Speaking broadly, it’s been a bad week to be a “black” K-pop fan: their space on Facebook, one of the largest K-pop groups, “Black Kpop Fans” or “BKF”, imploded on itself after one too many controversies, Wendy of Red Velvet decided that stereotyping black men and women was a fun thing to do, and finally news of Nick Cannon, a black man, producing a K-pop inspired show kicked a “hornets nest” in the global K-pop fandom. Not immediately apparent, is that these events are all connected.
In the midst of all these, 2NE1’s “I’m the best” was censored on an American radio station over its use of a Korean word “nae-ga” (means, ‘I am’) that could be misconstrued as the N-word. And then Zico of Block B dropped a video that portrayed him as a stereotypical “black” rapper, with gold teeth and twerking girls, while tossing a homophobic slur, as well as spotting the confederate flag as an accessory.
“IN MEMORY OF BKF”
It wasn’t the first time the admins had threatened to shutdown BFK. So, when Wendy’s actions on Korean radio sparked controversy that led to an uproar, the arguments got so toxic on BKF, that the admins moved in swiftly, and shut down the group. The last time the admins threatened to shutdown the group, there was a subsequent debate, and the members put a stop to it. This time around, no one came to the defense of the group.
BKF was open to fans of all races. Latino Americans were regular contributors on the group, Korean-American industry insiders, and aspiring artists were also active on the group.
For all its demerits the group should have been kept alive, if none other than to highlight the problems within the black community, especially among teenage girls and how they respond to race, body image, self-identity and expression. Solutions can only be found when problems are identified.
Also, during previous controversies, older members often stepped in to correct the bad behavior, as older siblings ought to do. Ultimately, the decision to shut it down was shortsighted, and the admins moved too quickly. BKF and the admins had actually recently received favorable press in a popular news website, giving it a level of legitimacy that is now lost.
2NE1: “If they saying ni**er, we aint doing this”
A popular K-pop website published a video of a girl in Boston complaining about 2NE1’s “I’m the best,” being censored by a Boston radio station. The young lady was upset that the Korean word “Nae-ga” that proliferates the chorus had been muted, and in her ears detracted from the song. It turns out that “Nae-ga” sounds a lot like the N-word. To underscore this, the first time 2NE1’s former band leader, Divinity Roxx , an African-American, heard the same song back in 2012, the first thing she asked was “What’re they saying!?…. If they saying “ni**er, we aint doing this!”
The title of the article in the popular K-pop website was “2NE1’s ‘I Am the Best’ gets censored on US radio station,” and generated some of the following comments.
This is so dumb.
Sure, naega sounds like “nigga,” but “nigga,” is simply slang that is generally used by black people, not a bad word.
Which prompted the response:
I understand that to some black people it may not be offensive, but to others it is. I sincerely hope you can come to understand why it is not just a harmless word but rather a racial slur used to degrade black people. No rudeness intended
Others commented as follows:
that is straight up dumb. if they’re offended they should google the lyrics and double check it. smh, and i thought america would be understanding esp with its diversity. i mean like its obviously a different language.
Oh please people go around saying that word to their friends as a joke anyways, and how can you ban a word from another language lol it’s not their fault in America the meaning of …
The comments where overwhelmingly in favor of not censoring the words, regardless of the similarity and historical context.
The popular K-pop website referred to earlier, would later publish on the same day as the 2NE1 article, Wendy’s story with the headline “International Netizens criticize Red Velvet’s Wendy for her impression of white and black people”
The uproar created by Wendy’s immature behavior reached far and wide. It went viral when a black news website Bossip broke the story, an item included in the popular K-pop website’s article.
The subsequent comments from K-pop fans on the popular K-pop website went to this effect:
That is not racist at all She is just stereotyping.
Which is an odd assessment, given that stereotypes originate from the “otherness” of prejudice.
Others tried to spread the blame, evenly across cultures
I believe almost everyone has made a racist joke or has been in a conversation about racist joke, which are stereotypes.. and when we do that it’s not like we meant it.. so I believe Wendy didn’t mean it too as well.. and probably since she just debuted, she isn’t used to take care of what she says in the public yet..
Its not racism. Even though it is a little offensive but still its just a stereotype and its not like people dont stereotype asians.
And in response another commenter:
Yeah but when people stereotype Asians, we get upset don’t we? How is it okay to tell Blacks to not be upset when they’re stereotyped? It’s double standards, and it’s gross. Wendy wasn’t being funny. There were a million other things she could have done to be funny, but this shouldn’t have been one of them.
Seriously!? It’s not a double standard because both sides take the same consequences. No one is telling African Americans to not be upset but rather try to view this in a amusing way. You know, watching a small Asian chick being stupid. Asians have been made fun for a long time by the western community and we’ve told them to shut up and go back to their countries. I mean we have viral videos of this all over the web. So use the term correctly please.
This controversy raged on for another two days, completely eclipsing that from 2NE1’s censoring, becoming one of the popular posts on the popular K-pop website, including the most popular for the week.
Zico released his music video on the 7th of November at midnight, and the popular kpop website ran with this headline shortly after noon “International Netizens, Find Zico’s ‘Tough Cookie’ MV offensive For Its Use of Confederate Flag and Derogaroty Term.” Once again, for the third time in the week the lines were quickly drawn and the exchange commenced as usual:
… he looks like a try hard acting tough doing offensive things. If he didn’t knew what he was doing then the ignorance is apalling making him look like a tool. Understand that what he did is disrespectful to lot of people and you can’t expect people to like him or not say something about it.
