Respect Must be Earned: BTS’ Journey Towards Gaining its Stripes in Black America

K-pop group BTS

By Guest Contributor: Monique Jones (@moniqueblognet)

A version of this post first appeared on Just Add Color.

When I first wrote my article about BTS coming to the American Music Awards, I was excited to see this famous K-pop group that I’d heard so much about. I was happy that they would have the chance to perform on a major international stage like the AMAs. I believed that this appearance would serve as the biggest stepping stone yet for K-pop’s eventual domination of American airwaves. As I wrote on Twitter after BTS’ performance (and after I saw the crowd whipped into a frenzy), this must have been what seeing the Beatles for the first time was like.

BTS has been on a roll since their big AMAs debut. They’ve hob-knobbed with R&B it-boy Khalid, and they have released a track featuring Desiigner and Steve Aoki,”Mic Drop”. Everything’s going well; or, it’s going well for BTS, anyways.

The rest of K-pop, however, still hasn’t really “made it” in the States. While one might speculate as to the many reasons why K-pop has failed to penetrate the American music landscape — language barriers; stereotypes about Asian performers held by music executives; general American disinterest towards international music that isn’t British or Canadian — one major reason deserves more discussion: K-pop, as a whole, has a race problem.

So, how is BTS overcoming it?

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Charlyne Yi Recounts Racist Remarks from Writer and Director David Cross

Charlyne Yi (left) and David Cross (right). (Photo credit: IMDB)

This story was updated on October 17, 2017, October 18, 2017, and October 20, 2017 with new developments. Please scroll to the bottom for updates.

Charlyne Yi — the award-winning actor, comedian, writer, and musician best known for her role as a series regular on House, her voice acting work on Steven Universe, and her starring role in Paper Heart which she also wrote — took to Twitter earlier this week to describe her first encounter with writer, director and actor David Cross.

In a series of four tweets, Yi — who is mixed race Filipinx and Korean American — describes how when she first met Cross, Cross made fun of Yi for her appearance. When she didn’t respond, Cross reportedly said: “What’s a matter? You don’t speak English?? Ching-Chong-Ching-Chong.” Cross went on to mockingly challenge Yi to a karate match.

At the time of the encounter, Cross was over forty years old, and already an established comedian, writer and TV and film actor with several stand-up comedy specials already under his belt. Yi was a veritable newcomer to the comedy and acting scene, and was only about twenty years old.

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Racist “Dirty Chinese Restaurant” Mobile Game Pulled by Developers After Community Backlash

A screen-capture from the upcoming mobile game “Dirty Chinese Restaurant” by game developers “Big-O-Tree”. (Photo credit: YouTube / Big-O-Tree)

Last week, I posted about “Dirty Chinese Restaurant”, a mobile game in development by a newcomers Big-O-Tree Games, based in Markham, Ontario, Canada. The video game’s trailers and website content suggested that the restaurant simulation game — which was planned for release in the Apple and Google mobile app stores — was a grab-bag of offensive and racist anti-Chinese stereotypes. I wrote about how I was particularly disgusted by the game’s concept as a Chinese Canadian who grew up in the same area as the game developers.

The game was the target of widespread backlash from Chinese Canadian and Chinese American activists. Chinese American elected officials even weighed in. Representative Grace Meng wrote a statement on Facebook deriding the planned game, and both she and recently re-elected New York City Councilman Peter Koo took to Twitter with further criticism. New York State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky also used Twitter to call the game “disgusting and unacceptable.” In Canada, Premier of Ontario Kathleen Wynne — who is also the leader of Canada’s Liberal Party — tweeted that the game “does not reflect the value of Markham,” and the mayor of Markham, Ontario, Frank Scarpitti, called the game “appalling”.

Now, Big-O-Tree Games has decided to pull the planned game, and has issued a formal apology to the Chinese community. They have also removed all of their hosted web content related to the game from the internet.

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Racist “Dirty Chinese Restaurant” Mobile Game Invokes Anti-Chinese Stereotypes

A screen-capture from the upcoming mobile game “Dirty Chinese Restaurant” by game developers “Big-O-Tree”. (Photo credit: YouTube / Big-O-Tree)

This post was updated on October 5, 2017. Please scroll to the bottom for updates.

A Canadian independent mobile game development company, Big-O-Tree, is in hot water this week after the Asian American community caught wind of the company’s first mobile game offering: an offensive, anti-Chinese game called “Dirty Chinese Restaurant”.

The game centers around protagonist Wong Fu, a pot-bellied immigrant from Hong Kong who is tasked with managing his brother’s new Chinese food restaurant. Judging from the game’s two trailers, game developers have taken great pains to include virtually every anti-Chinese stereotype one might be able to think of in this retro-style restaurant management mobile game. As Wong Fu, players have the option of gambling to raise money, hire undocumented immigrant workers, and pay employees exploitative wages. Workers can be motivated to work harder by invoking “sweatshop” mode. There is a mini-game where ingredients can be obtained by hunting dogs, cats, and mice, or by searching local trash bins and dumpsters. Players must bribe tax collectors, and may have their workers deported by immigration officers. An online webcomic published in association with the game suggests that protagonist Wong Fu might be an undocumented immigrant who snuck into the country on a falsified passport. Even the look of the game is offensive: characters are rendered in skin tones of bright yellow, and many restaurant patrons are inexplicably wearing coolie hats while they dine.

Food blog Grub Street noted that the game is one where “apparently no racist stereotype gets left behind.” Representative Grace Meng (D-NY 6th) took to Facebook to slam the game, saying “this game uses every negative and demeaning stereotype that I have ever come across as a Chinese American.” She urged the Asian American community to call out this shocking example of racism, and for Google, Apple, and Android to deny the game placement in their app stores.

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Reappropriate Joins 100+ AAPI Orgs in Statement of Collective Resistance Against Trump Era | #AsiansResist

Reappropriate has proudly joined over a hundred Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) organizations who have come together to sign a statement of collective resistance against the hatred, intolerance, and open discrimination normalized by the election of President Donald J. Trump.

Published in the wake of one of America’s largest coordinated street protests (which engaged AAPIs across the country), the statement rejects “racism, hate, xenophobia, and sexism”, and “details principles by which organizations will advocate, mobilize, and organize their respective constituencies together in our collective resistance and solidarity efforts.”

Reads the statement:

We stand at a critical juncture in world history. The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States represents a direct threat to millions of people’s safety and to the health of the planet. As Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) committed to equality, inclusion, and justice, we pledge to resist any efforts by President-Elect Trump’s administration to target and exploit communities, to strip people of their fundamental rights and access to essential services, and to use rhetoric and policies that divide the American people and endanger the world.

The statement of principles are listed after the jump:

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