Disclaimer: When I wrote this post, it was on Thursday after 1 AM in the morning. As soon as I finished the draft, BTS posted their support for Black Lives Matter and I was overjoyed. Needless to say, I had to revise my initial post but it’s well worth the effort. Please take my words with an open mind and ignore any grammatical errors! OH! And it’s lengthy.
There was (and still is) a faction of the KPop fandom that was urging their favorite idols (especially BTS) to voice Black Lives Matter (BLM). Some fans are going as far as saying that idols should specifically donate money towards the cause or that they should protest.
On the other hand, other pop fans were condemning the idea. They were saying that supporting Black Lives Matter or voicing an opinion on police brutality is not a native South Korean’s issue. When presented with the fact that idols such as Jae from Day6, Mark from GOT7, Samuel, CL, Eric Nam, Tiffany from SNSD and Big Matthew from KARD had already spoken up on their respective social media platforms (some of whom had donated to BLM) these same fans made exceptions. Why? Because they’re American and are probably seen as outspoken by nature.
It’s unfair to minimize how the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other black men and women affect people of color (POC) around the world. People who have experienced hatred because of the color of their skin reside in South Korea and other countries. The trauma doesn’t just disappear should their experiences with racism decrease. Millions of POC learn to live with that trauma and it nags on their mental and physical health. This is why a simple extension of love, the alliance with the BLM movement is important. Reassure POC (Yes, the BLM Movement doesn’t segregate!) that their lives matter and personally love them as they are.
But, speaking directly on BLM and the KPop fandom, it’s still important an idol speaks out and extends love during this time. Think about it. The KPop world is based on engagement. Idols build a loving relationship with their fans by going live on Vlive, YouTube and Instagram, posting directly to fans on social media and responding to comments, naming their fandom a cute pet name, designing special merchandise, shouting 사랑해 (I love you) to fans at concerts, plus hella more forms of engagement that I’m most likely overlooking.
I’d be amiss if I didn’t say this right now: KPOP IS BASED ON BLACK CULTURE! Say all you want, but black culture created most of the trends you see in The US. I’ve seen high-end fashion brands repackage bold earrings with a name stamp as couture. KPop idols study popular R&B, soul, hip-hop, and rap artists. Have you watched BTS’ American Hustle Life? Suga and RM don’t play when talking about NAS. RM can fully explain the origin of hip-hop. CL speaks about how black culture influenced her music career in her BLM post. Crush even says he’s inspired by black culture on Instagram. KPop is based on black culture! South Korean artists can’t ignore this fact or avoid being held accountable for using black culture. So when South Korean artists not only benefit from The US entertainment industry but also from black culture, they should feel motivated to speak up during this time of unrest.
In return, KPop fans reciprocate with TONS. OF. CASH! Merch and concert tickets, all sold out in minutes. What about fans’ obsessive voting during the award season? There are literally fan-run social media accounts dedicated to strategizing a win for their faves. KPop fans also give their favorite idols free promotion. They’ll talk to anyone, friends, family, coworkers, strangers about their bias. The relationship with KPop fans and their idols are close where lyrics are taken to heart and sometimes the fan’s life centers around their favorite groups. In the case of BTS, ARMY and myself frequently say that BTS helped to “love myself.” So the idol x Kpop fan relationship is a HUGE deal.
Knowing how much idols affect their lives (engagement, time, and mental and physical health), it’s disappointing that some KPop fans don’t want to hear their “oppa,” speak on global issues such as racism, police brutality, and political and judicial corruption. Kpop idols, especially BTS (who has since aligned themselves with BLM), an almost household name in The US, should be able to address humanity issues to make a positive difference in the lives of their fans (not just make their pockets lighter). As I said in a previous post, BTS built their platform by speaking up about various social causes. RM even collaborated with Wale on the single “Change.” There’s definitely a need for idols to give their stance on real-world problems.