Wow… Overreacting. There was MUCH worse that I’ve seen from a lot of underground rappers, but Zico? He’s the last rapper I’d think of when I think of racism or someone that uses bad terms.
And, the debate also returned to nae-ga versus ni**a
geez, dont complain about kpop saying the word ‘naega’ anyone can say it as many times they want and its not even offensive bc it doesnt even an english word so deal with it!!! pronounced as ‘naega’ ok? not ‘nigga’ and the flag not only he wears dat
By now, the BKF Facebook group was officially terminated.
It’s important to recognize that by this point, three times (3 x) global kpop fans had had to come to the defence of their beloved idols because of sensitivities associated with black people. Three times already, the global K-pop fandom had been on the defensive, with “black” K-pop fans claiming the moral high-ground.
NICK CANNON IN THE CROSSHAIRS
A few hours after the Zico story, the popular Kpop website published the Nick Cannon story with the headline “Nick Cannon to Co-Produce Upcoming Nickelodean show about K-pop, ‘The Drop’.”
The response was swift. The rejection of the idea by the global kpop community was emphatic, accompanied by a vociferous, “no!” From England to South Africa, Kpop fans went on the offensive, and came up with reasons that were all over the place on why the project should be killed.
PLEASE CANCEL THE SHOW, Kpop might be taken as a joke judging plus it is a tween show it would be so cringe-worthy. Just no I won’t let YG,SM,Cube, JYP, Woolim, etc be portrayed like this on such a dumb channel. NoNoNo I won’t let this happen, can someone please stop THIS.
some how i dont like the idea. i want kpop things like this to be among us kpop fans. i dont want other people having a wrong impression or any impression that might reflect on us. i hope this never happens!
NOOOOO NONNO NO!!! Seriously?? NICKELODEON? Isn’t that some kiddie channel? Wtf! He’s going to ruin kpop! Ugh seriously nick…
As an aside, why did the story suddenly surface? Many fans had already known of the existence of the show. Some even auditioned for it. The casting call had been done in August, 2014, and a press release had been put out two days prior, on November 5th. A discussion based on the press release appeared at midnight of November 6, on a K-pop Facebook group page known as “East Coast Kpop Outlet” or “Ecko.” The discussion was largely supportive of the idea and Nick Cannon, and received it all quite well.
Another post would later surface at 9 PM on November 7th on “Ecko,” after the popular K-pop website published their article,” but this time the discussion was poisonous against the idea and Nick Cannon.
The reasoning behind the unified opposition, initially was incoherent and at times downright bizarre. They ranged from Nick Cannon not being a successful entertainer, to Nickelodeon being the wrong outlet for kpop. A commenter went so far as to say Kpop was not meant for kids?!
Other Asian-content online media like Asian Junkie and Beyond Hallyu quickly jumped on the band wagon, criticizing the show for it’s lack of depth in content. On the other hand, Kpop outlets like SeoulBeats had a more measured posting, and the corresponding discussion was constructive.
It wasn’t until a petition surfaced online, with a seemingly coherent argument that the opposition to Nick Cannon unified behind the reasoning put up in it.
Beyond the merits or demerits of the petition, which at times sounds self-serving and other times conceited, the indication that Nick Cannon somehow is taking advantage of K-pop’s growing popularity is wrong, and comes off grossly ignorant of K-pop’s history in America.
Nick Cannon was involved with JYP and The Wonder Girls as far back as 2011. He produced a movie with them at that time, for the same Nickelodeon. The project was completed and released, although it didn’t receive critical acclaim.
The accusations and arguments against Nick Cannon are without merit. And, that’s where the petitioner loses all credibility. Nick Cannon’s contribution and commitment to K-pop is well established. During Wonder Girls last foray into the American music scene with “Like Money,” Nick Cannon personally joined them during interviews to give them credibility.
In one of the “Ecko” discussions one of the commenters noted…
its about spreading it in the correct context i think. ANTM and the bachelor are respectable shows. the same cant really be said for nickelodeon and nick cannon
ANTM or “America’s Next Top Model,” and the Bachelor will all showcase K-pop talent.
That Nick Cannon and Nickelodeon, a kids channel should be described in words more suitable for say, Hugh Hefner and the Playboy Channel underscores that something more was at play, and the asymmetrical reactions from fans needed parsing. And, that many fans in opposition to the show kept going back to Nae-ga and Ni**er, suggests this all came down to the sensitivities surrounding race.
It is gonna get so much hate from everyone. Non-kpop fans will
notbash it because they say why is “Neega/Niga” used. (FYI: “Neega” or “니가” can be translated to “you’re”) Kpop fans will hate it because it will not be accurate or call it making fun of kpop.
All through this debacle, BKF was now defunct, and as a result members of the black K-pop community could not gather at a central location to discuss the show’s merits or demerits. Thereby possibly refine their arguments, which when presented to the larger K-pop community would not have let Nick Cannon get smeared, because other fans where afraid of what they didn’t understand or were downright seeking vendetta for the smearing of 2NE1, Wendy and Zico. In the end, the general consensus across all of global kpop fandom by the next day was that the show was a bad idea. As of publication the “misguided” petition was less than 500 signatories away from completion.
Note there is a part 2 and part 3. In part 2, we look at the global context and take it beyond the walls of Kpop. In Part 3, we bring it locally to New York (things are gonna get uncomfortable 😉 Depending on if any post-petition activity needs to be addressed, or if they are requested for – we may not release them just yet.