This article was co-written and edited by Stella Won Phelps. Stella (she/her) is a writer, editor, and also serves as a moderator in PAAC (Progressive Asian American Christians). She’s second-gen, queerean, an elder millennial and a homeschool mom in sunny SoCal. She loves reading, making art, and connecting with the PAAC community whom she credits for teaching her to be salt and light. Her hair is rarely the same color.
If you prefer to watch and listen instead of read, here is my YouTube video discussing the same subject.
On Friday, June 26, 2020 at 6 p.m. KST (2 a.m. PDT – where I live), K-pop girl group Blackpink (YG Entertainment) released “How You Like That” as a single and M/V on YouTube. Like a lot of YouTube reactors, I immediately watched and recorded my reaction. Technically, since I am K-pop group BTS’s (Big Hit Entertainment) stan first and foremost, I recorded the BTS Japanese single and M/V of “Stay Gold,” then I did Blackpink’s.
I edited and uploaded it to YouTube, finally finishing at around 5 a.m. I then recorded some other content for my channel. I finally went to sleep for an hour or so.
When I woke up, I found out that Twitter was in flames and there was a huge fanwar going on between Blinks (Blackpink’s fandom) and Desi ARMY (the Desi contingent of BTS fandom).
What is offensive in the Blackpink “How You Like That” video?
I learned, to my incredible dismay, that in the Blackpink video, “How You Like That,” Ganesha, one of the most beloved gods in the Hindu pantheon, was used as little more than a prop and general aesthetics. Ganesha was put in a position of disrespect and treated in improper ways. In addition, Blackpink members are also depicted as dancing on an outline of Ganesha. Literally putting him beneath their feet.
I would like to make clear that I didn’t understand the imagery (in fact, I did not even notice it). I am grateful to Desi folks for speaking out against it.
I took down my reaction video because when we know better, we do better.
My video was inappropriate and added to the collective body of harm done to Desi folks. As an East Asian – and an East Asian presenting woman – I know that in the past, Desi folks have been historically marginalized within APIDA (Asian Pacific Islander and Desi American) spaces and America in general. We have erased their experience from the Asian American narrative so that for many, Asian American is only the Chinese, Korean, and Japanese experience.
I did not know anything about Ganesha other than his general image, and I certainly did not know there are specific rules in regards to how to place Ganesha in your home as well as how to treat the idol.
I appreciate the many DESI and Hindu folks on Twitter who spoke out – to much ridicule and doxxing and further disrespect by fans doubling down on behavior – about how disrespectful and hurtful the way Ganesha and their religion was treated in the video.
Absolutely nothing on earth gives anyone the right to disrespect my religion and God. Basic fkn decency ffs. Lord Ganesha on floor is offensive n if you aren’t a Hindu you do not get to tell us how we should feel about it. People are GROSS
APOLOGISE N RE-UPLOAD MV#YGapologize pic.twitter.com/PKrmUX1vxy
— Narendra Modi (@firelight6149) June 26, 2020
Why I’m soo angry is becoz This is not the first time BP did this.
Earlier also they’ve mocked the mudras of our dance and now they’re disrespecting our religion by putting Ganesha on the floor and herself sitting the throne like this. #BlackPinkApologize#YGapologize pic.twitter.com/h3CyE6cogT
— AV⁷ 💜 (@staygold_AV) June 26, 2020
These people have no rights to say something our gods if they aren’t Hindu at first before kpop your culture and god comes first these blinks do not speak if you’re not hindu#MyCultureIsNotYourAesthetic#YGApologize pic.twitter.com/F3mhBnSzzg
— Soumya⁷ 🌈🌟✨ (@SmritiSoumya) June 27, 2020
Why are Desi ARMY being attacked by Blinks?
Now, before I continue, here is some general context about Blackpink and BTS in general:
- Blackpink’s last comeback was April 4, 2019.
- According to YouTube, BTS’s last comeback M/V, “ON” debuted with 43.8 million views in the first 24 hours. It’s the 7th largest debut in YouTube history.
- Blinks really wanted to stream in a concerted effort to not only beat the record set by “ON,” but also the 24 hour streams of BTS’s Japanese single “Stay Gold” that was being released at the same time as Blackpink’s “How You Like That.”
- Blinks and ARMY have a history of fighting on Twitter.
Many Blackpink fans have been dismissive, telling the Desi BTS fans to shut up and that the only reason Desi ARMY are speaking out is because they want Blackpink to fail. They have continued to insult Ganesha, as well as insult the Hindu religion. Blinks have tried hacking the twitter accounts, doxxing people, and have gravely insulted and threatened Desi folks calling out YG Entertainment to remove the offending portions of the video and re-uploading (which would cause Blackpink to lose all the videos and streams their fans had worked hard to achieve).
In case it’s not obvious, this sort of behavior is vile.
When you injure someone, listen to them, apologize, and repair the wrong, if possible.
Doxxing, hacking, and threatening Desi folks goes beyond the normal “back-and-forth” that fandoms often engage in. This weaponizes the normal behavior of fandoms making fun of each other good-naturedly into something far more traumatizing and unacceptable.
If a part of stanning K-pop is resisting the lie of white supremacy by calling out anti-Blackness, resisting white masculinity, rooting for Asians in media, then caring for our Desi siblings must also be seen as a part of that process. So many Desi folks have shared on Twitter that they feel alone, unheard, and unseen by K-pop fans and the K-pop industry, which itself is notorious for consistent and constant cultural appropriation of Desi culture (among others).
How can folks support Desi fans?
1) Listen and include Desi folks in the conversation
The silencing and erasure of Desi folks, both in the U.S. and in many parts of Asia is a real thing. Not including Desi people in the conversation (such as using iconography from India and not including any Desi folks in the creation of the Blackpink video) while appropriating their culture is a part of colonization.
2) Give space to the anger and grief of Desi folks, amplifying their voices, and asking Blackpink to be accountable for this video
Some of the main hashtags I have seen trending are #YGApologize and #MyCultureIsNotYourAesthetic. Folks have also emailed and contacted YG Entertainment about this issue.
3) Educate yourself about Desi culture
No one expects people to know everything about everyone. However, when you are told about something you don’t know – particularly if you are wronging and harming the other person, it behooves you to educate yourself about the subject.
Ignorance is not a pass. Google exists.
For instance, I knew very little about Ganesha or the proper handling and respect of his idol. I Googled and amazingly, even in the span of 10 minutes, I learned enough to see why the Blackpink video was offensive to the 1.2 billion adherents of Hinduism (15% of the world population). In addition, many Buddhists also venerate Ganesha.
Even with my cursory Google search, I found the following educational video by Dr. Jai Madaan on how to properly place Ganesha around your home or business.
4) Shut up and listen
If you’re not Desi or Hindu – especially if you’re a white K-pop fan – you don’t get to tell Desis and Hindus how to feel about the Blackpink video.
If K-pop stans are really going to be getting a reputation for pushing back against the lie of white supremacy, then we all have to keep up the work. It’s hard to admit we’re wrong and made a mistake. But you want to know what’s harder? Living in a world and loving a group or genre constantly says through its fans, its indifference, and its actions that you, your people, your beliefs, and your pain doesn’t matter.
Let us listen to our Desi siblings, apologize, and hold one another – including the groups we stan – accountable.