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Kpop WTF: G-Dragon's Blackface Controversy

Editor's Note: This post was not written to bash G-Dragon.  This post was written out of my frustration with GD and YG Entertainment and the way that they handled this issue.  Please read the whole post + this post written after GD's Coup D'etat teaser video came out before you make a comment.  

On July 30th G-Dragon posted a picture to his Instagram account that has proven to be very controversial.  That would be this pic here, in which he's got a face full of black paint:

It's taken awhile for me to write this post because I was pretty conflicted about it, and here's why:  I think G-Dragon is the best thing since sliced bread.  I love his fashion, quite a bit of his music and I love his irreverence and willingness to be different and just plain out there and odd.

Oh and by the way, I'm Black.

"What does that have to do with anything?", I hear you asking.  Well, GD managed to offend a ton of of black people in one fell swoop with this image, and it all has to do with blackface.

The outcry started right away on the 30th when the pic was posted and people started leaving comments on the pic in question.  Many people were shocked and appalled (like me) while many others thought it was no big deal.

I didn't want to rant about this issue and come off sounding all aggrieved but dammit, I need to and I feel as if I would be remiss if I didn't.  So many people aren't getting why some people of color are disappointed in G-Dragon, and many netizens have taken to calling us out on reverse racism or being overly sensitive.  Obviously they don't get it, so I'm going to explain.

"Oh, but Jiyong was wearing a mud mask!" is what I heard from tons of people that day and the next.  Was he or wasn't he?

"It's no big deal!  He doesn't know what he's doing and he didn't mean it anyway!"  I beg to differ.  Korea might not be on the forefront of Black History education but there is such thing as the internet and everyone knows how to use Google.  Plus I'm quite sure someone he knows personally has said something to him about blackface and cultural appropriation at some point since Big Bang's debut.  I mean hey, I'm pretty sure he reads at least some of his tweets.  I know for a fact that he got many tweets about cultural appropriation, especially after the "One of a Kind" mv was released.

I rolled my eyes when this happened, but that's about it.

G-Dragon wore a 'fro in his "MichiGO" mv.  Meh.

To all the people who don't get or don't care to get why Kpop fans of color are so up in arms about this picture, here's some info about blackface:

Blackface was invented by minstrel performers in the nineteenth century, and soon became the trademark of the artform. Minstrel shows were a form of entertainment that was devoted to re-packaging blackness in a way that was sufficiently degrading enough to be palatable to white audiences. It's about taking the richness of black art, music, dancing, and humor — turning it into a degrading stereotype, and then disseminating this bastardized vision of a people as far and wide as possible. Minstrelsy wasn’t just about exploiting racism, minstrel performers were on the front lines of white supremacy, they established an image in the mind of white America of who black people were — simple fools, mindless entertainers, creatures ruled by instinct and lower brain function, not by art, not by ideas, not by ideals of honor or duty.
cr: considertheteacosy via anedumacation

Blackface is about stereotyping and making a caricature of black people.  Like that quote says, it's degrading and just plain wrong.  That's why we're angry or disappointed.  It doesn't matter what his reasoning behind it was, it's just not cool and should be taken down.

You say you like Black people and Black culture and you just want to pay homage to it?  Well this isn't the way to do it... not if you're trying your hardest to become a "World Star" anyway.

Here's the thing... GD and Big Bang have been appropriating Black culture for years and I've never had a problem with it.  I don't really care if you like hip hop or you use the terms "swag" and "dope" and you wear dreds or braids or cornrows or an afro or bandanna print everything (most of it looks dumb, but whatever).  I don't even care if you dress up like Crips and/or Bloods during your performances.  Use a pimp cane, wear every single piece of fashionable urban wear you want. Do you, my friend.  I. Don't. Care.  I only start to have a problem when you start using the word "nigga" or going the extra mile by willfully using blackface.

G-Dragon wore cornrows for "One of a Kind" and I didn't give a damn.

"Oh, well GD has Black friends and Big Bang's band was Black and he's got more swag than all of them put together!" you say?  So what... it's still not cool and that doesn't make it ok.

