Jay Park, as we all know, is the former Kpop boy band member turned CEO. He currently heads up labels AOMG and H1GHR Music, the latter featuring artists from his his hometown of Seattle, Washington. Yesterday, one his H1GHR Music artists, Avatar Darko, a white man originally from Estonia, responded to what I can only imagine is long time criticism about his choice to wear dreadlocks, on Instagram.
Jay Park chose to step in and respond on Instagram with this comment:
And rightfully so, he was met with criticism from Twitter and Instagram, particularly for his comparison of non-Korean people listening to Korean music and Avatar Darko wearing dreads.
Hip Hop and Rap music is Black music. It, like many other popular genres of music such as R&B and Rock & Roll, have their roots firmly in the black community. Kpop music, whether you want to admit it or not, is a repackaging of Hip Hop music. For Black people, when we pay to go to the concerts of Korean artists and to buy their music, we are paying Korean artists to sell us back our things. It’s barely a fair exchange, but the people in that “exchange” who are getting the short end of the stick are not Black people. Avatar Darko is a white man, his wearing his hair in dreadlocks are not the same as a black man or boy wearing them. For him, their edgy and an aesthetic. We have seen black children be kicked out of school because on them it’s messy, we’ve seen black people be told they look unprofessional because on them it’s unkempt, we saw a black boy have his hair haphazardly chopped off in front of a gymnasium of people because they were deemed a distraction and inappropriate, and then had his tears be reimagined as tears of pride by white people on the internet, we’ve seen a black man be gunned down by a police officer in front of his girlfriend and her child because on him they are a threat.
Coupled with his rapping, wearing the baggy pants, and the fake pimp walk (I saw H1GHR Music in concert and that’s all he was doing on stage), his dreads are nothing but a part of his performance of a stereotype about what he and many people think blackness is. In short, CULTURAL APPROPRIATION. Here’s the thing what we are looking for is at the very least, when confronted with his privilege there is acknowledgement and accountability. If you choose to do all these things you either need to be ready for the rightful criticism with accountability or stand up in what you’re doing and your resolve to not giving a fuck, instead of positioning yourself as a victim of “bullying.”
After Jay Park took the issue to Twitter a fan responded with some information for the rapper about why Avatar Darko’s dreads are a problem, and his response was to feed into the victimization of Darko, and yet again made a comparison to liking and listening to Asian music.
One of the things that Jay Park said in defense of Avatar Darko’s dreads was that he has the most diversity around him of anyone in the Korea music industry, no doubt referencing the fact that he has black artists signed to his labels, basically an “I have black friends” moment. The fact that he does work with the black artist is what makes Jay Park’s deep dive into Hip Hop, Rap and R&B music one of Cultural Exchange rather than Appropriation however he undermines this by using that fact as a way to absolve himself of criticism. You’re either working with these people because you want to have diversity and make sure to credit those who made this platform you have or you’re doing it to have them as your shield from critique.
He is correct in saying he has been probably the most vocal Korean artists about issues that affect the black community, particularly police brutality, with Instagram posts and retweets of support, which is why this incident is confusing for me. It is important for me, a person who tries to be as aware as possible of all the ways oppression manifests itself in the world, not only for me as a black woman, but for people outside of my community so that I may be an effective ally, to know who else is using the power they have to contribute to dismantling these systems of oppression. I personally don’t want and don’t believe the black community (or any community) needs people who are not equip to be activist to try to be that, but I personally prefer to give my time and money to people who are trying to support and not be an obstacle. I have always felt good about supporting Jay Park and his music because he seemed to get it and was showing support as an ally in the best way he could, that is until this incident.
After going at it with fans for a while on Twitter he finally decided to apologize. However, it was fail and a flop from the very first word, “If.”
There is no “if.” There is no question that you offended and disappointed Black people, you’re making this tweet because you are fully aware that you have done that. “I can see where a lot of ppl would be offended,” brings me back to that “if.” If you can see what it is that black people have an issue with, why is there a question about whether you did something offensive? “Stop playing tho. yall know JAY PARK LOVE’S YALL. I’m sorry I fucked up.” This last sentence is so condescending and dismissive, and is honestly a waste of the character space you could have used to detail what you’re actually apologizing for. Jay Park, you was tweeting threads to defended the problematic behaviour, but barely devoted a full tweet to apologizing for something that clearly was hurtful.
This situation is all too familiar for Jay Park, and it’s disappointing to see he hasn’t really grown from the first time. The fact that H1GHR Music even exists is because of this very same type of incident. Jay Park made a statement that was offensive to Korean people and as was ousted from his group and his label, despite apologizing and even left the country for a while. Here in the 2019 Jay Park, you made a comment that was offensive to Black people and were being afforded a discussion, and having Black people actually detail all the ways what you said was offensive to them, something they absolutely do not have to do, so that you may apologize and change your behaviour for the better, but instead, you is insisted on framing yourself as a victim, someone being made to look bad:
Jay Park, rule number one of being an ally is to Shut Up (& Listen). And you did the exact opposite of that. At the end of the day you are an Asian man making the decision to die on the hill of defending a white man and his problematic behaviour and it does not make sense to me. You and your career are very much steeped in black culture and you are currently using that as a vehicle to challenge the limitations placed on the Asian community in the United States because of stereotypes. If you want to continue to do that with the support of the community that created the genre of music your career is built on, you need to stop jumping to the defense of problematic behaviour and start listening to the grievances, and looking internally at how you have been problematic, and then changing the behaviour, and in cases like this one, encourage the people you know like, Avatar Darko, to do the same. However, I’m willing to bet that the reason you tried so desperately to convince black people that Avatar Darko is the victim and just simply a lover of black things, is that you know you’ve done what he’s doing and you want to us to make yourself feel better about it instead of just having some accountability.
Not sorry, that isn’t going to happen. No matter how many black people on the internet or around you give you a pass on something that you do or have done, it will never change the fact that what it is, is problematic. And you can either acknowledge and change your behaviour or stand up in it and continue to be problematic, but that means we as a community can respond and react however we want because we are the actual victims.