More than a year into the COVID -19 pandemic, Asians are still facing racist remarks, violent attacks, and trolling! In 2021, Asian-Americans are being attacked as multiple organizations, celebrities, activists are standing in solidarity with the Asian community and condemning the horrific attacks. Then comes the incident with global popstars BTS, known for spreading love, cheer, and positivity through their words and music, who have been on the receiving end of racist remarks.
It all began earlier this week when a fan account translated the words of a German radio host Matthias Matuschik, of the radio station Bayern3, who made racist remarks against the group after BTS’ MTV Unplugged episode aired in which they did a cover of Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’. The veteran band not only appreciated the South Korean band’s efforts, but they also posted the video links on all of their platforms. They wrote ‘아름다운’ which means ‘beautiful’ in Korean, and mentioned the initials of the band members ‘Love c, g, w & j’.
— Coldplay (@coldplay) February 24, 2021
Presenting on his show, Matuschik said, “These p*****s bragged about covering ‘Fix You’ from Coldplay. This is sacrilege! They should be sent to North Korea for the next 20 years! … You can’t accuse me of xenophobia just because of this boy band. I have a car from South Korea.”
A German radio host said, that BTS is just like an abbreviation for Covid-19 and that he hopes there will be a vaccine against BTS soon. He openly cursed at them for covering a coldplay song and said BTS deserves a 20 year vacation in North Korea for that. https://t.co/KKz9tk6b7u
— belle⁷ ???? (@mysevenwhaliens) February 25, 2021
Teen Vogue was quick to fact-check that the radio host has a Japanese car brand. Amid backlash, not only did the radio host but also the station released statements that have only gaslighted the BTS ARMY and the Asian community. Stating it as an “opinion”, the radio station’s statement said that the host was talking about BTS in “an ironic, exaggerated way and with exaggerated excitement.” Furthermore, it read, “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.”
English translation pic.twitter.com/8hmmE8fAUS
— bobae⁷ (@borahaebabies) February 26, 2021
While this was the bare minimum apology, Matthias Matuschik spoke to Buzzfeed Germany further gaslighting and stated he would have been equally mad if “German or Trans-Castanian band” had covered Coldplay song. Addressing the huge fandom of BTS as “fanatical followers of a musical cash machine”, this further gaslighted the fandom confirming that the host wasn’t apologetic of his words and the radio station was just trying to save their face.
This has once against sparked the conversation about racism against Asians, which was always prevalent but saw a huge rise amid the COVID-19 pandemic. When BTS was promoting ‘Map Of The Soul: 7’ last year before their lives came to a standstill just like everyone else’s around the world, they faced racism on Howard Stern’s show. Recalling the incident in the Weverse magazine in September 2020 after the ‘Dynamite’s’ explosion globally, Howard Stern, the host of The Howard Stern Show of the SiriusXM staple, talked about coronavirus and BTS’ visit on the show on February 21. He mentioned how their writer Sal Governale made racist remarks against the group by saying, “There’s no way those guys don’t have the coronavirus.” Howard Stern accused him of being racist and producer Gary Dell’Abate further added, “Every celebrity who walks through the SiriusXM door is traveling all over the world — not just Asians.”
Weverse Magazine is spilling some tea…..
— ✙✶????✜ (@Noiz003) September 21, 2020
There are multiple incidents when BTS members have felt alienated while facing xenophobia and racism and less acceptance. “Since we’re aliens to the music industry for America we don’t know if there’s a place for us or not. The Grammys aren’t as the Hot 100 it’s not numbers we don’t know what is going on,” – said RM, leader of the globally famous band BTS, in 2020 during an interview with Reuters. This was right after their English single ‘Dynamite’ broke multiple records and debuted at No. 1 on Billboard Hot 100 chart. But, there’s a sense of complete self-awareness about the fact that even though they are shattering records and breaking barriers globally, they are still considered outsiders as RM termed as ‘alien’ in the US music industry.
At the peak of the Black Lives Matter movement last year amid the death of George Floyd, BTS stepped up to make a donation of $1 million as BTS ARMY matched their donation for the important movement and raised $1 million in the next 24 hours! Not only did they stood with their Black fans, but also with the whole community. “When we’re abroad or in other situations, we’ve also been subjected to prejudice. We feel that prejudice should not be tolerated; it really has no place. We started to discuss what we could do to help, whether it was a donation or something else. That’s where the conversation began — just trying to see what we could do to try to alleviate this prejudice,” Jin told Variety last year. BTS was appreciated by the community for standing with them.
Since Matthias Matuschik remarks, multiple hashtags including #RacismBayern3. #RassismusBeiBayern3, #RacismIsNotAnOpinion have been trending on Twitter. BTS’ collaborators – Lauv (‘Who’, ‘Make It Right’), Halsey (‘Boy With Luv’, ‘Suga’s Interlude’), and MAX (‘Blueberry Eyes’, ‘Burn It’) have spoken up and stand in solidarity with BTS.
