K-Pop Stans Are The Black Lives Matter Allies Making A Difference
The world has come together in solidarity as Black Lives Matter protests against widespread racism and the police killings of Black Americans sweep across the globe.
As a civil rights movement led largely by a generation who are rooted in online culture, social media and hashtags have become an important accessory to the protests aimed at amplifying the voices of the black community. Beginning with #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd, the hashtags grew to include #BlackOutTuesday – wherein thousands of people posted a plain black square this past Tuesday in support of a social media ‘blackout’ campaign - and most importantly #BlackLivesMatter. Amongst the support, however, racism on social media is still prevalent.
When racist tags such as #whitelifematters, then #whiteoutwednesday and finally #AllLivesMatter flooded Twitter this week, the K-Pop fandom – fans of BTS, Blackpink, Loona, SHINee, Monsta X, GOT7 and more- took over steadily derailing the conversation, blotting out the tags and making them useless, by spamming with fan-edited videos, memes and images of their favourite K-pop artists.
It’s not just hashtags the fandom has taken over ; on May 31st when the Dallas Police Department posted a tweet inviting citizens to download iWatch Dallas, an app that could be used to upload videos and photos in order to report “illegal activity from the protests.” A user named @belispeek responded with a fancam of South Korean idol, Taemin.
Soon enough, the K-pop fandom had mobilized the app with videos upon videos of K-pop stars engaged in elaborate choreography. The result? The app shut down temporarily. Though it did eventually go back online, its one-star rating means it’s not likely many people will see it on their app store searches again. On June 1st, a similar app being used by the Grand Rapids Police Department caught the attention of the stans and the next day the app was gone.
The sprawling fanbase of the incredibly popular music genre have often gotten a reputation for being immature and defensive. While this might be true in some cases, this time the K-Pop community have proven that they are much more than enthusiastic music-lovers - they are organized, savvy and have the ability to come together to make things happen.
It is not unusual for K-pop stans to engage on unrelated tags and viral tweets to bring more exposure to the artists they love but this time it was more purposeful. It was an act of support to the Black Lives Matter protesters and a protest itself from a fandom who have had to witness widespread xenophobia towards the artists they support, and towards themselves as well. Despite their righteous motive, naysayers have remained. For example, The Dallas Morning News referred to the fandom’s action against iWatch Dallas as a “mass prank,” but if you know anything about the K-Pop fandom you will understand that nothing about what they do is ever unserious.
As a global community that relies on social media and publicity, K-Pop stans work with absolute dedication for even an album or music video. Quickfire mobilization and ferocious participation are the cornerstones of the fandom in every circumstance, so how would it be any different when the issue at hand is so serious and so close to their hearts?
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A brief look into the history of K-pop reveal deep-rooted links of the genre with black art as well as social commentary. For example, Seo Taiji and Boys, the group considered the pioneers of modern K-Pop, leaned heavily on hip-hop songs which confronted societal ills. While most people think of K-Pop as a recently developed genre, and don’t bother looking beyond the veil of catchy music, graceful choreography and manufactured personalities, the truth of the matter is that Korean pop is an insightful, intelligent part of the music industry which roots itself in activism and perceptiveness.
Whether PSY’s critique of wealth and class divide on ‘Gangnam Style’ or BTS’ consistent socially conscious messages on tracks such as ‘N.O’, ‘Am I Wrong’ , ‘Silver Spoon’ etc, K-Pop pushes boundaries even while staying in their specific genre of viral dance moves and colourful music videos. In addition to the musical connection of the genre with New Jack Swing, a style of pop music invented by Black Americans in the ‘80s and ‘90s – which reached its peak with Janet Jackson’s ‘Control’- the global reach of K-Pop means that its fandom has been exposed exceedingly to various systems of injustice rampant in different parts of the world. Thus, while their approach might be tongue-in-cheek, it is by no means frivolous.
The takeover of racist tags by the K-Pop fandom - a community often ignored or criticised for their age or gender - is a uniquely proactive form of activism that is not only an effective way to protest against racial inequality but also heart-warming gesture of solidarity.
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Words: Malvika Padin
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