Here's my major issue with it:  That pic is still up.  Most public figures would have the good sense to take down an image that so many people all over the world found offensive, whether it was meant to be or not.  I fully expected that GD would have taken it down by now, but I guess not.  That takes balls, people.  It's not all that smart, but it takes cast iron cojones.  It's one thing to not realize something is wrong, it's another to realize it's wrong but not care.

It seems that G-Dragon read at least a few of the comments for the pic that same day because he reportedly posted back saying it was a mud mask.  Now YG Entertainment is saying that it's face paint for his album cover shoots.  Which is it, guys?  Make up your mind.  If it was a photoshoot, why not just say so in the first place?  Explain your thought process and you probably would have nipped all this in the bud right away.

I notice how YG had nothing to say about this until they got put on blast by major American sites like SPIN Magazine, the L.A. Times and even The Guardian UK for doing it as poorly planned homage to Trayvon Martin.

That's what I said when I read that.

Apparently there's thought that all this has some sort of connection with the "I Am Trayvon Martin" meme that some hip hop artists were doing as a tribute to Trayvon in 2012.  No?  Then, some people are saying he was cosplaying some dude from the X-Men (I'm a nerd but not a comic book nerd, sorry).  I don't know, I wasn't there.  All I know is that it bothers me.

It also bothers me that neither Jiyong nor YG had anything to say to the actual fans that had issues with all of this.

What kills me is that there have been so many instances of actual legit blackface perpetrated in the Kpop world, including this one by GD which I hadn't known about before today:

The full shebang:

Seungri and Daesung have even gotten in on that blackface action:

Ok fine, you say this happened years ago and they didn't know any better then?  Well then they should definitely know better by now.

If you still don't get why all this offends me, go read the rest of this essay on racism and blackface and then read this open letter from by Omona They Didn't about Blackface in Kpop.  Take a look at some of the pics and compare them to GD's.  Now you know why it's fucked up and why it needs to stop.  And to the 107,000 and counting "Oppa didn't mean it!"s that liked the pic on Instagram, well you know what you can do with that like.

But hey, at least he got a ton of press for his new album out of it right?  If that was GD & YG's sole objective with all this brouhaha in the first place then that is just plain sad.

What do you think about this G-Dragon blackface controversy?  Weigh in below, and don't be shy.  I'm curious to know your real thoughts.

Source: xxxibgdrgn, omonatheydidn't 1 & 2.

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  1. You saying "as GD apparently has done here" makes it seem like you're only getting offended by what he did, because someone told you that you should get offended by what he did (or did not do). I see nothing racist in what he did. I even posted the picture on my Facebook for feedback and several people commented "Wow that looks like something from the Grudge or a horror movie". NOBODY said anything about "omg racist" or "is he trying to look black?" - and none of them were born or raised in Korea; they were all brought up in the Western world well familiar with occurrences of racism and how to behave to avoid it. If I saw a tan girl wearing too light of a foundation, I wouldn't scream "racist" at her. If my Asian friends wanted to dress up as Celine Dion, put on a blonde wig and apply face paint to their skin to match - does that make them racist? Imitation is not racist. Mocking, stereotyping and assaulting is. And from what I see in this photo.... he did no such thing.

    The history of black-face is upsetting. I don't disagree and I find it disgusting that people found it funny to degrade, mock and make fun of people of color. But I will add that times have changed. Black-face was especially used in modern gag shows and still is being used - and I don't like that many Korean gag artists are using it to make fun of people of color. However, I think that we need to realize that not ALL people that are NOT of color are out to get people of color. GD is a performer, he's an artist and he's a model as well. He has done INSANE things over time and much of it is done to provoke. He has never (to my knowledge) done ANYTHING to be malicious or mean or mock anyone. I personally think that by now... SOME people of color are simply waiting for famous people (or even people that are not out in the public as celebrities) to do something that CAN be misunderstood as racism, label it racism and then go at it like hyenas on a cadaver. I'm not saying that ALL people of color are like that, I am just saying that some of them (and I know one of them) are EXTREMELY sensitive.
    The definition (or one of the many) goes: "racism; prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior." - GDragon did no such thing and I don't think it's fair to say that him ASSUMING that all people of color are of color.. is racist, because it's a prejudice. Because that... that is just ridiculous -__-"

