14 BTS Fans Talk About The Racism They've Experienced Within The Fandom

    Fans of the wildly popular Korean group tell BuzzFeed News that they have received continued abuse from fellow fans.

    K-pop boyband BTS have millions of devoted fans around the world who go by the name Army.

    Have you heard? We've been nominated with our ARMY for the #RDMA! Don't forget to vote for @BTS_twt

    For some time now, however, concerns have been raised by the band's black supporters who say they've been on the receiving end of racism from other fans.

    The worst abuse mostly happens through social networks such as Curious Cat, which allows users to ask each other questions anonymously.

    Last month, one member of Army even started the #BlackArmyBeauty project in solidarity with black fans in response to the negative and racist messages they receive. It got lots of support.

    The hashtag we will be using is #blackarmybeauty. If you want to support our Black Armies please change your profile pictures to this flower. This is a Protea King, it means diversity and courage. The half filter on the flower symbolizes our unity. Spread Love & Positivity♡ https://t.co/5Bwh8d1lun

    BuzzFeed News spoke to several black fans who said that when they try to make other fans aware of the abuse, they're accused of making stuff up or told to keep quiet so they don't make BTS look bad.

    But they want to share their stories and examples of racism to continue the conversation about discrimination within the fandom – so here are their experiences:

    Jenna Wood, an 18-year-old student from Kentucky.

    if you don't believe that black armys are targeted then tell me what this is. they fucking white washed me 😭😔

    Jenna Wood told BuzzFeed News that she joined a Twitter group chat that she thought was for BTS fans to work on her social skills and make friends.

    "We were all sending selfies so I joined in," she said. "But a few moments later I began to feel overwhelmed because there were so many people talking at once so I decided to leave."

    After she left, someone in the group chat edited her selfie and lightened her skin. "Ten minutes went by and my friend had DM'd me to tell me they had white-washed my photo."

    Wood said she started crying when she saw the photo and felt horrible. "Reading how the others had called me a 'white queen' was so disrespectful," she said.

    "It honestly made me feel less of a person because they would do something this horrible to someone like me who was only there to have fun but I was wronged and targeted."

    Wood afterwards she found out that the group chat was set up by non BTS fans.

    Deja Ferguson (@melinatedweirdo), a 21-year-old chef from Orlando, Florida.

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    Deja Ferguson, who got into BTS in 2015, says she has regularly received anonymous abuse from other fans.

    She said: "I've been called a ni****, a porch monkey, people have gone far enough to tell me they hope I die or get raped and I don't call it out, I just delete or block that person because it's mostly on anon."

    Ferguson said she has stuck around as a stan [social media term for fan] because BTS give her strength to get through difficult times.

    "They are the reason I'm actually still alive to this day, I didn't give up on life because they gave me hope and a reason to keep going," she said.

    Anjelica (@joondailyx), 19, from New Jersey.

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    Anjelica, who asked to be known by her first name only, told BuzzFeed News that she was in a group chat once where she was repeatedly ridiculed for being offended by the use of the N-word.

    "There was a fan who told me that they would not stop saying n***** when singing songs or quoting someone because it’s a 'direct quote'.

    "I told them how it’s wrong to do that kind of thing and how it affects black people in reality and they continued saying how they would do it because those are the rules of translation and quoting and that I was wrong for being hurt by it.

    "After I stopped replying to them I was tagged again and saw that the account was calling me things like 'unintelligent', 'disrespectful' and one of 'those people'."

    She added: "It’s always worse when you engage the abuse because then more people decide to join in."

    While she has received abuse from some fans, Anjelica said she had also made some good friends. "I also stay on Twitter for my mutuals," she said. "I love talking to the people I’ve met through BTS and I’ve made some very good friends, so I’m quite grateful for that."

    Jess (@jooniesboop), 20, a college student from Florida.

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    Jess has been on a break from stan Twitter because of an experience that left a bad taste in her mouth. "The fans were very kind to begin with, but they’ve taken a turn as of now," she said, pointing to the anonymous feature on Curious Cat as a reason.

