Xenophobic BTS card faces backlash amid anti-Asian violence

By CELINE PANIS-PARDO
On March 17, 2021

Photo courtesy of Budiey, Flickr

On March 16, trading card company Topps released a set of caricatures based on the events of the 63rd annual Grammys on Twitter. However, the company experienced heavy backlash when Twitter users saw the caricature of K-pop sensation, BTS. 

The piece included the seven members looking heavily bloodied and bruised, with teeth missing, popping out of what is supposed to resemble a whack-a-mole game. However, instead of the traditional rubber mallet used to smash the mole creatures, the hand was holding a Grammy award. 

Fans were outraged, and rightfully so, at the company because not only had BTS accepted their loss very gracefully and with a positive attitude, but theirs were the only caricatures in the set that had displayed such prevalent themes of violence. 

With the alarming increase in hate crimes against members of the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, especially the recent Atlanta shootings in which six of the eight victims who were murdered were Asian women, it is no surprise that the caricature faced major retaliation.

Many Twitter users, not only BTS and KPOP fans, took to replying to the original post, calling the company out to take down the post and to issue an apology.

One Twitter user @sugatalus wrote: “caricature is funny when people are painted in an exaggerated manner for a comic effect n you somehow thought 7 asian men getting beaten up by a grammy trophy at the height of crime against asian communities, after blatantly being milked for views and snubbed, is FUNNY. let’s talk.”

The next day, Topps released a statement in which their apology seemed all but genuine.

The statement read: “We hear and understand our consumers who are upset about the portrayal of BTS in our GPK Shammy Awards product and we apologize for including it.” 

It continued to explain how they would be removing the sticker and that they would not be selling it, however, fans were still upset.

Perhaps if the statement apologized directly for including such xenophobic themes that only added to the racism being directed towards the Asian community in America right now, maybe fans would have accepted it. But because they worded it as “we apologize for including it,” instead of apologizing for making it at all, there’s no question as to why fans are still mad. 

It can be said that Topps could not have known that the day they were planning to release this set of caricatures, there would be a mass shooting targeting mostly Asians, but why does it take a mass shooting for people to accept being held accountable for supporting racist concepts and ideas?

It seems xenophobia is so deeply engraved in our system that the second anyone speaks up about a genuine microaggression or about hate speech, that they are labeled as a “snowflake,” unless there is a big act of violence in the news to make the issue “sensitive” and untouchable by non-BIPOC individuals.

One would assume that everyone learned the lesson during the BLM movement proteststhat if you are not of the community being harmed, you cannot speak over those who arebut sadly, this just proves such a way of thinking wrong.

In my opinion, it especially sickening that simply because BTS are in the public eye as performers, people think that any discrimination against them is allowed. And while the music industry is certainly one of discrimination, that does not in any way excuse blatant racism. 

I am well aware that if I speak up on social media platforms about this issue, big news outlets will cover the issue as “look, more 12-year old fangirls being crybabies because their favorite idols did not win.” The fact that the narrative has been switched from holding someone accountable to crazy pre-teens being overly sensitive, is what is the most infuriating.

Because even if that were the case, doesn’t it speak volumes about our society? That a 12-year-old is more willing to stand up for what is right than fully grown adults?

Whether it’s towards a famous group or any ordinary citizen, racism is racism, and in any circumstance is inexcusable.

 

gpanispa@ramapo.edu

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