Kai, we love you. Please read this message. Black KPop stans this is for you too.

*Upon reading the entire thread*

Pisces: Mmmk now I need to send a letter today, this week, last year, when Wolf first dropped. My stomach dropped earlier before I read this & I felt nauseous. Now I know why.

Aqua: This seriously hurt my heart. I need to watch the video. I need to see it for myself. Also, it’s sad that we have to rely on translations from others who aren’t exactly vetted. I need to learn the language.

Pisces: Same.

Aqua: He’s about to get a lot of backlash now. At 1st we defended him because we thought it was the stylist’s decision but now… We have to say something and there are no excuses that are acceptable.

Pisces: No one should excuse it. If he is looking for our responses, then he is willing to hear what we have to say. Just needs to be good avenue to reach him. He watched the reaction videos. So he wants to know what aeris think. The fact that he keeps mentioning his hair shows that he knows it may potentially upset ppl like the first time. I will hold him accountable as I do everyone else.

Aqua: The Wolf era hairstyle ppl just didn’t like it. He needs to hear the REAL reason why ppl are upset

Pisces: Yes he does. He is willing to hear it

Aqua: Another thing I wonder about is what are they watching and reading? Something about the backlash other idols have gotten about this should pop up.

At least this time he had the name of the hairstyle right…

If you’ve been dutifully streaming the MV you know exactly where this discussion for Woke Wednesday is headed.

It won’t be easy but it needs to be said.

When the first teaser dropped for KoKoBop on July 17th, our hearts sank.

“Why oh why!” cried a small band of EXOLs on Twitter who had seen it all before. Yet again we have Kai dressed as a “foreigner” wearing “reggae braids” (its dreadlocks y’all.)

If the word foreigner has you scratching your head please refer to Exhibits A, B, C, & D which were catalogued in 2013 in the album XOXO. They can be found in the Afterschool section and are shown below:

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IMG_4705

IMG_4707

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And just one more…..

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Clearly from the insertion of the American flag apparent in many shots including other members, the football helmet, the bandanas, and the way the clothing is assembled, the concept team for XOXO was to have EXO appear as a typical high school group of South Korean boys who are kinda trendy edgy like American boys because CORNROWS! It’s so badass right? Wolves and a gangster image are synonymous right?

Nah.

Cultural Appropriation isn’t the cry of a POC who is firmly against globalization of their culture. If anything POC especially black people are used to seeing caricatures of themselves portrayed in many cultures throughout the world. Our lives and our culture that are influenced by the lives we have lived throughout history have become so plastic. What’s most concerning is that the Korean Entertainment and KPop industry borrows so heavily from Black Popular Culture, Black music, Black stereotypes, and Black images but still can’t seem to understand why “Blackface” is a big fat no-no.

This is what stings so bad about cultural appropriation. You can vibe to our music but you can’t feel us. You don’t seem to understand.

That was the case during XOXO era. For whatever reason, cornrows was the hairstyle chosen for Kai by the stylists. Actually let’s not be so vague when the title “Foreigner” is so lightheartedly placed just to the side.

As if we could so happy-go-luckily in full stan mode ignore what was and still is so blatantly wrong about this.

Since their inception as a group in 2012, Kai has been the focal point of EXO. Kai’s teasers have been the first to debut for many albums since their debut.

The degree of darkness of his (and former member Tao as well) skin tone was perhaps acknowledged in a way by his members during EXO Showtime’s introductory episode in November of 2013 as playful “no harm meant, no harm done,” tone called attention to an age old issue felt by Black and darker skinned KPop stans within their respective countries.

When you have a darker skin tone than some of the individuals around you, it becomes a talking point. Something that is nitpicked though clearly and oddly admired as you often hear when people talk about Kai. “Tanned” “Sunkissed” “Golden” “Is he really from South Korea?!?”

Its all very loving and sweet but in reality being trendy edgy cool only works for those that aren’t actually Black.

