Commentary

#StopAsianHate: ‘We have
endured expletives’

Racism spares no one, not Filipinos, not even the bulletproof BTS

Art by New York City-based multidisciplinary artist Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya is from an upcoming Art Display Case exhibition done in partnership with the NYC Department of Transportation's Temporary Art Program. Amanda has an 'I Still Believe in Our City' public awareness campaign developed with the NYC Commission on Human Rights 'to combat anti-Asian discrimination, harassment, and bias as a result of COVID-19.' It was launched with the support of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs.

No amount of talent, fame, success, and adulation of fans can protect one from people’s hate, ignorance and bigotry.

You could be the South Korean superstars BTS and still, you could be subjected to racism all because you look different, you speak a language that is not English, and most of all, you threaten the majority’s supremacy as you become a global force.

Of course, we know that RM, Jin, Suga, j-hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook, are not oblivious to the racial prejudice against them. But it still hits you hard when they tell you about it themselves in an honest, poignant yet powerful statement calling for the end of the wave of Asian hate in the United States that has already claimed lives. They’re adding their voice—with its global drawing power—to the growing calls to #stopAsianHate.

Racism has troubled society for as long as we can remember and there’s even an endless debate on who can and cannot be racist. But what is certain is that one must not act superior over another based on the color of one’s skin.

The BTS statement, released on Tuesday, March 30, is powerful in its brevity, and revealed that BTS (Bangtan Sonyeondan or bulletproof boyscouts)—the biggest band in the world—was not bulletproof when it came to racial discrimination.

“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,” BTS said.

Words that pierced our hearts because we cannot imagine these seven wonderful human beings having to go through this. Many of us are familiar with the pain because we have experienced this ourselves. Another person of color laughed at me for mispronouncing a word—an episode I remember to this day no matter that it happened more than 20 years ago in America.

A few days ago, a Filipino woman in New York City was kicked and beaten up for no reason. Earlier this year, a Filipino man’s face was slashed as he rode the NYC subway.

I worry now for the younger ones and how the hate and intolerance will scar them for life.

This is why BTS’ statement is important because they spoke not only for themselves or fellow Koreans, but for everyone, including us Filipinos. This is how they use their global voice to try and make this world a better place.

Written in Hangeul with an English translation, it was posted on the band’s official Twitter account. English-speaking Korean ARMY (as BTS’ fans are collectively known) noted that the original Korean statement was actually more heart-wrenching.

KOR: “We heard expletives/insults while walking on the street”

ENG: “We have endured expletives without reason”

And while the English statement said “anger”, the Korean word they used was more intense: 분노 (bun no) or “rage”.

It is appalling that they are still attacked for their carefully worded and empathetic message.  There’s really no end to the narrow-mindedness, insensitivity and stupidity of the privileged lot.

Armys like @omermeroz spot the continuing abhorrent racist behavior under an article by CBSNews about BTS’ statement. (Here is the original CBSNews tweet.)

 

 

American singer-songwriter Finneas apologized a full year after retweeting a post that referenced BTS with the coronavirus, still without acknowledging that the original tweet was racially insensitive. His tweet came after BTS released their #StopAsianHate statement.

You do wonder what kind of people inhabit this world. When the pandemic began last year, I thought people would be more compassionate and nicer to each other. How naïve of me—to think I’ve been a journalist for two decades.

‘Let’s have strength while looking at the sky’

What makes the attacks on BTS more upsetting for fans is the fact that the band always goes the extra mile to bring comfort and joy to others through their music, their variety show, their social media posts, in any way that they can.

Hours after BTS released their statement, and most likely after knowing ARMY’s heartache, RM posted another comforting message on Weverse: “I’m doing my best going through each day when I’m feeling uneasy, I think about how you must also be living on with the same heart, under the same sky. Let’s have strength while looking at the sky. I’m just happy we are together!”

Not a few ARMY will say that BTS’ music, laughter, and inspiring messages have literally saved their lives. Yet, the septet is mocked for wearing make-up, for their choreography, for speaking in Korean to communicate, as if English were the only language that global superstars must use.

The absurdity does not even end there. There have been times when so-called fans have become too self-entitled, demanding when and where the band should use their voice and platform to support advocacies, demanding that they apologize for alleged transgressions.

In all these, BTS have always taken the high road. They are polite even in interviews where media are condescending. They are never confrontational even after they were called a “virus by a German radio show host who was “upset” with the band’s cover of a song he liked.  They always give their best performances even when they know that entities are only after their clout.

BTS even find ways to calm down ARMY when they see us furious on Twitter and ready to fight when the band is maligned and disrespected.

The septet has their own polished kind of clapback and really, I find pure joy whenever they make use of it. “Pitik” (to snap with your fingers or give a light push) as Filipinos say in the colloquial. BTS is classy in that way.

The boys have always been honest about their personal struggles and their journey towards healing. But this time, the hurt is inflicted on them and you can feel the ache as they opened up about the racial discrimination that they have had to endure all these years.

But the strength, courage, and maturity are also evident in their statement. They are young, accomplished artists who are aware of their influence, their reach, and the power of their platform. BTS is responsible in that way.

Their words and actions always leave you with something to think about, a lesson, an inspiration to all, young and old.  Aside from their outstanding music and artistry, BTS’ legacy to the world is how to be authentic and good people. Hopefully, we’ll all find the time to take a look at ourselves, too, and think if we have been good to others lately.

It will be a long, arduous path towards the equality and respect that we all seek. Change will not happen overnight.

As we wait for better days, there’s a BTS song that I am sure will keep on playing in our heads and our hearts. In October 2016, BTS released “2! 3!” as part of their Wings album. It is their first official “fan song”. It talked about how BTS and ARMY endured hardships together, getting strength from one another. Today, we hold each other’s hand tighter.

(Lyrics and translation by https://doolsetbangtan.wordpress.com/2018/06/01/two-three/)

Excerpt: 2!3! ‘…..Let’s walk only along the flower path….I can’t say such words….Let’s see only the good things…. One two three, I hope everything changes once I say it for a better day because we’re together….’

About author

Articles

Nikko Dizon is a journalist in hiatus, specializing in security and political issues for two decades until the pandemic changed her life plans almost overnight. She now works in the fintech industry, happily discovering what an exciting world it is. But nothing will match her fascination with the Korean Wave in general and in particular, South Korean mega-group, BTS, and actor Ji Chang Wook.
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