In the latest instalment of, “What were they thinking???”…
Trading card and collectables company Topp has been hit with allegations that their latest merch contains material that is “tone-deaf”, “insensitive” and “racist. To give the situation more context, Topps recently released a Grammys-edition of their ‘Garbage Pail Kids’ sticker cards. The cards, a parody of the Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, included warped imagery of the celebrities that performed at the 63rd Grammy Awards (dubbed “The Shammy Awards” in the deck). Amongst them are Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, Bruno Mars and Meghan Thee Stallion.
However, it didn’t take long for fans to notice that South Korean K-Pop group BTS were also included in the deck. Unfortunately, there was so much wrong with the design for the group’s sticker – where do we even start??? For one, the boys are depicted as ‘Whack-A-Mole’ characters, bruised and battered after seemingly being “whacked” with a Grammy award (alluding to the fact that the boys did not take home an award that night). Not only that, the award-winning group is referred to merely as “Bopping K-Pop” on one as well as “BTS Bruisers” on another. The violent imagery, as one Twitter user pointed out, serves to “further [fuel] the hate & violence towards the Asian community”.
Following the release of the caricature, the hashtag, “#RacismIsNotComedy” picked up speed on Twitter, with many calling out Topps for failing to realise just how problematic the imagery was.
…..just learned about the disgusting caricature Topps made of BTS. That is not satire. It’s downright racist. For anyone trying to brush it off as comedic, depicting violence like that toward an Asian group during these times is hateful & dangerous. what in the world.
— fatima✨🌙 (@fatimafarha_) March 17, 2021
The company has since released an apology via their social media sites, writing that the caricature of BTS has since been excluded from the merch.
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The apology has been ill-received, with many calling out the company for failing to detail why the sticker design was problematic in the first place. In recent months, more scrutiny has been placed on how brands respond to being called out for acts that are deemed racist, xenophobic, sexist or non-inclusive in any way, shape or form. Many brands have been lauded for owning up to their mistakes and not being ashamed to address their wrong in their apologies, but that mark seems to have been missed in Topp’s apology.
the way it went through so many people before it was published and all of them thought it was okay??? you didn’t even outline the reasoning behind why it was so upsetting. this is not a proper apology at all, apologize to bts and the asian community properly
— Njtoni⁷#1 (@jtoni_n) March 17, 2021
Apology not accepted. At a time when hate crimes against Asian Americans and Asians worldwide is alarming, @Topps was so tone deaf they thought it'd be cute to release a set of garbage BTS cards that depicted them as bloodied & beaten. Dehumanizing a very real group is dangerous. https://t.co/cjOLw0gAt2
— Jae-Ha Kim 김재하 (@GoAwayWithJae) March 17, 2021
Just a day after the designs were released, eight people were killed in a shooting at three different spas in Atlanta; six of the eight people killed were Asians, sparking more awareness of the growing threats against the Asian community. One survey has shown that, since the start of the pandemic over a year ago, Anti-Asian hate crimes in the US has increased by 150% in 2020. In Vancouver, Canada, increased by 717 per cent from 2019 to 2020. As a result, more and more resources to raise awareness and call for action against such hate crimes are now making its rounds through social media.
Even if you do not live in the US, Canada or in Europe, where most of the anti-Asian hate crimes are concentrated, it is important to share the information for those who may not be aware that this racism and hate crimes is as rampant of an issue as it is, as well as for your loved one and friends who are living overseas and could do with the information.
*Cover image credit: @BTS_twt as photographed for TIME