    She said that fans have told her that black people are not worthy to stan, or be fans of, BTS.

    "No one deserves to feel like that nor receive that hate or racist comments," she said. "I haven’t stopped stanning because of the music and the people I have met because of it. The boys also consistently show their love and appreciation for us."

    Jess said she has disassociated herself from the fandom until things change and people acknowledge that they're in the wrong.

    Dani (@melaninbarbie), 22, a freelance artist and student from Nebraska.

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    Dani said that when she became a BTS fan in 2014, people in the fandom were all pretty cool. She said she was aware that stan Twitter in general could be quite toxic, but hadn't been directly affected by it.

    That changed, however, when she expressed her thoughts about one of the members of BTS having braids and was told she was wrong to be offended.

    Dani said things got worse with the increase in popularity of apps like Curious Cat. "People realized it was a way for them to be racist and not get caught," she said. "I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone tweet me racial slurs but it always popped up on my Curious Cat."

    She said that when she engages with the racism it only exacerbates it. "At one point, I decided that I wasn’t going to address it and just ignore it but it’s hard when I’m so hardheaded and I can’t stay silent when I’m being targeted."

    In March someone told her via Curious Cat that black BTS fans should have their own nickname – Korean fans, K Diamonds, and international fans, the I Lovelies, already had their own.

    "So I said Bangtan Babes. There was so much gross anti-blackness happenings and I thought it was a positive name. I love it and I think it’s super cute."

    Nicia (@wavesofmelanin), 19, a student from Maryland.

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    After coming across BTS member Jimin, Nicia said she decided to stan, but she wants racism within the standom to be addressed and not pushed under the rug.

    "Doing just that will ruin BTS’s image," she added.

    Nicia said people tell her to educate racist fans, which she says is exhausting. "'Educate them' is the saying I’m tired of, or they do some mental gymnastics that is so annoying."

    Alexis (@fentybaseline), 20, a student from Atlanta, Georgia.

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    Alexis said she got into BTS in 2016 and, at first, the fans were nice. But like other supporters, she has started getting abuse on Curious Cat. On top of that, she has been accused of sending it to herself.

    She said: "I have been called a ni**** multiple times on anon, especially in the beginning of last year.

    "When I received racist anonymous messages, one Army came into my CC and messaged me [saying] how they don't believe that I'm getting racist messages, they don't believe that I'm getting hate, and that I'm setting my own self up for it or just making it all up or for clout."

    Hannah (@hijabi_hannah), 16, Chicago

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    "I joined the fandom around late November not too long after I found out about them," Hannah said. "I knew about BTS and the fandom but I didn't really pay much attention until then. I have loved them since.

    "I haven't directly received any anons but when I engage with these people, they often start insulting me even though I try to explain why what they said was wrong.

    "One of my mutuals got an extreme amount of hate because of an opinion she expressed. The hate was so bad she experienced panic attacks and had anxiety due to the hate.

    "She had to deactivate for a while and she eventually unstanned."

    The only thing keeping Hannah from not leaving the BTS standom is her love for the group. "They are incredibly talented and they're the only idols I have seen that respect black cultures and learn from their mistakes. Their apologies are genuine and that makes me feel happy and proud."

    Sonny (@baseIinethot), 19, from North Carolina.

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    For Sonny, a turning point in the way fans interacted with each other came in 2017 when the army got into an argument with the rapper Wale who was accused of using BTS for fame.

    Since then, she has received anonymous abuse through Curious Cat. "I sometimes respond to it with sarcasm and clownery but when it’s really intense with the death and rape threats or just a lot of things at once I get upset," she said.

    Sonny said she's been told to keep quiet about the level of abuse and not make BTS look bad. She also said that she has made a lot of friends through the standom, so there are ups and downs: "I don’t get to be happy a lot but they make me happy and so do my friends that I’ve made. It’s kind of my coping mechanism and also a support system."

    Anna C (@pjmdreams), 27, from France.

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    Anna said hasn't always been immersed in the fandom and only realised how toxic some fans could be last year.

