What defines talent? Is it physical and mental strength? Is it powerful emotions? Is it charm, energy, and beauty? All of the above? Well, apparently in South Korea, it can also be defined by a certain artist’s ability to perform in a way that is “uniquely black.” Many in Korea seem to believe that because so many world renowned entertainers just happen to be black, this must mean that all black people possess a rare gene that enables their ability to sing and dance extremely well. The phrase “you sing and dance like a black person” has even become a compliment for persons who are believed to posses “above average” talent. In this clip, singer/producer JYP explains how he would love to produce music for Taeyang (proclaimed by many to be the “Asian version of American stars Chris Brown/Omarion/Usher) whom he believes can “dance really great and play with the rhythm in a way that is uniquely black”
Due to his re-emergence as a solo artist , Big Bang member Taeyang was interviewed by the Hankook Daily in early December 2009.
In the interview the reporter begins by posing a question to the audience. He/she refers to Taeyang and asks,
Is he part black by any chance? A Big Bang member, TaeYang’s solo performances often make you wonder if he has black genes. Every time I see his bulging arm muscles cut through the air, I think I can almost hear the whoosh sound. The way he quickly adjusts his baseball cap he always seems to wear at a certain angle and the disciplined manner in which he executes his powerful performances with an indifferent face – all of those things I think only a black person can pull off.
The first time I heard statements like this I was filled with different emotions. I didn’t know whether to be flattered or offended. But the more I thought about it, the more I began to question its “sweetness”. Black people are not a separate species. Black, Asian, White, Latin, Indian, we are all the same. Saying that one group may possess special talents within their DNA is just another way of separating them from yourself and your own race. If black people are born the best performers, isn’t that like labeling your own race as bad performers. Are people just setting low standards for their own country’s singers and dancers because they will never be black?
It is no secret that Kpop culture is saturated with elements of African-American culture, from the clothes, to dances, even American slang that makes no sense when sung in Korean songs has become the norm for many idols. Although the song was a huge hit and is loved by many, including myself, how corny did it sound the first time you heard Super Junior sing to their “shawty” in “Sorry Sorry”?
Though meant to be a compliment, the belief that talent and certain admirable skills can only be attributed to race in the end only dehumanizes those it was meant raise up. Talent comes from natural skill sometimes yes, but it also comes from hard work and practice.
World famous entertainers have gotten to where they are because they worked for it. Michael Jackson is not known as the King of Pop because he is black, correct? How ignorant is the belief that all Asians are good at math, or that all Chinese people know Kung Fu? Well, not all black people can sing like Whitney Houston or dance like a trained professional. These gross generalizations belong in the past. When we perpetuate even the nicest of stereotypes, we open the floodgates for more hurtful ones.
Former Korean Pop Act: The Bubble Sisters
For example, take Big Bang member Seungri‘s past belief that all African-Americans are violent thugs that carry guns
(Story)… he was talking about when Big Bang was in America. They were outside of an airport and Seungri wanted to change, so he got into a van and changed. However, the van he was in did not belong to Big Bang.When Seungri exited the van, the van’s owner yelled at him. Seungri was scared but he apologized. Later on a Korean radio show Seungri said he was happy that the man was Caucasian and not African-American; because if he had been black, Seungri would’ve probably been shot. (story once posted on nycseoultokyo blog)
or SNSD leader Taeyeon‘s remark that most black people are ugly with a few exceptions like singer/songwriter Alicia Keys.
During a radio recording…
And to make matters worst, after an Alicia Keys song was played, Taeyeon actually said this about the acclaimed RnB singer: “For a black person she’s really pretty”
In this modern era we have so many ways in which to connect to each other and learn about foreign cultures. That is why the, “We don’t know about you because we don’t see you every day on our streets” excuse has long expired. I knew nothing about Korean culture and have never lived next to a Korean person my entire life; but that doesn’t make it okay for me to go around perpetuating stereotypes about an entire race of people. I know many things about Korean culture because I did the research. I know real Korean words because I searched for them. And I am a fan of many Korean artists because their music connects to me personally as a human being, regardless of my race.
(Basking in the Sun, elavip4, crunchyroll, sment, omona they didn’t, taeyangalways, 5bluebird’s blog)