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#Trending: Desis Slammed K-Pop Singer For Culture Appropriation After She Posted A Video Of Her Dancing to A Punjabi Song. It Was Wrong But She Apologised

July 31, 2020 | by Anjali Agarwal
FI K-Pop Star Gets Slammed For Cultural Appropriation

There is a very thin, and often blurry, line between cultural inspiration and casual racism. When this line is crossed,  cultural appropriation comes into play. Celebrities often uses elements from other cultures in their music videos and shoots, maybe to get their audience from that particular culture to better resonate with their art or maybe just to make these videos and shoots look more exotic. And, you can’t blame them, sometimes it is actually does, when used properly, it can add a whole layer to a video. However, more often than not, this ends up offending the whole community and their fans.

This is nothing new. Celebrities like Selena Gomez, Beyonce, Ariana Grande and the OG controversy queen Kim Kardashian are some of the many artists who have been accused of cultural appropriation several times in the past. The newest addition to this culture culprits group is K-Pop singer Lee Sun-mi (Sunmi) who recently used Indian culture for her own personal gain and got a lot of pushback from the Desi twitterati.

Sunmi posted a TikTok video where she and two of her backup dancers are dancing on a famous Punjabi song, which the Desi netizens found highly insensitive and ignorant of Indian culture. Let me tell you why. In the video, the backup dancers are wobbling their heads and making weird hand movements, imitating the Indian classical dance and Sunmi joins in giggling. This kind of cultural appropriation is not expected from an international celebrity. She later apologised for the video saying she meant no harm.

Also Read: This Delhi-Based Store Is Receiving A Lot Of Backlash For Misrepresenting Traditional Costumes From Nagaland. Why Are We So Racist Against Our Own?

Soon after the video was posted, the comment section got flooded with hate comments. While some couldn’t get why she is getting so much backlash for an innocent video that seemed quite fun to them, others claimed that it fuels cultural stereotypes and is highly offensive. A Twitter user wrote, “Indians in the comments saying “it’s okay” – it’s not. when you live outside India, ppl use these songs to mock Indian culture and Indian people. we get degraded into curry eaters and funny hand movements. please understand that even if it was a joke, there was no reason.” Another user who wasn’t even Indian commented, “People who are asking why it is insensitive. I’m not even Indian but this obviously looked very wrong and offensive. Who tf sees this and does not get offended by how they’re mocking the dance? I mean fr poeple.”

Nobody is perfect and not everyone is well-informed about every culture in the world and that’s okay. But being ignorant of others’ culture and using it for your amusement clearly isn’t. Some things are hard to overlook and that’s what happened in this case but what she did about it when the whole incident got out of proportion is what’s important here. Sunmi and the dancers took full responsibility for their ignorance and apologised for the video saying they had no intentions of hurting the sentiments of Indians.

Sunmi tweeted, “There is no reason or intention for me to mock the culture of other countries. It’s because of my ignorance of the culture. I apologize for being ignorant about the culture of other countries. And I’d like to say that I am truly sorry to those who have been hurt by my ignorance.” The other two dancers too posted apology statement on their Instagram account.  They have also reportedly taken the video down.

A lot of celebrities have made cultural boo-boos. Some acknowledged the problem and apologised for their ignorance the second they realised it has offended a whole community. Some others didn’t even bother at all. There have been multiple instances. You might remember Selena Gomez wearing a bindi for her Come And Get It performance. She got backlash from fans but she wore it again for another performance on Dancing With The Stars anyway. Another accusation was put on Ariana recently for appropriating Japanese culture to promote her songs 7 Rings and Thank you, Next for which she apologised on Twitter.

Cultural appropriation is not something to be taken lightly as this could perpetuate further stereotyping, harassing and racism. But we should also admire people who take responsibility for their actions and are careful not to repeat it again. What I am trying to is that yes, Sunmi’s video came under fire for the right reasons. Its inappropriate and offensive cultural reference was not to be overlooked. As an Indian, I was offended by the mockery too but she did good by accepting her mistake and clearing the air by issuing an apology. So maybe cut her some slack and actually appreciate the fact that was responsible enough to admit it? Cultural ignorance might not a be bliss but moving on is.

Also Read: Disney’s Newest Cartoon Features A Young Indian Girl As the Protagonist. Is The Company Finally Stepping Away From Racist Stereotypes?

Anjali Agarwal

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