Racism Keeps America From Embracing K-Pop Awesomeness

Picture of K-Con by Jeff Nazareno

Op-Ed: Racism Keeps America From Embracing K-Pop Awesomeness

by Jeff Nazareno | Life & Times | Jul 13, 2017

KCON was the nerdiest, most awesome thing I’ve ever attended. But even within that amazing K-Pop bubble, the reality of racism was present.

The event spilled out into the streets near the convention center, with Korean food, imported products and an outdoor stage for mini performances. In the line-up for the red carpet event, I overheard a passerby dismiss KCON as “some chinky shit.”

With so much exciting Korean culture happening, her insult was upsetting. I tried to focus on enjoying myself. I watched my favorite K-Pop artists who rarely tour in the U.S. But I couldn’t help thinking that when ignorance is present, even at an event like this, it’s little wonder those artists rarely visit the states.

I can’t imagine what the stress is like on major label acts from South Korea trying to break into America. Most of the global successes in the music industry are marketed toward white or black audiences.

It’s a sneaky way to keep races separated, hindering the success of those who are not an ideal race or of other ethnic background.

In movies and TV shows, Asian actors are rarely stars. When they do make all too rare appearances, they play second fiddle to white feature performers. This conditioning of the public keeps Asian-fronted bands and artists out of the spotlight in the United States. While KCON NY was packed, it would have sold out in South Korea or other parts of Asia. The media downplays cultures that don’t fit the American market. As a result, Asians are kept from the spotlight. That’s why KCON 2017 didn’t sell out despite showcasing mega-popular K-Pop stars.

The industry believes that if a person isn’t white or black, they won’t appeal to the majority. As a result, The masses are conditioned into thinking their favorite TV character, artist or singer needs to be white or black. Hopefully, one day this will be a thing of the past, but in this new Trump-era America, Asians and other ethnicities will have to overcome it.

As an Asian American, it’s upsetting that so many talented Asian and Asian American artists won’t make the cut. Psy wasn’t at KCON NY this year, but he is the closest South Korea’s gotten to achieving mass popularity in the West. But why? “Gangnam Style” wasn’t even a particularly good song.

Did Psy’s goofiness make it okay for the masses to get down with Korean music? If so, that is not much of a win for Asians. In fact, it’s a complete loss. It’s like when William Hung became famous in 2008 for his broken English singing on American Idol. Perhaps it was okay for it to become popular because it still adheres to dated stereotypes. These stereotypes are the reason white people are viewed as the stars in all of our media and the reason anyone in Newark had something bad to say about KCON.

The fans and all the people involved were so amped to be there, so screw all the haters.