I love BTS. Ever since I read an article about their time spent learning about the history of hip hop, I’ve been all for them. And holy shit, can they dance <3
And during the pandemic, with the police violence and murders of black folx, BTS and its studio, Big Hit, donated $1 million to BLM. ARMY (BTS fans) also made their move, and matched the $1 million donation in one day. ONE DAY!
I loved BTS’s explanation for their reasons for donating:
“When we’re abroad or in other situations, we’ve also been subjected to the prejudice. We feel that prejudice should not be tolerated; it really has no place.”
“Ours are initiatives that any person who wishes to live in a just world would want to pursue. We aren’t trying to send out some grandiose message…it’s about us being against racism and violence.”
These quotes are important, because I believe that it gets to the heart of anti-racism work, and specifically, the fight against anti-black racism. At the heart of their message, it is about connection and empathy.
BTS recognizes that they experience racism, and the negative impact it has on them. And through personal experience, they are able to understand and empathize with the racism experienced by the black community.
Situational Privilege, Situational Oppression
As Asians living in the “West,” we are stereotyped as “Model Minorities,” which tries to gaslight us into believing that we don’t experience racism. But if we can’t and don’t want to acknowledge the racism we experience, then it makes it hard for us to empathize and connect with other racialized communities that also experience racism.
But once we push through the fake narratives of the Model Minority Myth, we realize there are a lot of similarities between the Asian immigrant experiences, and the experiences of black communities.
Hasan Minhaj discusses this, in this video, the importance of solidarity, and connecting through our shared experiences of racism and oppression. He also talks about the need to simultaneously acknowledge both our privilege and our oppression, and how our experiences are situational.
While Asians are not targeted by police violence, COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that the legacy of “yellow peril” and “perpetual foreigner” stereotype lives on. And it will be brought back up whenever white supremacy sees fit.
And during moments of “privilege,” we should never forget that, at a drop of a hat, Asians can and will be the target of racism.
So as part of our work, us Asians need to stay vigilant in identifying our experiences of racism, and the impact it has on us. Because part of the racism we experience is our minds being gaslit into believing we don’t experience racism.
By understanding this, it will help us to connect and empathize with black folx and black communities. And as we move forward, building real relationships with people outside of our own communities to understand our shared and differing experiences of our world.
Don't Let Fear Paralyze Our Learning
When artists create, there is always a level of vulnerability. What artists create is, on at least some level, a reflection of themselves. And when mistakes are made, that vulnerability makes it that much more scary.
One great thing about BTS is their evolution through owning their mistakes to create better music. BTS has had their own moments of anti-blackness and insensitivities. And they learn from these experiences, apologizes, and learns from their mistakes.
But of course, things aren’t perfect. As in any large groups of people, there are varying thoughts, knowledge, and values. And BTS ARMY is not exempt from anti-black racism. BTS has taken the lead in exemplifying the courage to learn. It takes SOOO much courage, because they have to do this VERY publicly, through the vulnerable process of art. And if they can do that, then we can too.
I recommend reading the book, “My Grandmother’s Hands.” It is a book discussing racialized trauma of black communities. For the non-black readers, this book is equipped with exercises to help us understand our anti-black bias/racism. It does this through a mental health lens, to help us understand our implicit bodily responses.
Quick Word of Caution
When we think of people as “Asian” and “Black,” it makes it really easy to start stereotyping people. But as we know, there isn’t a unified “Asian experience” in our diasporic community. And we all have experienced anti-Asian racism differently. Similarly, different black individuals will have experienced racism differently.
A great way (and FUN way!) to avoid stereotyping is to get to know people’s lives. Not just to get to know their “black identity.” Our racial identity is one part of a much larger whole. So explore your friendships. Get to know people. And maybe you'll find some ARMY friends from all colour lines that is also super committed to racial justice!
As always, thanks for tuning in. If you found this helpful, share with your peeps. You can also get my free Asian Survival Guide.
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Therapy for Asians
MSW, RSW | he/him
I help Asians go from feeling trapped to becoming self-liberated.