A big ‘hullaballoo’ came across my Twitter feed this week. “Would a Person of Color (POC) be assigned an article like this for a major publication?” the chain started. The “article like this” in question was by a middle-aged reporter who was white, covering a group he was first hearing about: BTS.
Beware Outsider Syndrome
A quick sidebar to make a comparison. The parallel is when a white person goes to a great Puerto Rican restaurant in the Puerto Rican neighborhood, and says “this food is great! How come nobody knows about it?” When, in fact, the restaurant is already good and well-known, as evidenced by the full tables all around them. The “nobody” in this case is the white person’s other white friends who don’t know about it. As though being known and valued in the white community is the measure of success.
Going back to the article about BTS, the writer was approaching the group the same way—who are they? Why is the airport crowded with fans? Is this group legit? Why is a K-pop (Korean Pop Music) group so popular in the US?
What the article actually did was expose the author’s ignorance and lens of being in the majority culture, with a condescending view to others. And that was likely the Twitter critique. Although unless it was purposely an opinion piece—it should have been stopped just for being poor journalism. Here’s why.
Who is BTS?
BTS won the 2017 Music Billboard Award for Top Social Artist. This is one of two fan-voted categories in the award show. BTS’ 2017 win broke “the Biebs” winning streak. (Justin Bieber had one that award the six years prior.) BTS is also the first Korean artist or group to hit the top 10 of the Billboard 200 chart. In 2017, Time Magazine named the boy band one of the 25 most influential people on the internet.
If you haven’t seen/heard of them—check out their top music video, for DNA, with almost 900M views! They are crush worthy for their age demographic, their graphics are poppin’ and their dance moves are hoppin’! Just hear the girls in the audience screaming when BTS was on The Ellen Show.
Outsider syndrome is coming into a new arena, seeing something new that you don’t understand, and viewing only through your own lens of experience. That part is natural and happens to everyone of all backgrounds—we perceive everything we do through our own filters of culture, experience, age, intersecting identities.
The Outsider Syndrome warning part is to realize that every person approaches life through their own filter, and that yours is not the end-all be-all to gauge value. Being an outsider is bound to happen in different situations. The reminder to pause before professing your ignorance of something you don’t know about or understand—especially when you’re actually the odd man out.