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I’m not excited about Asian representation at Coachella and here’s why

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February 28, 2020

When Coachella’s lineup for this year went public, a lot of Asians went absolutely wild over the Asian representation amongst performers — especially since the 2020 lineup features the most Asian acts in the festival’s history. Kpop hall-of-famers Big Bang, artists from 88rising, Jai Wolf, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Raveena, and Epik High are amongst the various acts that will perform over the two weekends.

Rich Brian Via GIPHY

While Asian representation is important, and I do appreciate the diversity in Asian representation we’re getting this year, let’s talk about why we must be critical about the kind of representation we get and on what platforms the representation exists. 

We must question and critically analyze these occurrences. Consider these two key questions:

Who does this representation ultimately benefit?

Who profits off of said representation?

In this context, people must know that Coachella’s founder donates large amounts of money to anti-LGBTQ+ and climate change denial organizations. Until at least 2016, he was actively helping fund anti-LGBTQ+ organizations. From 2015-2016, he also donated to organizations like NumbersUSA, which specifies on its website that it’s an “immigration-reduction organization.” Though he may not donate to openly right-wing causes anymore (note: he only stopped after being called out and having his money under possible threat), he continues to benefit from the festival’s profits and support conservative candidates that work to further the same causes he’s donated to. 

So, let’s revisit those questions. Asian representation in music is important, but in this circumstance, it is being used as a tool to ultimately benefit a white, right-wing billionaire; organizations are using the growing popularity of Asian performers to further line the pockets of the 41st richest person in the U.S.

In a way, it’s like people are excited that Asians will now have the national opportunity to oppress LGBTQ+ folk through this avenue as well. It’s even more horrifically ironic that Asians are excited about this representation when profits have (and possibly will continue to go to) organizations that are anti-immigrant- especially since an immigration story is part of most Asian-American backgrounds. 

Coachella is just one case. 

As Asian representation in general grows, know that it’s okay to be critical of the representation we get. For many Asians, this representation is simply exciting because we are underrepresented in various industries and popular culture- at times, to the point of invisibility.

I get it, and I get excited too.

But, we must take a moment to consider the implications. Without critique and cognizance of how multidimensional representation is, we risk supporting festivals (and so much more) that actively marginalize our communities- LGTBQ+ Asians, Asian immigrants, and immigrant families, Asians that live in areas disproportionately impacted by climate change, among others.  

We also risk marginalizing other communities we must stand in solidarity with, when we don’t have nuanced discussions about the representation received and how we are represented. For example, take Awkwafina’s blaccent

In embracing Asian figures that express anti-Black behavior, we don’t uplift our communities. We only perpetuate systems that oppress Black communities, as well as our own. 

So, I’ll keep my money and save my support for representation that doesn’t oppress other marginalized folks. 

What are your thoughts on Asian representation at Coachella?