This is a masterpost for the project I’ve been working on since April 2019 about antiblackness in the K-pop industry as well as the fandom spaces it spawns. This masterpost is in progress, but I’ll slowly be moving things here so that everything is in an easy-to-find space.
Because anti-blackness is so ubiquitous across so many different spaces and how often it shows up in situations where Black people aren’t actually present or involved, I am not surprised at anti-blackness being present out of the blue – to me at least.
I am really not surprised at how antiblackness shows up in the K-pop fandom – because antiblackness is everywhere in fandom spaces.
There’s more cultural exchange than ever in this last decade of K-pop.
As the industry moves to do more shows and events outside of Korea and comes in contact with fans from across the world, we’re seeing more opportunities for culture in conversation where idol groups and independent artists are in engaged in conversations with Black artists.
But in the case of Black Americans, these cultures have been in conversation for a long time and it’s important to talk about the complex relationships that background this genre.
It’s also important to talk about the complex feelings that black people have with their cultures and with how our cultures are exported and adoptd by non-Black people who don’t quite seem ready to acknowledge that we’re people and not stickers to slap on top of non-Black celebrities and randos alike.
If we can’t talk about that, what are we really doing in this fandom?
Many people who are not educated about the conversations that Black fans and non-Black folks against antiblackness are having about Korean hip-hop/pop, cultural appropriation, and the perception or performance of Blackness… have decided that they’re experts on the subject.
They don’t know the history of Black culture being chopped up and passed around to other cultures or how the portrayal of Black people and culture has historically led to our further disenfranchisement. They don’t know how people in their own country – regardless of whether that’s South Korea or Croatia – actually treat Black people.
Many of them, like Park, have no idea how power imbalances and privilege actually work.
Cultural appropriation is not a conversation between cultures. It’s not sharing. It’s not an equal cultural exchange.
Turning someone’s culture into a costume actually stops the cultural exchange from happening because now, the people whose culture is being appropriated have to deal with dismissal and dehumanization from the folks doing the appropriating and their fans/supporters.
They have to deal with the fact that they don’t have access to the culture of the people appropriating theirs and that their humanity frequently comes under fire by the people putting on their culture.
They have to deal with the fact that at the end of the day, not only are they not respected as arbiters of how their own culture can be shared or how it should be presented, they’re generally… called selfish for trying to have that small bit of control over a very slippery conversation.
Note: This timeline is an attempt on my and Jaeyoung’s parts to show a trajectory and some major moments for hip-hop that potentially put these cultures into conversation.
As a result, timeline does not cover every single event that happened across Black and Korean hip hop history. Otherwise, it’d be book-length and I would be a hot mess from having to wade through my sources even longer.
(Please let me know if you need or want a PDF copy of this timeline and source post!)
BTS hit the ground running as a faux-hood group. Their whole thing was like… setting them up as this socially conscious street gang. Everything about their look in 2013 was this manufactured look that showed what K-pop stylists and folks in the industry viewed as a path to proper hip hop.
Their look, their style, and their sound was pretty much what happens when you take an approach to hip-hop that sees Blackness and Black people as commodities to be transplanted onto and consumed by non-Black people.
It was a whole ass mess that somehow did nothing to stop the group from rapidly gaining popularity first in South Korea and then worldwide.
Koreans in/out of the US wanting desperately to be Black or to put on/perform Blackness and CHOOSING to adopt (poorly done btw) AAVE is not a sign of Black USian privilege.
BET/Black rappers in record books/a single MCU movie about Black people?
All ALSO NOT Black US privilege
Diaspora wars are annoying enough when launched between Black people from different places –
I sure as shit refuse to entertain diaspora wars/oppression olympics shit from non-Black folks mad that their own/idols’ hood phases aren’t well received by Black people.
“If you’re gonna talk about appropriation and start that conversation for other groups/idols, I feel like you should keep that same energy for your own favorite groups because at least you want your favorite group to get better at things. That’s what I thought, at least.”
For some reason, this didn’t upload, but if you’re in a fandom and lots of black people express discomfort with the fandom or the source media/performers to the point of leaving the fandom or no longer wanting to participate in it: they are not the problem here, I promise.
Since I have a big ole bone to pick about how Blackness is performed by non-black people who are antiblack as hell but think we’re oppressing them –
I recorded myself going over [an absolute moomoo’s] thread.MP3 Version of the Rudeness
Relevant Twitter Threads
Podcasts I’ve Been On
I was kind of a little shit across this episode and kind of uh… far from kind at parts, but I’m grateful to the NYAN folks for allowing me room to be rude and to unpack my problems with all of this nonsense. I loved the experience of chatting with them and I felt like I was free to talk amongst friends – hence my Little Shit moments across the live show and this episode.
When Aaliyah Welton was 12 years old, she started listening to a K-pop band. Their performances were a mix of slick choreography and heart-bursting lyrics – all dressed up with sparkles and lights. A middle schooler from Mississippi, she had never seen anything like it before. It felt like she was discovering a whole new world.
Aaliyah soon became involved in a circle of “stans”, committed fans who dedicated most – if not all – of their spare time to supporting and promoting the group
I have learned that idols are images or representations of gods used as an object of worship. I have learned that humans cannot be idols. Humans can just be humans. I have learned that strangers: artists and celebrities from around the world, cannot be friends. I have learned that the prefix “para” means resembling. It means apart. It means near. It means abnormal. And perhaps normalizing that the assumptions and beliefs and views I hold as a not rich, not famous, black person were also held by very rich, very famous, men in Korea was abnormal after all. Maybe expecting reciprocity (integral, mandatory, required in any friendship) from people I did not, do not, will never know, was abnormal. Maybe investing my happiness in people that like the Wizard of Oz, were just men behind smoke and mirrors and screens and money, was abnormal. Or maybe nothing that harsh. Maybe it was just a lesson I had to learn about them, about fandom, about stanning, about myself.