I couldn’t attend class last week because of an interview, so I unfortunately had to watch Negro Terror on my own. Watching Negro Terror, I think that the part that stood out to me the most were these two scenes:
“A lot of people stick to their stereotypical, what they’re supposed to be doing because of their race. Oh, I’m black, so I’m supposed to listen to hip-hop, R&B, gospel, blues… jazz. And that’s what I’m supposed to listen to. I’m not supposed to go anywhere outside of those genres and I’m supposed to dress like this, and talk like this, and act like this, and walk like this.”
“It means a lot to see a band that looks like me. It means like, hey, it’s not weird to be into this type of music just because I happen to be black. It encourages people like me to get out there and pick up a guitar and sing, and play, and do whatever it is we feel right about doing. What feels like us, not what society, or our communities, or our cultures tell us that we have to do, that we have to follow.”
I think these two quotes really capture the essence of what Negro Terror represented for a lot of different people. For the members of the band, it was a way to tackle and confront racism through music by breaking out of the traditional stereotypes placed on black people. For the people who listened to Negro Terror, they pushed others to break those stereotypes and follow what they wanted to do. To me, that was the power of Negro Terror. More than their music, it was the message that they aimed to portray through their band and music that made them truly special.
On that note, I wanted to tie these ideas to something else in (you guessed it!) kpop. A different but similar situation shook the kpop world a few years ago. Alexandra Reid was a former member of the kpop girl group Rania (formed in 2015), and she was probably one of the first (if not the first) African-American and non-Asian idol in the kpop industry.
Pretty much a big deal.
Especially in Korea, in such a homogeneous country, where beauty standards are so fixed and rigid. It’s against the social norm for girls to go out not wearing makeup. Plastic surgery is pretty standard and sometimes even encouraged by parents. Korean skincare? Huge. Beauty standards favor the pale and the pretty.
Being a black woman from Kansas, Alex Reid shook the kpop world.
Following her company’s announcement that Alex Reid would be debuting as a part of Rania, chaos ensued. Alex Reid opened up in one report, saying that because of her African-American background, she was held to higher standards than other non-Korean idols. She was accused of skin-bleaching and appropriating Korean culture in order to maintain her place in the industry. After wearing a Korean Hanbok (traditional clothing) as part of a Rania photoshoot, Alex Reid faced a massive amount of criticism and backlash for cultural appropriation (yet no one seemed to comment on the group’s Chinese member wearing the same thing).
I had the fortune to see Alex Reid perform in person last year. She came to Raleigh’s Korean culture festival to perform, and it was incredible. She talked a bit about how difficult it was for her to take the step to go to Korea and join Rania, but similar to Negro Terror, she talked about how she hoped that her actions could serve as a role model for others to follow their dreams. By breaking out of cultural and racial stereotypes and challenging the underlying racism present in Korean society and the kpop community, Alex Reid demonstrates how powerful music can be in sparking conversations regarding these important issues.
Some YouTube comments on some of Rania’s performances:
Truly an amazing idol.
If anyone’s interested in Rania and Alex Reid: