Sunday, June 14, 2015

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Racist music video against foreigners splits opinions in Taiwan

6/14/2015 Taiwan Explorer

It doesn't happen very often, that the opinions from foreigners are taken seriously and enter the mainstream discourse in Taiwan, but with help of social media like Youtube (check out Stop Kiddin Studio), Twitter, and Facebook (I'm there, too), a number of foreigners have become known in Taiwan and quite regularly appear in the news, among them most notably TV personality Rifat, youtuber Jesus a.k.a 阿兜仔不教美語, and reporter Ben Hedges from NTD TV. Recently an American girl named Avalon has quickly became popular among young Taiwanese, her YouTube channel INSECT[昆蟲島]ISLAND has around 35,000 subscribers at this point. When you watch her videos like this one, you quickly realize why she is popular: She's smart, funny, creative, cute, and speaks excellent Chinese. Most of these famous foreigners are tackling issues that foreigners face in Taiwan, they share their experiences, very often in a funny and indirect way. So today when I woke up, I checked my messages, and a long term follower of my blog linked me to this video named "歪國人 Foreigner" by a Taiwanese band called "玖壹壹" (sounds like "911" in Chinese). The video is simply racist and misogynistic, there's nothing else to be said. Watch it here:

The video was published in April 2015, and it somehow slipped through my radar, even though I often catch these things. I did not know about it until today when it was linked to me. When I asked my wife about it, she said she also heard about it today, because her favorite youtuber Avalon made a response video about it. If you're someone that is not sure what you saw in the above video, let Avalon explain to you why this song and the video is so offensive and tasteless (it has English subtitles):


Avalon's video has not (yet) entered Taiwan's mainstream media, but it's creating buzz among foreigners and Taiwanese on various forums and social media, obviously to a degree, that the band felt compelled to issue a statement on their official Facebook page, and explain what the video was supposedly about:


Here are their key arguments from the statement above translated to English:

The video "Foreigner" was absolutely not meant to discriminate against foreign friends. The people who did our tattoos were all foreigners. Saying it was racial discrimination is a little extreme.

We wrote this song simply because we wished all Taiwanese girls can love to use national product.

This was a very lame attempt to justify this tasteless video, but what is even sadder is that a lot of their fans fail to see how problematic it is. Their statement had 15,000 likes and garnered a lot of supportive comments. If you're a foreigner like me who lives in Taiwan many years and is married to a Taiwanese woman, you will hardly buy the band's explanation, because the hate against interracial relationships where the the male is not Taiwanese and female is Taiwanese is very mainstream. These relationships are called CCR (Cross Cultural Relationships), often written in zhuyin as ㄈㄈ尺. This video explains it well:


The hate against foreigners described in this video can be felt very often in Taiwan, be it online or offline, and I'm speaking from personal experience. Of course in order to live here, you have to blend out a lot of these things that happen around you. You have to grow a thick skin, especially when you have a family and you've build up a life, which you can't just throw away in a spur of the moment. It's really a mixed bag, and I have friends who deal with this in different ways depending on their character and background. Of course not all Taiwanese have these feelings about CCR, but a substantial number of them have, which is at this point very difficult to ignore. The issue in itself is complex, and I've written about it from several aspects in the past, you can check my old articles here.

What the band 玖壹壹 really thinks about foreigners

The band published another longer statement to Avalon's response after they initially linked to her video and denied any wrongdoing:


Here's a loose translation:

There is a foreign netizen talking about our song "歪國人 Foreigner", and we want to give following statement.

1) There is no racial discrimination in this song, it just offers a different angle to see this world. Different people have different opinions, the lyrics didn’t poke or attack anyone, and of course we absolutely respect women. The whole song didn’t challenge the adult women’s choice. Of course in our world everybody have their freedom of speech, you have it, so do we. We can’t make you think what we think, but please don’t use your idea to make this kind of comment. This song is just trying to describe the truth, but didn’t want to make CCR culture ugly or look bad. We just look our own way to see this culture.

2) This netizen used her public person to make a short video. If she just wants to step on others’ art and make herself look good, or increase her youtube subscribers, we feel so sorry to see that.

3) If Taiwan is such a trashy country, then why did you come to get your trash diploma? What will you do in the future? Do you think our country needs to become beautiful for you?

4) And here we have to thank people who always support us. Our music always wants to make people happy, and we never want to attack others or make attack songs, we just want everybody to listen to our music and feel funny, that’s it. Thank you so much.

They also made another comment yesterday where they attacked Avalon:

"我不唱歌餓不死說我們是垃圾
我GAN LIN NIA GI BY
我是看風以上個人信論"

Translation:
"If I don't sing I wouldn't die of starvation. You say we are trash,
I F**K YOUR MOTHER'S P**SY
The above is my personal comment."

The part in latin caps comes from Taiwanese, and is very offensive. They just want to say that they are rich regardless of their singing career, and that they don't care, if her video affects their career. All this makes little sense since the band is much more famous than her, but well, it shows what she is dealing with here.

A screen caption from the band's Facebook page.

The latest development between Avalon and the band was a personal message exchange, which the band published on their Facebook. The band said they were not meaning to be racist, Avalon said she didn't think they were garbage (something she never said actually), so now they're good. And the band promised to be more careful in the future. I think this kumbaya misses the point because the band just doesn't want to admit that the video is seriously problematic and hurtful to a lot of people. At the same time I do understand that Avalon was probably under big pressure these days, as she received a lot of hate from the band's supporters, so she wanted to be conciliatory. She definitely earned a lot of respect from me for speaking out against this.

What do you think?

Now tell me after seeing that tasteless video, as well as the band's initially vulgar response to Avalon, that they did not mean any harm, and that they have nothing against "foreign friends"? Yeah, right. Sadly, a lot of their fans are believing them, and will continue to support them. Luckily there are also other voices in Taiwan, this blogger for example asked how would Taiwanese feel, if an American band made a racist video about them - go check it out here. You can comment on my FB, Twitter, or G+.