Racism Is Not An Opinion



Last week, South Korean boy band BTS made history by being the first K-pop group to appear on MTV Unplugged, performing songs off of their latest album BE, which addresses the grief and frustration faced during the pandemic. Along with their songs, they also perform a cover of Coldplay’s “Fix You,” a performance supported and promoted by the band themselves across multiple social media platforms.

Shortly after the appearance, German radio host Matthias Matuschik unleashed a torrent of racist comments against them because of their Coldplay cover, sparking outrage among BTS fans across the world. On the Bavarian station Bayern 3, he compares the group to the coronavirus, saying that he hopes a vaccine will be available to eradicate them soon. He also says they “deserve a 20-year vacation in North Korea” for their cover. 

Matuschik then attempts to backtrack on his comments by saying he can’t be xenophobic because he has a South Korean car: “I have nothing against South Korea, you can’t accuse me of xenophobia only because this boy band is from South Korea… I have a car from South Korea. I have the coolest car around.” His car, a Daihatsu Copen, is Japanese.

The station attempted to defend the host, saying that he “only wanted to express his displeasure about the above-mentioned cover” and “overshot the mark in an attempt to present his opinion.” This non-apology makes it seem as if fans are upset over the difference of opinion over the Coldplay cover, rather than the blatantly xenophobic comments. Outrage over this statement resulted in the station issuing a second statement, in which they apologized if their remarks hurt anyone. Still, they defended Matuschik by saying that he’s “miles away from racist views.” 

Matuschik himself claimed that BTS fans twisted his words when he had not intended for them to be racist in any way. He also says that the nationality of the septet had no bearing in his comments about the coronavirus and North Korea: “I would have been just as upset with a German or Trans-Castanian band.” He released another statement hours later, which was considerably more apologetic, but he still attempted to reduce accountability by talking about the activism he has done in the past.

Regardless of his intentions, Matuschik dehumanized the band by comparing them to a disease that has killed millions around the world. It’s okay to not like their cover. But attacking them personally, with incredibly racist sentiments and trying to pass them off as jokes, is uncalled for and unacceptable.

Unfortunately, these types of jokes are nothing new to BTS: a year ago, a staff member on the Howard Stern Show said they were carrying coronavirus because they were traveling (prior to global lockdowns)saying nothing about white celebrities who were doing the exact same thing. And when they attended the Grammys last year, they were the subject of an abundance of coronavirus jokes simply because of their ethnicity.

These remarks echo the broader anti-Asian sentiment that has grown during the pandemic, resulting in a surge of hate crimes against the Asian community. According to STOP AAPI Hate, a website that allows people to self-report incidents of anti-Asian violence, there were a total of 2,808 incidents from March to December of 2020.

Not liking certain kinds of music is an opinion. Racism is not.