Whatever kind of face
Here is a detailed explanation of what happened.
I wasn’t going to write about this, but I’ve been reading a lot of discussion in response to the incident, and I just wanted to get into some of the points that have been coming up repeatedly.
Point 1: I don’t understand why this is offensive because I wasn’t taught about this in school, and you can’t expect everyone to know about why this is offensive because Blackface is an American thing.
Blackface does its roots in the US. It has (hopefully) been ingrained into the American consciousness that painting yourself to look Black (or Asian, or Native American, or Hispanic) is offensive.
But, just because this is a unique to American history doesn’t mean that anyone outside of America or anyone who does not know American history should be exempt from understanding why this is offensive.
The very fact that someone has the luxury of painting some makeup on his/her face in order to be a person of another race, and then gets to perform/entertain/amuse an audience, and then has the luxury to take that face color off means that it is a thing of privilege, appropriation, and disregard for another person’s condition.
Someone else’s race and identity can be used at your disposal without you having to suffer any of the real consequences that are associated with having that skin color. That is not okay. Understanding this does not require a nuanced understanding of American history. These offenses exist independently of the circumstances that gave rise to them, so saying that you’re not aware of how something is offensive because you were never taught about it in school does not fly.
Point 2: Blackface in Korea is very different than Blackface in America.
Yes in that Blackface was not established in Korea, but no it really does just mean the same thing at the end of the day. People are trying to entertain using someone else’s race as the joke. Those in charge of the MBC show were trying to use Blackface in order to create a fake watermelon commercial, and Kikwang’s character was, from what I can tell, a woman wearing gold hoop earrings.
These symbols don’t appear out of thin air, so I am completely positive they are aware that these images will let audiences know that they are indeed talking about a black person, if, you know, the Blackface wasn’t clear enough.
Point 3: Korea is completely homogeneous, they don’t have the kind of interaction with diverse groups of people that other countries may have.
This is no excuse for the racist humor. Granted, a lot of American media, culture, propaganda was exported to Korea as a result of American occupation back in the day, and a lot of this persists and has transformed the way Korean pop operates in the present. But there is still the issue of what Korea consciously picks and chooses to constitute their social ideology.
In the example of beauty, white beauty is pretty much a norm in Korea (and elsewhere). Black beauty is not.
And then now back into Kpop culture. Kpop is pretty selective about how much “Black” is acceptable. “Black music” is loved. Black people are completely mistreated and viewed negatively. Black choreographers are okay. Certain Black people of Honor — Beyonce, Jay Z, Neyo, Michael Jackson — are treated with adoration. But when it comes down to it, Black culture is still viewed as a separate entity from mainstream culture, or else Black wouldn’t be used as a modifier.
Part of this is because there is not enough interaction with non-Koreans in Korea, but part of it is also because there is still not a collective activeness to try to understand non-Korean, non-white culture. I can maybe excuse the older generations for this kind of thinking, but what about all the younger people? Korea is wired as fuck, Korean netizens know how to do epic things on the internet, but yet somehow, all this racist thinking against Blacks and other non-Asian, non-white minorities still persists. So there is definitely more to just “not having the opportunity to interact with foreigners” reasoning.
Point 4: It was done for comic relief and was not meant to insult Black people. You’re reading too much into it; just take things at face value.
This is my favorite excuse of all time.
“It was supposed to be funny, not insulting.” “The intent was not meant to offend, you’re just taking it the wrong way.”
I’m a big fan of humor, but these excuses are just too vapid. I AM aware that this was meant to be funny, but at what cost? At whose expense? I understand racial humor, I also laugh at Asian jokes. But the bigger problem with a lot of racist jokes is that often these jokes harp on very real events that took place in the past and caused physical and mental harm to those who suffered because of their skin color and it is just unbelievably insensitive to use it as a mere joke. When someone does this, they’re taking someone’s history and picking and choosing what they want out of it. The person who gets to play around with Blackface is certainly not Black and did not suffer any of the derogatory remarks, threats, or misjudgments that others have had to. This would be like if someone took the very real sufferings of the Korean War — separated from family, starving to death, prostitution — and made that into a joke at the expense of Koreans. That’s just not fucking funny even if the intent was to be! There IS a difference between satire and humor, but let’s not even think for a second that a variety show on MBC is trying to attempt satire.
Point 5: Kikwang shouldn’t be the one to shoulder the blame on this one.
This is probably the only point that I agree with. Unlike past situations in Kpop — Taeyeon and Seungri’s ignorant remarks for example — this was not an opinion that Kikwang voiced himself. Does he believe in the inferiority of blacks? Maybe. But I don’t think it’s fair to pin responsibility on him because this is a scripted skit for a variety program.
I don’t really understand it when people say, “But he could have refused to do it or voiced how this is wrong.” If all these entertainment company lawsuits are any indication on what goes behind the scenes when idols are at play, you know that this is not how things operate. One, as a budding Korean teen idol, does not voice dislike or disapproval about something that is supposed to add to his fame in the entertainment world. Those who decided on this skit are probably 1) older than he is, 2) more senior than he is. Even if Kikwang did get a chance to voice his dislike, his sunbaes probably laughed at him in the face, gave him a playful slap, and then told him to STFU and do what the script asked for.
I’m not trying to excuse Kikwang or justify his actions in the skit, but I think this is a very different circumstance than Taeyeon or Seungri blabbering on the radio sharing what they believed to be funny little anecdotes about Black people and their supposed worth or relevance to society. Like I said, maybe Kikwang does believe that Black people are stupid, loud, and eat watermelon, but in this particular situation I don’t think it’s apt to pin blame of the Blackface incident on him.