BTS at the White House

BTS holding their diplomatic passports in September 2021.

Before BTS, a group of seven musicians from South Korea, even entered the White House press room this morning, a whole community held its breath in nervous, excited anticipation. Since the announcement of the visit of BTS to the White House last week, the online community that supports the musicians has been abuzz with the magnitude of the event. When BTS walked into the press room, along with 310,000 other people watching the livestream, I felt a swell of emotions — the chief among them being pride.

Why would a late 30-something white woman, with a PhD and a professorship at a large research university, be getting emotional over musicians giving a short press briefing at the White House?

Well, I’m so glad you asked.

Since their debut in June 2013, BTS has consistently used their platform for advocacy and activism. In turn, their fandom community, ARMY, has walked in tandem with the band, speaking out against violence and hate, donating to charities, promoting self love, and dismantling a number of social stigmas. BTS and ARMY are loud proponents of creating an open discourse about mental health. All of this is echoed in BTS’s campaigns, actions, and music.

I’ve personally been following the group, and have been a member of ARMY, since I first heard them in 2020. That year was tumultuous for everyone, and I am not an exception. As with many ARMY members, my discovery of BTS coincided with a time in my life when I needed the reminder that I was more than people’s perceptions and stigmas about me; that I was more than my failures. BTS’s music was a solace and reminder that I deserved love and respect.

Being a part of the BTS ARMY community has given me an opportunity to meet many kind, diverse, wonderful people from all over the world. And I decided to use my own voice to show the world the same thing that BTS showed me: we are more than other people’s (mis)perceptions and stigmas of us; we are more than what might feel like failures. We are each of us a light that shines in the darkness and together we are our own galaxy of hope.

BTS speaking, primarily in Korean, at the White House press briefing was an historical moment. There will be some who choose to criticize and those who will want to dismiss “K-pop idols.” There will be the people who have been perpetuating anti-Asian sentiments and violence. It’s true, those people will likely not be swayed by a visit from BTS to the Oval Office. But BTS isn’t here for them.

BTS is here for the rest of us, who have been worn down by years of trauma, exclusion, and violence. We are ready to find new inspiration for continuing to fight to effect change in our communities. We are ready for a beacon of hope in the darkness. And BTS are here for the youth around the globe watching as seven Korean men speak in their native tongue to a majority white press in the White House of the United States. BTS was there for everyone looking for the proof that if we keep working hard, good change will come.

BTS uses their voice to empower, include, and spread love and joy. My heart swells at the thought of how far they’ve come. I’m excited to continue to watch the ripple effect they have on the world as people continue to carry their message forward into their own communities.

You can watch BTS’s portion of the White House Press Brief ft. BTS here:

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