  2. I honestly don't think he meant anything by it. Now, I'm personally against anything that has to do with racism - but that goes both ways. I think the main issue with black-face is that if you want to dress up as someone who is black, you need to change the color of your skin. Nobody will think you're Obama, Morgan Freeman or Oprah unless your skin is tan. I get why in SOME CASES (like some of the really ridiculous gag shows, where they obviously over-do everything) it can be really humiliating for people of color, because they tend to assign this crazy persona to people of color, but I think the main problem here is that every time someone says "black", people of color go into defense mode - at least that's my experience. It's like they get SO OFFENDED by someone else stating a fact; that they're of color. I personally don't understand why anyone would take the color of their skin as an offense. If my friends were to dress up as me, you betcha they will color their skin a SUPER pale yellow - because let's face it; my skin is pale as death and I have ridiculously yellow undertones. Why would I take offense to that? It's what I look like and I can't help that. A character is not the just color of the skin - the color of skin is a physical feature. It expresses what a person looks like and says nothing about their personality or human traits. I heard the outcry of people of color in the kpop fandom going INSANE, claiming that G-Dragon tanned for the ONE OF A KIND music video because he wanted to seem more black and "gangsta". I don't get it. I've heard ridiculous amounts of racial slurs thrown at myself, and I don't take offense to it. I personally feel that if I were to take offense to someone pointing out that I am white, caucasian of descent, then where does that leave me? I think it does nothing but point out that people have a depressingly low selfesteem. I don't think doing "black-face" is racist - I think associating all people of color with "gangsters" or guns is racist. B.A.P colored some of their faces black in their new MV teaser - does that make them racist towards mixed races or black people in general? No. Had G-Dragon been racist, he would've colored his skin dark and added a comment, that would portray racism. He would've associated the color of his skin with something racist - to me, he didn't do that. He just posted a picture of himself with his face skin colored dark. Being black is not racist, being white is not racist and being Asian for that matter, is not racist. The COLOR does not make you racist - the statements do. And in my eyes, GD did nothing racist. His face is black. So what? It could've been for a photoshoot or a face mask for all we know.

  3. This comment was 10 months ago and im just now reading it, but id like to point out that 10 months ago we still had a black president and there are black people in office. Id also like to point out that not every white person has power and white people live in the ghetto and live off welfair just like black people.

  4. Id like to leave my two cents on this, just for whatever reason. If you look up charcoal mudmask, it looks exactly the same as what GD has on his face. You say you didnt mean malice when you wrote this comment, but at the same time you say what he did upset you. O.o What exactly did he do? Take care of his skin and dare to post a picture of it? Also, why even post the picture of the Vogue shoot? That isnt blackface, they are dressed up like that for a cover shoot and representing artists like micheal jackson and andre 3000. I saw americas next top model, where Tyra Banks, had the models dress up. She painted the black girls white, some were painted to look asian and some white girls were painted and posed to look like blacks. They did it for art and what he did with the Vogue shoot was for art as well. So why even post it if 1 It was for art and 2 Vogue was behind the entire thing and they were just doing what the artist/photographer wanted them to do for the concept? I mean its pretty obvious he isnt racist by now since he idolizes black people. Also I agree with others, he shouldnt take down the picture cause he didnt do anything wrong.

  5. What GD did for Coup D'etat isn't anything related to race or skin color. It's just to make the contradistinction with his 1st album (which has the 3D full-white face as the cover, shown in the MV), expressing the "coup d'etat"/revolution concept.

    Why nowaday people like to take blackface out of context?

    1. Because it’s a generation of exposing people and putting people in a negative light and all these racism activists like to believe everyone else around them is racist and try to expose them when they are the racist snowflakes themselves who easily get offended by someone who appreciates and loves their culture. GD grew up in Biggie and Tupac (two big influential hip hop artists) to GD; THIS was music. And here people get offended because he portrays a man of urbanism, again, not insulting, just the snowflake community is offended by everything. Get over yourselves and your stupid cancel culture, grow some cojones and man up.

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