Blog Opinion: Red Velvet’s Wendy’s Racist Imitations

Video Clip of Wendy’s Racist Impersonation (13:45 – 15:10)

Posted on November 4, 2014

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Firstly, I will throw a disclaimer: yes, I am going to dive straight into the pit of fire. This is a sensitive topic, but as a result, this is why this needs to be discussed. If I do end up receiving Red Velvet fans’ hate, I understand. Nevertheless, I am not here to necessarily attack Wendy; I am here to attack, to challenge, the notion of racism and the idea of remaining silent. Personally, knowing that I have the ability to voice my opinion to an audience, it obliges me to do so. This is a prime opportunity to discuss a real-life issue that remains too prevalent. Once again, I am not trying to put down Wendy. In fact, if I have the ability to point at who is to be guilty, I challenge you to take a look at your own life; who is the “Wendy” in your life? This incident is not the only one that we have seen. Sadly, with the average daily life, many of us will probably encounter a similar scenario where a person is humiliating a culture or race or such.

I have no knowledge of Red Velvet nor of this radio show, so I do confess my ignorance in those regards. However, despite not knowing much, to find this racist moment close to humorous or entertaining is atrocious; setting forth stereotypes, on the radio, and as a person of high status/fame, is completely wrong. The current defense on Wendy’s part is, “But she was joking, it’s all for a laugh and to be entertaining” does not excuse a single trace of this incident. To laugh at this is to merely accept the idea that racism and making fun of another person’s culture, identity, and more is fine.

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Anyhow, before I lose readers, a quick translating summary of the clip above (13:45 to 15:10):

Wendy was asked to show off an individual talent. In reply, she said one talent she had was she could imitate foreigners. In specific, she said White people and Black people were the ones she could imitate. Following up, she decides to impersonate a white female; she claims that their voices were somewhat high-pitched. Her imitation then involved a stereotyped “Oh, my, gosh”. After that, she decided to imitate a Black female. This time, she threw in some hand snaps and motions while saying, “Girl, you ain’t talking to me”. Lastly, she decided to imitate Black males. For this part, she added that they are like gangsters, and thus, went on with “What up, you wanna go, man, you wanna go?”

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So now that readers have an idea of what’s happening, I will explain my huge frustration. I also highly recommend that if you made it this far in the reading, that you continue on. This is a sensitive subject, and in fact, I’m expecting responses of “What is a K-Pop reviewer like you doing in this business?” To actually answer that right now, that is perhaps why; being a reviewer of music, people might come to think I only care for the musical aspect of K-Pop, but of course, that is completely false. Doing so would be secluding and deluding myself of reality. Luckily or unluckily (depending on your take), I do not believe in a perfect fantasy world where everything is fine. If society wishes to embark on the journey to genuinely get to the “perfect fantasy world”, addressing problems head-on is the way. Hiding or simply side-stepping issues do absolutely nothing but allow an issue to pervade.

Back on topic, why is this incident of Wendy doing the imitations completely disrespectful and wrong? Wendy is not the only one to point fingers at; the entirety of the radio crew is at large fault. This event is wrong due to how everyone found it funny. As stated earlier, by accepting these “jokes” as such, it gives an implied meaning of acceptance and even beyond. Racist jokes will be seen as entertaining and jocular; consequences are unseen. To have a culture, race, gender, or any other personal attribute to be seen as a fault is erroneous; no one should ever feel ashamed of their own identity. These jokes enforce the idea of having fault in an identity. Any type of mockery that sets an identity component as the joke is inhumane. No one should ever need to feel pain, both emotionally and physically, due to another person’s ignorance.

Besides discussing how racist jokes and such are horrible, the audience in the radio show is equally distasteful. The encouragement, the clapping, the laughter, the reenactments, all of those actions were equivalent to the imitations themselves. Although Wendy was the person to actually say those racist remarks and to act out on the grotesque imitations, everyone had technically said the same. The act of laughing along and clapping showcases how they found the racist comments enlightening; they were in support.

Considering Red Velvet is a sprouting newbie group, this incident will tarnish their reputation. Knowing that they are idols, they should have had the decency to think twice on what was being said and done. Alas, sometimes us, humans, are simply the result of our society. Something to be critical is asking yourself: is Wendy the one to blame, or is society at a whole the one to blame? Truthfully, I do not possess an answer; both may be responsible and connected.

With all this said, I am utterly shocked at this. By simply being idols, they hold the responsibility of representing K-Pop, and in this scenario, they have utterly failed to hold an upright image. As I said multiple times, I am not here to bash on Wendy. What needs to be aimed at is the problem itself: racism and the acceptance of racist jokes and whatnot. Laughing and encouraging a racist, sexist, or such remark, joke, or impersonation is on par with doing the said racist action. In fact, even remaining silent is still acceptance. Holding a tongue against these racist remarks is simply remaining neutral/default, and unfortunately, the “default” is indeed the unjust action. I questioned whether I should make this post. Worst-case scenario, I gain the opposing side’s hatred and potentially lose readers. If being disliked is what it takes for people to start realizing how this incident is wrong, then by all means, I accept the trade.

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In the end, blaming not Wendy, but rather, the issue revolving around racism and the social acceptance of such is where people should focus their anger. Being aware is what society and the world needs. Always ask why. And while Wendy is an idol, and as a result, is receiving huge attention for this, bringing it back to reality should be in mind; “Wendy” exists in your life. It is your choice on whether you laugh along like her group members and radio hosts, remain defaulted on the acceptance of social issues, or, to do a simple saying to your friend of, “Hey, that isn’t funny, that’s pretty messed up”

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As a personal side note, forgive me if I ended up losing my argument’s point throughout this post. I did my best to remain as respectable and mature as possible. Personally, this incident did induce an emotional reaction; I was quite outraged that an idol, who should be well aware of the influence she has, would commit such actions.

If any Red Velvet/Wendy fans are upset at this, once again, realize she is not the primary target, and secondly, accept the faults of your idol. To share my own take, as readers may know, T-ARA is a group I admire very much (in specific, Soyeon who I heavily look up to as a role model). Nevertheless, for their bullying incident, I did not live in denial. I do reside in the fact that they bullied out an ex-member. It is shameful and your own pride feels hurt as well, but this is where you are able to learn from another person’s mistake, even if they are your role model/someone you hold highly. Idols are still humans governed by society’s ways. They are not perfect.

Lastly, thank you if you do read this. I am not thanking you for solely reading, as I do in practically all of my other posts, but thank you for (hopefully) taking this post to heart, and in fact, reflecting in your own life and actions. Perhaps you were “Wendy” before, or perhaps, you were her members that were laughing along. If such is the case, it doesn’t matter on what has been done, but instead, what will be done.

To slightly make the mood lighter, I am in the middle of reviewing Girls’ Generation’s “I Got A Boy”. I would have been done, but this incident prompted me to create this post. Anyhow, stay tuned for it, and of course, stay aware and do your own part for society.