It is no secret that racism and xenophobia still exist even though we’re in 2021 and have evolved a lot, but sadly, some mindsets haven’t. It does not matter if you are one of the biggest boy bands in the world (read: BTS) right now; you will still be subjected to it. Hailing from South Korea, Bangtan Sonyeondan, popularly known as BTS, have come a long way, but their journey has been far from easy.
Despite having proven their worth with their outstanding achievements like being the youngest recipients of South Korea’s Order of Cultural Merit award, topping the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, holding Guinness World Records, becoming Grammy Nominated Artists, it seems like people’s “opinions” are not just critical of their music but deeply rooted in racism and xenophobia.
People on social media and public figures who exhibit xenophobia and racism toward BTS are actually indicative of a larger problem in the way people discuss and dismiss non-English-speaking musicians. A recent example of racism against BTS happened in February 2021 when a German radio show host made racist comments against BTS comparing them to the COVID-19 virus, describing them as “some crappy virus that hopefully there will be a vaccine for soon as well“.
Well, this example is just part of an insidious context that has the dual impact of trying to minimize BTS’s legacy and, at the same time, laying the groundwork for violent rhetoric and hate crimes against Asian people, which have already been rising amid Coronavirus.
While condemning the recent surge in anti-Asian violence, BTS shared their experiences of racism, saying, “We recall moments when we faced discrimination as Asians. We have endured expletives without reason and were mocked for the way we look. We were even asked why Asians spoke in English.”
So when people like Sal Governale make comments about BTS saying, “There’s no way those guys don’t have Coronavirus” on The Howard Stern Show, you can clearly see they’re being hated on because of their race and ethnicity. What’s ironic here is that Governale was describing a South Korean band whose country has immaculate screening protocols for COVID-19 while his own country is facing various difficulties in dealing with the control of the disease.
Even some of the articles written about BTS, or their album, clearly reflect internal bias on behalf of the reviewers. Nonetheless, BTS has managed to help change the face of K-pop and the world for the better. In a message to the readers of a magazine, BTS rapper Suga said, “You’ll like BTS music if you listen without prejudice.”
It is easy for racists to view Asia as a monolith and not as a continent comprising more than 50 countries and territories as they believe all East Asians are the same. So, the next time you criticize BTS or see someone else doing it, make sure it’s only constructive criticism because, my dear friend, racism and xenophobia are NOT ‘opinions’. To conclude by quoting BTS, please remember, “You, I, and we all have the right to be respected.”