BTS Is Once Again The Target Of Anti-Asian Hate Speech

Photo: John Shearer/Getty Images for The Recording Academy.
A year into the global pandemic, Asian people and Asian-Americans are still targets of discriminatory violence and racist remarks — in fact, the number of incidents is only growing. BTS, the most popular band in the world, who happen to be Korean, have increasingly been on the receiving end of such hate speech.
Last February, Radio personality Howard Stern and his listeners called out one of his staff members Salvatore “Sal” Governale, who had gone on a xenophobic rant in an earlier episode claiming that he had thought the band and their staff had COVID-19 when they were visiting SiriusXM’s New York headquarters.
The Stern told Governale, “I got so many emails about what an idiot you are for avoiding a Korean boy band.” One commenter labeled Governale, as well as another staffer who claimed to be "avoiding Chinese food," as “fucking old, racist pieces of shit" and “misinformed.”
Stern added: “I’m super paranoid about diseases and germs, but you came off as racist.”
In the United States, many have been calling attention to the recent spike in attacks on Asian-Americans. Some of the violence has been attributed to the baseless conspiracy theories that Chinese people are responsible for the pandemic. But the hate speech and hate crimes certainly haven't just occurred within American borders.
German radio station Bayern3 issued an apology after one of its hosts, Matthias Matuschik, received heavy criticism and backlash for his racist comments about BTS' appearance on MTV Unplugged. Matuschik linked the band to the coronavirus, and even made the disgusting suggestion that the group be eradicated with a vaccine.
He attempted to defend himself by saying, “I have nothing against South Korea, you can’t accuse me of xenophobia only because this boyband is from South Korea... I have a car from South Korea. I have the coolest car around." (His car is Japanese.) He ended by suggesting that because he didn't like their cover of Coldplay's "Fix You," the septet deserved to
"[vacation] in North Korea for the next 20 years.”
Only after fans had called Matuschik out, igniting trending hashtags against the show in both German and English, did Bayern3 release a statement. In its "sorry if you were offended" apology, the station attempted to make the argument that Matuschik's hate speech was "an opinion," presented in "an ironic, exaggerated way and with exaggerated excitement." They belittled the reaction to the racist incident further by saying that they "hurt the feelings" of BTS fans.
You can be pretty sure that BTS will not acknowledge this, just as they haven't addressed the many other incidents like it in the past. It's clear that many who ignite BTS-related controversy are simply looking for attention, and the septet aren't ones to fall victim to such desperate ploys.
“But he — and he has assured us of this — in no way intended this," Bayern3 continued. "He just wanted to express his displeasure over the aforementioned cover version. [...] That does not change the fact that many of you found his statements to be hurtful or racist. We apologize for this in every way possible."
Matuschik then attempted to gaslight the public with a non-apology on February 25, telling Buzzfeed Germany he would have been gotten similarly angry if a “German or Trans-Castanian band” had covered the Coldplay song. He then called BTS fans “fanatical followers of a musical cash machine" and effectively suggested he was sorry he got caught.
Unfortunately, BTS are no strangers to xenophobia — much of their rise in global popularity has come with a fair share of racist and ignorant remarks from both the media and the public. But as many have pointed out, we've seen firsthand that these words aren't empty — they have real-world consequences.
"These people think that they can just use BTS as the butt of a joke, that it doesn't have any real world repercussions. Racism against Asians is on the rise and every time a white person chooses to make such a joke they make it worse," wrote a fan on Twitter.
"Anti-Asian racism is a global, historic & systemic issue," wrote Pachinko author Min Jin Lee on Twitter. "Anti-Asian jokes are messages. Anti-Asian racism has real repercussions on Asians everywhere. There are over 4.5 billion Asians in the world, 60% of the world’s population. Many Asians lack real political & economic freedoms & resources. These racist messages are dangerous."
Thankfully, BTS' own messages — those they have long been admired and beloved for in their music, and that are even, ahem, Grammy-nominated — are much louder and more powerful than those of the band's hateful critics.

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