my blackness is not a gimmick – anti-blackness on korean tv

April 20, 2017
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By Asher Primus*, AFROPUNK contributor

Being a black Korean pop was bit of a challenge when I first discover this genre in 2009. Black alternatives want to branch away from listening to rap and hip-hop just to appease our peers. I kept my love for Kpop on the low, but most people know I listen to it.

As of now, I am surprised that the fandom has grown international and even some of my black friends occasionally listen to Kpop. Korean pop tends to attract black audiences as it is something new to us as the style and videography can be mind-blowing. Most music videos are choreographed to highlight coordinated dance. The black influence is sometimes acknowledged as there is no denying that black artists like Lil Wayne, Wu-Tang Clan, Michael Jackson, Beyoncé and Rihanna cannot be copied, but at least set the template for Korean artists. At times, the black influence borderlines cultural appropriation and some artists hit the margin as to being offensive.

The SBS (a South Korean) network recently aired a blackface skit in a gag show called Laughing Legend Match. The skit features a character named Hyunbee. She is coming out to her parents that she wants to be a comedian. So, in her mind, dressing up as a stereotypical African gimmick in blackface is a good idea. She wears a Native American headdress, which underneath reveals that her hair is fashioned in cornrows with the center of her head revealing a bald spot. I guess Africans dress in cheetah prints and wear vegetables as clothes because they are born to be comedians. And if you are wondering if the live audience or even the other actors were ashamed to be a part of this then you would be wrong. The mockery of blackness was so much of a distraction that other actors could not help themselves from laughing beyond their cue.

The skit ends with tapdancing and with the carefree feeling that they have the privilege to broadcast whatever they want. From Kpop to South Korean broadcastings, the Asian community refuses to understand that blackface is not funny or acceptable. Via Facebook, I have seen white people gaslight blackface as harmless fun, since the Wayans Brothers starred in White Chicks. Come on, please cry me a river of white girls who lost their self-esteem solely based of that movie.

White Chicks and the Laughing Legend Match skit is damaging. Black girls are struggling to find their self-worth in beauty as other races of women are promoted before them. SBS is farther damaging the image of black womanhood. I do not want any women of color to harm themselves physically or mentally because of their lips, hair and blackness. Yet, when our blackness is attacked by other people of color, black people are concerned on who is truly down for the movement in ending racism and patriarchy.

It is unclear that the Korean networks are even trying to fix their problem with racism. Black fans are going to know since, black women are the face of American Kpop fandoms, especially on YouTube.

*Hello, my name is Asher Primus. I am a graduate of Augusta University with a major in Communication and a minor Women’s and Gender Studies. My passion and goal in life is to fix the gender issues in the black community. I hope that being a contributor to multiple black news outlets that my ideas will be acknowledged and put into action.