BTS are inarguably the biggest boy band in the world. With fame comes it’s merits — but so does its shadow. A closer look at what the Korean septet endures shows us what it means to be some of the biggest artists in the world.
When BTS appeared in the Grammy Award Show in 2020, a viral joke about the members bringing in the Covid-19 virus went viral with tens of thousands of retweets and likes.
This was at the beginning of the pandemic, long before the virus was found across the world. The tweet garnered attention and was consequently taken down. But for many, its sentiments were not forgotten. It was not the first racist tweet against BTS to go viral and it wouldn’t be their last either.
On February 24th, Howard Stern of SiriusXFM told his audience a staff writer of his show, Sal Governale, had made a racist comment about the members of BTS, “There’s no way these guys don’t have the coronavirus.” Howard Stern quickly called out Governale for his racist remarks.
On the 26th of February, 2021, a German Radio Host named Matthias Matuschik was caught on air engaging in racist commentary about the members of BTS. He claimed that BTS were an abbreviation for Covid-19 and hoped there would be a vaccine against them. He also hoped they would have a twenty-year vacation in North Korea.
A further statement showed that he had said such things because he was upset BTS had performed a cover of Coldplay’s, Fix You, on MTV Unplugged.
Later, a feeble apology was issued where Matuschik apologised for the way his words were taken out of context and misconstrued into something else.
In response, fans of BTS and concerned listeners alike helped come forward to trend the hashtags #Bayern3Racist and #RassismusbeiBayern3 on Twitter asking for accountability.
The racism against artists of colour is not new. The racism against rising Asian artists is not new either. It is not new to find people of influence making racist remarks, passing them under the guise of dark humour.
It is not new that when these people are called out, the blame is entirely shifted to BTS' fandom who are called rabid instead. It is not new that the disdain surrounding BTS centers around racism, xenophobia, homophobia etc. It is one thing to dislike a group or form of music — it is another to use your disdain to engage in such acts.
It is one thing to dislike a musician. It is one thing to dislike a genre of music but to risk your morals to be racist, to be cruel and be homophobic is largely unnecessary. To deflect on your words, to ignore the sentiments of millions, to rationalize the hatred you spew is something entirely different as well.
Racism under the guise of humour is still racism. There is no such thing as racist jokes but there are racist statements that come at the expense of someone’s identity. These “jokes" start off as supposed humour but with influence — it paves way for something more devastating.
In a recent interview for Reuters, RM confessed to feeling like an “alien” in the music industry. It is a lonely thing, perhaps, to be the biggest group in the world but to have few voices of support, apart from their own fans, in what they feel and experience but to have so many people want what they have.
The racism against artists of colour is not new but it does not make it any less dangerous. In a post-pandemic world, this type of prejudice holds devastating consequences.
The current xenophobia and racism against the Asian community — particularly the East Asian community — is horrifying. The Asian community has been subjugated against varying levels of prejudice from racist comments to fatal attacks. The community has been targeted and vilified for no reason but their race and wrongfully blamed for causing a global pandemic.
In a world full of fear and hatred, perhaps it is wishful thinking for expecting anything to be different than what it is. So much of what we dislike is what we don’t understand ourselves. But there is change. There is hope. There are ways we can understand. And there are ways we can help do so as well.
In an interview for Variety, BTS member Jin said as people who faced prejudice, they knew it was not something that should be condoned. “We feel that prejudice should not be tolerated; it really has no place.”
It is important now more than ever we stand in solidarity with the Asian community. In a world where there is so much we still do not understand, perhaps we can make it easier by making sure we do not tolerate such forms of abuse. It is important now more than ever we understand. It is important now more than ever we listen.
You can report hate crimes against the Asian community here.
You can donate to Hate Is A Virus here — an organization that has raised $30K for it’s BIPOC Communities.