Here’s another elephant in the room: the KPop industry sucks at handling difficult public relations! Most times, entertainment companies rely on being silent about any details and choose to issue a blanket statement about whatever minor or major scandal that occurred. To avoid anything upsetting to the public (and I mean an-ny-thiiiing), most idols adhere to a strict, meticulously planned engagement schedule where they are to do and say things in a way fans and the public can look upon favorably. Frankly, this bothers the hell out of me because the glamorization and oppression of idol personalities work against their mental health and overall wellbeing (plus, if they’re trash, let them reveal themselves as such). Fans are doing the same deceitful thing! They are using silence as if speaking up for BLM will detrimentally upset some ficticiously delicate balance somewhere, whereby they are negatively impacting their own mutuals and justifying racism.
Certain KPop fans go as far as to defend silence on Black Lives Matter by not only differentiating the movement as an American issue, but by conveniently ignoring how this same issue could still personally affect them should they leave their mostly homogenous nation, should they face the very global issue of police corruption. Further, a KPop fan’s silence on the matter leaves room for scrutiny. If no one knows where someone stands on the value of a black and brown person’s life and racism in general, the assumption is that they can’t be trusted.
Silence also means fear. What could these fans be afraid of? Speaking out can’t be worse than people dying. It can’t be worse than the anxiety and depression black people have for being hated It can’t be worse than 400 years of economical oppression. It can’t be worse than the fear to visit other countries and receive the same racism proliferated by post-slavery nations. Their hesitancy to leave their comfort zone is indicative of their privilege. They know that they’re safer in silence although the rest of us aren’t safe by birth. Justifying silence recognizes that they DON’T HAVE to change, which perpetuates racism.
Let’s not forget that black and brown people have experienced the heartbreak of believing someone supported them until a race issue comes up and suddenly POC are inferior. Prime example: The 2016 Elections. How many POC lost who they believed to be friends, family, ALLIES all because these particular people insisted on voting for Trump? POC want to trust (another thing the KPop fan x idol relationship supposedly establishes) their idol and know that their idol indeed values their life. Being uncertain of this is a BIG PILL people are being indirectly told to swallow!
I don’t agree that idols should fly to the closest protest. That’s unreasonable. I don’t believe they should go ham and join an activist group either. I just believe that no one should be hesitant to show love and if idols truly love us, simply show it. There is a list of idols who have publisized Black Lives Matter along with the artists already highlighted in this post, and they didn’t go above and beyond a statement or a receipt of their donations. The point is, they could see Black Lives Matters as a humanity issue and how it affects their fans. They are acknowledging that their fans are hurting, that they need the same love given in VLives, and that there is a legitimate terror POC face. Will another black person be pulled over and killed by police? Will another black person be harassed for the color of their skin? Will another black person be killed exercising in their own neighborhood or while feeding people at their own restaurant? What about latinx people like Sean Monterrosa (But, Kpop wants to use Spanish language and culture in their music too)?
Whoever is out there on social media saying racism ain’t as bad or ain’t that bad (I’ve seen posts but I ain’t linking them!) need to quit. Not only are they acknowledging racism and that it’s a real problem (PERIODT!), it’s demeaning to call a group of people’s trauma “not bad,” like a tummy ache or a paper cut. Put the shoe on the other foot. Can it really be said it’s okay to make light of pain from personal experience? Can it really be said that it’s good be blatantly made to feel invisible as a person in an ENTIRE COUNTRY? If no, then that’s fuckin oppression. It ain’t good and that’s what BLM stands against.
The world is speaking and it’s not unreasonable a lot of KPop fans want to hear from heir idols too. In addition to the really complicated relationship that KPop fans and idols share, fans are looking for confirmation of the trust and love idols extend during various engagements. It doesn’t matter if the artist doesn’t typically speak on social issues. It doesn’t matter that they’re not American or based in The US. It just makes sense to show allegiance to your fans and make clear that they matter; their safety, their ability to live fully, it all without a doubt matters. AND! How else will a fan who maybe wants to speak up feel encouraged to do so if their idols aren’t? There’s so much good in a simple post of #BlackLivesMatter that it’s truly abhorreous to do nothing.
Do you feel the same way, that idols should continue to speak up? Maybe, you didn’t agree until an idol posted the BLM hashtag? Who was that idol and what did they say that convinced you otherwise? Let’s have this discussion in the comments.
Until then, don’t forget to like this post and follow Transformation ATTACK!
Stay Fighting! 💜