The K-pop superstar G-Dragon may have had good intentions in his attempted homage to Trayvon Martin. But a photo shared by the Big Bang front man had the exact opposite effect.
The singer, rapper and producer, born Kwon Ji Yong, is the leader of one of K-Pop’s most popular acts and known for a futuristic hybrid of K-Pop, hip-hop and modern R&B. Spin magazine noted that Wednesday he sent out a photo on his Instagram account that riffed on the popular “I Am Trayvon Martin” trope, intended to show sympathy for the young Florida shooting victim by donning a gray hoodie.
The problem? G-Dragon took the photo while wearing blackface makeup.
While the photo seems unfathomably offensive to U.S. eyes, it might be a grim cultural misunderstanding. While blackface has long been discarded as offensive and ridiculous in modern American society, its ugly history may not be as well known among young Koreans.
Even if the photo was intended as empathetic, it’s really hard to look at -- and it can’t be doing any favors for Big Bang as they make inroads into Western hip-hop and R&B audiences.
Big Bang hasn’t issued any formal response yet, and the few English-language comments on the picture seem more befuddled than anything.
But let it be a lesson to any global superstar trying to show some sympathy for Martin -- rallies, boycotts and calls for justice are just fine. Blackface makeup is not.