And again that’s the sting. When people outside of Black culture want to “be” us it’s a hairstyle, or an artistic genre, or a specific word, or a new dance step or whatever else that gives you that certified “you’re invited to the cookout? Yea you’re down!” card to this exclusive party that everyone seems to know about except for us.

The dates of the prior occurrences of SM Entertainment and their stylist team blatantly styling Kai in their perception of a “foreigner” are noted to attest the importance of addressing this issue that keeps presenting itself. That this hasn’t happened just once and seems to be a pattern.

Recently it was revealed by EXOLs who have already purchased and unwrapped their albums that within EXO’s newest album “The War” there are journal entries penned by each member.

In Kai’s journal post we saw this…

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Which is absolutely disappointing and a complete 360 from what we heard in the past. That Kai didn’t like the cornrows he was made to wear by stylists. That he wasn’t sure how to maintain them and so he hadn’t washed his hair for a little while. That was said on camera.

Why all of a sudden is Kai choosing to wear the dreadlocks himself?

Because.

Reggae.

You may not hear it yet but here we go, using “reggae” as an explanation for why you would force your hair into a style that you’ll quickly untwist, comb through and wash out after the CB is done is tragically wrong.

Jamaican people (of which Admin Pisces claims ancestry)  are not the caricature people blatantly try to ascribe to us. Have any of you looked into the meaning of dreads…? What’s the cultural practice of the hairstyle?

And sadly, hoping for some support from the fandom was suprisingly a false hope.

KPop incorporates so many genres and styles. It has so many influences outside of traditional South Korean culture but KPop continues to participate in the same demeaning game played just as carelessly in the West.

As stated before, we came ready to defend Kai once again. We took to our personal social media accounts on Twitter and wrote full essays about why and how could SM’s stylists do Kai dirty again only to hear this.

Immediately those within the general KPop Stan community jumped on bewildered EXOLs upon seeing the journal entry of a group member of a group they don’t stan, obviously feeling a sense of deserved pride and teeming with satisfaction that EXO could be done in by this.

Claiming that “well lookie lookie here! Looks like your fav is JUST as if not MORE problematic than mine! Hahahaha!!!!!!!”

Which is shameful because obviously to us but not so obvious to them, they don’t care about the issue. They care about destroying EXO.

There is such a lack of understanding of how alienating this can be. Woke or not. Conscious or not. South Korea, Global Entertainment World, the movement is happening. The greater community will not continue toallow such blatant carictures no matter how “common, normal” of a trope in Kpop all of this appears to be.

And it makes these 2 Black KPop stans wonder what the purpose is of participating in the global music industry really means to the KPop industry. There have been all too frequent incidents of caricaturing, or imitating obvious stereotypes of blackness within the industry. Or even bringing KPop idols and Black American entertainers together for the sake of collaborations that sometimes really don’t click. Y’all didn’t watch MAMAs 2016 huh?

Focusing on EXO in particular, some of your Admins’ greatest thrill is seeing who EXO has collaborated with in the production of their album and lo and behold there are quite a few people within the Black music community whom EXO has worked with. Now whether they’ve met them in person, or got to have conversation about the music being created is…not clear of course. Perhaps that’s just our own wishful thinking (Pisces in particular) showing up.

But in meeting and working with Black people in the music industry and not just seeing people through a screen who are glammed up to fit that role, one can only hope that EXO, and their concept team could see that you can participate in the music genres of the world and do it authentically without wearing that culture like it’s a costume.

Many will cite that there are various cultures around the world that have worn dreadlocks. We have heard it all.

“It’s just a hairstyle.”

“It’s just fashion…”

And you know what? The first time SM’s concept team pulled Kai’s locks into  cornrows it wasn’t even just a hairstyle then. Kai was purposefully styled as the sunkissed “Foreigner” emulating “gangster” vibes with his baggy clothes and a bandana. Don’t forget the American flag and football helmet, y’all.

And it’s no different this time as EXO takes on the new genre of reggae and fuses it’s instrumental elements with EDM as many pop stars across the globe are also doing.