    She said: "When you start interacting with a lot of them, taking part in voting and stuff like that, that's when you really notice things.

    "I have been called the N-word in Chinese once but I've mostly witnessed the abuse rather than being subjected to it."

    Anna said it hurts her heart when she sees young fans being subjected to racial abuse because they're expressing their opinions online.

    "I respect BTS as artists so I don't see myself dropping them for having crazy fans. But I don't see myself keep on giving them support if their company doesn't address this issue. It's too big, too real and too hurtful to be swept under the rug.

    "I can like an artist without being involved with their fandom for sure though. I became invested in their music for them and not the fans."

    Kirsten Cohns (@lovr_twt), a 17-year-old high school student from Dallas, Texas.

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    Cohns got into BTS in 2015 and said that everyone was extremely welcoming and nice. Then, after signing up to Curious Cat, the abuse started.

    "I’ve been called ni**** and also told to go pick cotton and it’s always anonymous. But they always let me know that they’re Armys because they always end the message [with] 'we don’t claim you in Army'."

    Cohn said she has only stuck around for BTS: "Without them I wouldn’t be able to beat my depression and their music always calms me when I’m having anxiety and their antics always make me smile and I just love them with my whole heart."

    Ahna, 19, a student from California.

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    Ahna said she used to be a One Direction stan and got into BTS in 2017 so she wasn't surprised by the levels of fans antics at first. "The stans were like any other stans on Twitter to me," she said.

    But over time, she started experiencing the fans change with some becoming racist.

    "I’m going to keep it 100," she said. "I’ve never experienced blatant racism in a fandom as much as I have while being a BTS stan."

    She said that when she took her Curious Cat off anon she stopped receiving racist messages.

    Ahna said she's never been one to let fans stop her from supporting an artist and their work. "Stanning BTS has allowed me to grow as a person and educate myself. I’ve unlearned a lot of things regarding internalized discrimination and biases. So I’ll never regret it."

    "That doesn’t mean I’ll continue to subject myself to abuse for them," she added. "If it ever becomes too much, I’ll just leave the fandom."

    Kirstin (@kirstiquetee), 27.

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    Kirstin said her first experience of BTS was on the show American Hustle Life where the members were flown to the US and were taught about hip-hop by Coolio and Warren G. Kirstin said it was the first she saw a K-Pop act actively learn about hip-hop from the source.

    "As the fandom got bigger, I have seen and received more racially charged comments and attacks," she said. "I saw comments of 'oh Rapmon don't like n*****'. The boys don't like you monkeys. Things of that nature."

    Whenever she addresses racism she gets attacked and dragged by other fans.

    "How I deal with the abuse is either block the person for my own mental health but sometimes, I have to defend and make some noise about it because these are things that need to be addressed and it keeps getting worse."

    Joy (@joyfulseok), a 23-year-old student from Maryland.

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    Joy, who has been a fan since 2015, started receiving abuse after making a Twitter thread about BTS not interacting enough with black artists.

    "People came into my Curious Cat on anon [anonymously] and told me that BTS does not like black people and that they only care about Koreans and whites," she said.

    "People tend to push the image of Army being a huge multicultural, inclusive family but I just don’t understand how we can be inclusive or a family when people want to silence racism for something like fandom image."

    BuzzFeed News contacted Curious Cat for comment and a spokesperson said in an emailed statement:

    "As we stated on our twitter recently, we are aware of the issue and have been banning all the individuals behind these messages which are brought to our attention.

    "As to what we are doing, we are currently designing and building the foundations for a safer Curious Cat, both behind the scenes and out front. We have recently been experimenting with filters that will prevent harmful posts from reaching the user without them realising, but we will also be rolling out more intuitive and useful safety settings, that will allow each user to make their experience as safe as it needs to be."

    The company said that a block feature currently exists, though it is "far from perfect", while users can also block people asking questions anonymously, or prevent people without an account from asking questions.

    BuzzFeed News has also contacted BTS for comment.

    Ikran is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

    Contact Ikran Dahir at ikran.dahir@buzzfeed.com.

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