung said the n-word or about the very overt antiblackness from fandom.

We all keep being told that these fandoms are like families. The fact that #ProtectBlackEngenes is a necessary trending hashtag and people are getting harassed just for tweeting about the harassment they’re seeing Black ENGENES get says that’s not true.

Do better.


Note: I have not, nor do I intend to, reach(ed) out to BE:Lift or Weverse for a comment or statement over this issue. I personally rarely feel as though speaking to platforms helps an issue like this and it is difficult to reach platforms for swift responses even when I’m writing for a different, larger platform.  As I’m writing for my own website with a significantly smaller digital footprint? There’s no way either company will respond to me in a timely manner, and I don’t believe in wasting my time.

My intent with this is to highlight a frustrating continuing behavior pattern across multiple K-pop fandoms and to show these fans that they are seen even though I do not have actual solutions. (Unhelpful, I know, but short of saying “if you stop being antiblack, people won’t have to speak about antiblackness”… I do not know what I can say or do that will change things because I’m largely… an unknown.)

There is an email template if you feel those things work for you, however. Please don’t let me stop you there.

About Zeenah

Zeenah writes about comics, nerd history, and ridiculous romance novels when not working frantically on her first collection of short stories and complaining about stuff. One day, she'll settle down and write that novel.
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