MAX wrote on Twitter, “BTS is one of the hardest-working and most humble groups in the industry. They deserve all the success they’ve earned. Hearing such hateful words used against them by the radio host at Bayern 3 made me sick. The hate to them and the Asian community as a whole is unacceptable.”
BTS is one of the hardest working and most humble groups in the industry. They deserve all the success they’ve earned. Hearing such hateful words used against them by the radio host at Bayern 3 made me sick. The hate to them and the Asian community as a whole is unacceptable
— MAX (@MAXMusic) February 26, 2021
“Standing by my BTS brothers and everyone continuously affected by racist remarks as hurtful as what we heard on Bayern 3. No one should have to endure this and together we must stand up and stop it,” Lauv said in his tweet.
standing by my @bts_bighit brothers and everyone continuously effected by racist remarks as hurtful as what we heard on Bayern 3. no one should have to endure this and together we must stand up and stop it
— lauv (@lauvsongs) February 26, 2021
Halsey took to her Instagram story to say, “I am horrified by the comments made by Matthias Matuschik. Racism and xenophobia cannot be thinly veiled as ‘on air humor.’ Irresponsible and disgusting statements in a time where hate speech and violent behavior towards Asian communities are skyrocketing. This is unacceptable. I hope a better apology to BTS, and the Asian communities across the world, is on its way.”
— K-Charts & Translations⁷ (@charts_k) February 26, 2021
Columbia Records, BTS’s U.S. distributor, released a statement amid the rise of anti-Asian racism in the country.
— Columbia Records (@ColumbiaRecords) February 26, 2021
Pachinko author Min Jin Lee pointed out, “A German radio presenter equating the South Korean band BTS with Covid-19, a virus which has killed 2.5M+ & devastated the lives of hundreds of millions, reflects the *age-old* anti-Asian sentiment called “yellow peril.” Anti-Asian racism is a global, historic & systemic issue.”
Anti-Asian racism is too often repressed, denied & mocked by governments, ruling class people, social elites, media & even families. The physical & psychological suffering is extraordinary, especially on the young. When we bear witness to anti-Asian racism, we reverse norms.
— Min Jin Lee (@minjinlee11) February 26, 2021
No more shrugging. No more cynicism. No more choosing silence over fear of exposure or fear of judgment. Our parents, children, brothers & sisters are getting attacked around the world. Everybody’s voice for good matters. We can make change. Every little bit matters. We matter.
— Min Jin Lee (@minjinlee11) February 26, 2021
Since the backlash, the radio station and the German host have released another set of apologies. “I am deeply saddened about the reactions my comments in my live show have caused – and first of all: I am very sorry and I would like to unreservedly apologize,” says in his statement. “In my presentation, I was primarily annoyed by the fact that the boy band BTS covered the song “Fix you” by Coldplay, which I hold in high esteem. The nationality of the seven boys should not matter – mentioning it and making the connection with a virus was completely out of line.”
“I have given this a lot of thought over the past few hours and understand and accept that my words racially offended many of you, especially the Asian community. That was never my intention, but I realize that, in the end, what matters is only how words are perceived – not how they were intended,” he added. “People who have known me for a while know that, in addition to my work as a radio DJ and cabaret artist, I have also been very active against right-wing activities and for those seeking protection since the influx of refugees in 2015. It makes me all the sadder that I have hurt others with an ill-considered statement (that was intended to be funny) and put myself in a false light. I have made a big mistake from which I will learn. I am very sorry.”
Bayern3 added in their second statement, “We apologize unreservedly for the remarks made by presenter Matthias Matuschik in his live broadcast. His choice of words to comment on BTS were unacceptable. Both he himself and we at BAYERN 3 know that it is not enough to simply intend a different meaning. If statements are perceived by many people as offensive or racist, then they were.”
Adding that he is someone who stands against racial prejudice, the statement read, “However, we feel the need to stress that Matthias’ social engagement to promote a peaceful togetherness among people (in Bavaria) is testament to his conviction that everyone must be treated equally – regardless of their nationality, culture, skin color, sexual orientation or religion. BAYERN 3 also expressly and resolutely distances itself from any form of racism, exclusion and discrimination. In the meantime, the presenter and his family receive serious threats. We ask, despite every sympathy for the indignation, that the discussion must remain on a substantive level. We will work through the issue in more detail with Matthias and the entire team and ensure that such serious mistakes will not happen again in the future.”
Will BTS respond? We don’t know yet. They have often used their platform, music, and philanthropy to speak which are louder than words. When there’s an epidemic against Asians, words like these do more damage. When one terms racist remarks as “opinion’ and ‘jokes’, they are fuelling hatred. When you are a public figure in any capacity, a lot of responsibility rides on the fact that “words matter”. BTS’ fandom has people of all races, caste, gender, and religion. They have often been a strong force to reckon with whenever unnecessary criticism and hate speech have come BTS’ way. Can you believe this all started with a song cover? It is alright to not like a certain genre, certain artists but resorting to hate speech is not only disgraceful, it should always be condemned. Racism is not an opinion!
ALSO READ: In MTV Unplugged, BTS provides glimmer of hope through sonically powerful performance
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