WFRLL: Antiblackness in the K-pop Industry and its Fandom Spaces (A Masterpost For My Essay Series)

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.

Main Articles

Introduction

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.

Fast and the Furious Foregrounding

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?

Cultural Appropriation in the Age of K-Pop Part One

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 in the Age of K-Pop Part Two

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.

Related Pieces

A WFRLL TIMELINE: FOREGROUNDING HIP HOP HISTORY

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!)

Fleeting Frustrations #5: K-Pop Groups’ Hood Phases

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.

Videos

Stitch Tackles TK Park’s K Pop in the Age of Cultural Appropriation

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.

Patreon-Only Content

WFRLL Antiblackness & K-Pop Log – August

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

July Process and Progress Log for WFRLL: K-Pop Fandom/Industry & Antiblackness

MP3 for Public Consumption

Relevant Twitter Threads

“Kpop isn’t for [black people]” (4/4/2019)

“kpop is purer than western rap/hip-hop” (2/25/2019)

a tweet about TK Park’s nonsense (1/29/2019)

“But Namjoon” (4/18/2019)

“But Namjoon” 2.0 (9/27/2019)

Folks getting paid rarely have the incentive to speak out about critical commentary on the thing (9/28/2019)

infantilizing idols isn’t the way to go and black hair isn’t “just” hair (5/31/2019)

Podcasts I’ve Been On

[Texty text post incoming…]

Online References

Other fans of color have talked about their experiences and fandom or in witnessing racism from idols like this thread on cultural appropriation and racism with regard to Southeast Asians.

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