Let’s return to what Kai said…

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“When it comes to fashion, I do enjoy trying new things. So I did ask for this hair style….”

Full stop.

One cannot fault Kai entirely nor can anyone excuse Kai entirely.

The perceptions of blackness are still plastic to many invidiuals throughout the world. Plastic meaning you can buy it without experiencing it. What has been Old World, and constant pain for Black people in not only the USA but throughout the world is the loud disdain of Black skin but the bandwagon approach of assimilating to what it “means to be Black.” Few realize that they aren’t coming close to anything but an image created for the screen. They just think it’s cool, hip, or something “different.”

But who actually looks into the history of Black people of the world? Who really looks into White Supremacy and the oppression of Black people? Who really looks at the timeline of colonization and when Black people splintered off and were reformed to create this new Black culture of which everyone seems to be so fond of? Who really looks into how this cultural phenomenon of Black people setting the trends began and why people continue to appropriate surface culture without understanding why it’s there in the first place?

It hurts that it’s too much for many to understand or sympathize with.

We have been living this history since colonization and yet people are still unaware.

Within the KPop community, a whisper of cultural appropriation gets gnashing of keys and snappy comments like “NO ONE OWNS A HAIRSTYLE!”

But if Black people cannot own their lives, their bodies, much less a hairstyle then what the hell is the purpose? To sit quietly nodding our head like “yea you definitely “get me” when you wear your hair like that, when you talk like I do, and when you take my culture out of context???”

What we see in KoKoBop is not quite close enough to be deemed a pure cultural exchange. It could have been if it remained being focused on the music.

Yes it’s that simple.

You can create reggae music without perpetuating faux Black images.

YOU CAN CREATE REGGAE MUSIC WITHOUT PERPETUATING FAUX BLACK IMAGES.

FAUX BLACK IMAGES를 재구성하지 않고 REGGAE MUSIC을 만들 수 있습니다.

Every single member of EXO are capable, and thoughtful enough artists to do this.

They are able to listen to a genre of music and to see the people behind the plastic image.

Not as characters.

But as people.

As they are.

They don’t need to reduce Black people to a fashion source only.

EXO should know this because they are in the same boat.

KPop idols are constantly reduced to a couple descriptive words and screams and moans and wails in someone’s YouTube video based on what they see on the screen.

When that couldn’t be further from the truth.

There are stories we will never hear. Stories of their upbringing, their triumphs and failures so personal that we do not have the right to intrude on considering what little privacy they have left.

That all being said to drive home the point that there is so much more to them than meets the eye.

Every member of EXO possesses a stripped bare, pure and honest depth of character so captivating in its human essence that is humbling to witness if you’re paying close attention.

Black people as a whole have that same depth of character.

There is more to us than what you tune into on TV or YouTube or in magazines.

And we are asking for the misconceptions to cease.

Don’t get us wrong.

The love we have for this group, and  for each and every one of its members has inspired even this post where we are pulling no punches.

If we are going to be real here, our hearts are broken.

There is no defense against ignorance.

If we are truly EXORhymeandReason, if we are truly EXORhymeandReason Admins whose purpose is to ask questions in pursuit of the reasons behind EXO’s rhymes, then no we won’t let this slide.

There is no excuse for this obvious lack of understanding.

Yes the perceptions of Blackness and in this case Caribbean Jamaican Blackness are ours alone to endure. This is made all the more clear by the continued killings of young black boys, girls, men, and women in our current world. We are reminded daily that no one else really gets it.

But y’all don’t want to hear that.

Somehow Black people really are perceived as magical enough to endure tauntings and killings not only of our bodies, our futures (when our children are violated and their lives extinguished) but of our souls too.

We are supposed to be magical enough to rise above all of this that we see, and hear happening around us so that we cease to feel, and we cease to have a voice to protest the violence.

Wow, talk about elevation.

And apparently everyone around us watching and participating in ignorance is truly just tone deaf to the sardonic undertones of White Supremacy’s ultimate goal: to strip us of our dignity, and of any right to belong to this community of humanity so completely that no one will reach out a fingernail in our defense.

