Confessions of a Black K-Pop Stan: Part Two
Yes, we exist. No, we're not (all) delusional. Click here to read Part One!
I want to start this post by saying that I love being a Black woman, and I would not trade that for the world. I do not view my identity as a burden, and quite frankly I don't believe that I'd be nearly as iconic if I were anything else. That said, my lovely identity means that I can rarely (if ever) enjoy things without there being some kind of f*ckery afoot - either from other fans or from the content itself. In the case of K-Pop, I deal with both - but this post is specifically about anti-Blackness and misogynoir in K-Pop fandom spaces.
Black fans vs. The World
You would think that, since the music and artists they love so much are heavily influenced by Black cultures from across the world, K-Pop fans would at least have a modicum of respect for #TheBlacks. This is sadly not the case. Many Black K-Pop fans find themselves being spoken over or flat-out ignored during fandom discourse. When we bring up the all-too-frequent anti-Blackness perpetrated by idols, we're shouted down with "receipts" of idols donating to Black Lives Matter or screenshots of half-assed apologies and told to suck it up. Our analyses of K-Pop music and culture are often ignored or even stolen and reposted without credit. Funny how the same people who swear we don't have anything of value to contribute don't seem to have a problem with stealing our thoughts when it's convenient for them...it's truly nasty out here, friends.
"...the music's a little too #urban for me!"
As if being racist and dismissive towards Black fans wasn't bad enough, many non-Black K-Pop fans also turn their nose up at K-Pop music that they deem "too westernized," even when it's sung in Korean. It's not lost on me that most of the fans who make this critique aren't even Korean themselves. It's also not lost on me that most K-Pop artists are influenced by Black Americans specifically, who are literally from the "West."
For those of you who aren't familiar with the history of K-Pop, the idol training system was popularized in Korea by Lee Soo Man in the late 90s and is heavily influenced by the Motown system. Even with these constant influences in mind, I can think of multiple instances where allegedly "devout" fandoms paid certain songs or albums dust because the sound was too "urban" (read: BLACK). (These same fans will turn around and use the fact that they like K-Pop songs written and/or produced by Black creatives to prove that they aren't racist. Quelle surprise!)
And this isn't to say that fans should like everything their faves release, because I am all for being a critical consumer of music. But I've been around the block enough times to know a dog whistle when I hear one. As a result, some artists dilute their sounds moving forward so as not to offend the fragile senses of their non-Black fans. Racism wins yet again!
So leave, then?
After reading the previous paragraphs you may be thinking, "Why on EARTH are you even part of these fandoms then?" (Not y'all hitting me with the "go back to Africa" in big 2021!) A few reasons:
I genuinely enjoy K-Pop music and content;
If I let bigots run me out of every fandom I would *literally* have nowhere to go;
It's not all bad! There are some pockets of genuinely incredible and supportive fans in K-Pop and beyond.
I've met some truly funny, charismatic, thoughtful, dynamic people through my love of K-Pop. While I mostly keep my bubble to Black fans and other fans of color, there are truly great and creative fans all over and I enjoy being in community with them.
As always...stay woke, friends. And don't let these racist b*tches play you.