We are consumed but never quite understood.

“Stop being so dramatic,” one would say.

We take that to mean to stop feeling so loudly.

Go feel quietly somewhere else.

But that’s how you’re able to mass reproduce images the way you do, but it’s only a reproduction. There is no soul in it. And so you continue to return to the source for inspiration.

And while antis will certainly see this as a “win,” that EXO has finally been blemished so significantly that they are beyond our protection, they also could not be further from the truth.

It is an opportunity to educate our fandom.

It is an opportunity to educate our beloved members.

It is an opportunity for us to feel out loud and to be heard.

Black KPop Stans, do not go quietly into the night.

We deserve to be members of this community and whatever community of which we choose membership.

It is not only revolutionary to be carefree, it is revolutionary for us to feel.

To tap into our pain.

To take our hands away from the dial and to silence the inner voice scolding us into submission of “what can you really do? Do you really think you’re going to change the world?”

There is only this Earth. There is nowhere else for us to escape to be free of the discrimination, the ignorance, the misconceptions, or the pain.

So we must look this in the eye and call it what it is.

Especially those that defended Kai initially.

What’s truly meant for Kai to read is simply this:

“If you are truly making your own styling decisions now for album concepts, and praise the music Gods for that, then please do not attempt another hairstyle like this. We love you and we are so proud of you. You are an intelligent human being, and you are a master at what you do. And in being so intelligent, in being an artist that is a master of creation, we call upon that intelligence to look deeper than what’s on the surface when creating your image. Please do not reduce creating true reggae music to simply wearing dreadlocks to complete your look. Please do not alter yourself to look like you’re from Jamaica or that you’re a reggae artist when you aren’t and your hair is styled that way for one song on the album and for one performance. Our hairstyles, our bodies, and, our music are not something you put on to try out. As we have respect for your humanity, and the culture to which you belong, we are eager for a true cultural exchange where both perspectives are understood and we implore you to really think about why you were nervous to see fans’ reactions to your choice. Really consider that. Because you knew in some sense that it was jarring. You knew it would be a shock. Not because you’re not an attractive young man and couldn’t pull off a new hairstyle. Not even because you are purposefully  twisting your hair into a style that doesn’t fit your hair texture and therefore appears odd and random. But because it isn’t you. It is a “Black character.” We have seen you play roles of the various characters of the stories within your lyrics wearing your hair as it is, albeit in many different colors, gelled up, gelled back, etc. You are more than capable as a true performer, a true artist, a true entertainer to transport us to a new dimension with the slightest gesture. You know better Kai. We are demanding that you do better. You are tender hearted, wise, and, perceptive, so we know quite well that you don’t mean any harm or disrespect. We know you may not truly understand. But in this day and time, even ignorance hurts. And it hurts to the core. We support you, we adore you, we cherish you, and we appreciate you. But we have every right to be real with you in the hopes that you can teach not only your brothers around you but the idols in the rest of the KPop industry and even those beyond the entertainment industry in South Korea and other parts of Asia who look up to you and admire you that this is not ok. You have their attention and so you have an opportunity to do what is right. You are more than what you are sometimes reduced to as a KPop idol. We want to believe that you not only sang the words of “Pretty Boy” alongside  your best friend Lee Taemin but you understood them. That you are more than what people erroneously perceive just because of the way you look. We are appealing to your humanity. We are not beneath that nor are we caving in by doing so. The oppressive White Supremacist energy of which we are well aware of is not in this. But doing something like this adds to misconceptions rife in popular culture about Black people, many of whom are your dear aeris. Kai, this is all meant in love and as we see you are seeking our response, please hear this message hopefully for the last time. You do not need to put clothes on or try hairstyles that are Black in a symbolic nature to get the essence of this genre. Please do not continue to perform any part of “The War” or “KoKoBop” while wearing dreads. It is offensive. It is hurtful. Please stop.

All love,

Aqua + Pisces”

 

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