China’s controversial hip-hop ban elicits charges of anti-Blackness
Did the Chinese government issue a crotchety “get-off-my-lawn” to hip-hop appreciators and contributors to hip-hop culture in the Asian country? Is it saying, “to hell with you Millennials making us look bad all over the world” or preserving the innocence of Chinese youth whose consumption of adult material could shape problematic perspectives? It depends on how one interprets a recently reported series of culturally-connected prohibitions.
As Time noted, China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television—the country’s primary media regulator—now “specifically requires that programs should not feature actors with tattoos [or depict] hip hop culture, sub-culture (non-mainstream culture) and dispirited culture (decadent culture),” according to Sina, a Chinese news outlet.
The governmental move elicited wide-ranging critiques including anti-blackness and undue censorship. A couple of days ago, one of my Chinese LL.M colleagues said that the American press makes the ban sound broader than it is. She said that hip-hop was not being banned as much as specific Chinese rappers, and their supporters, were being made an example of for promoting misogyny, drug use and violence that could harm Chinese children.
A rapper named Mao (“VaVa”) Yanqi was axed from a variety program called Happy Camp. Triple H, another rapper, had his music scrubbed from streaming sites. A contestant on a show called Super Brian (who also donned baggy jeans, a fitted cap and an oversize sweatshirt) had his chain blurred on TV.
In fairness to China, America has its own storied history of censorship of hip-hop and other Black and Brown derived art forms. We can all stand to remember that the reverence usually reserved for European art and its preservation as canon, at the expense of other peoples and cultures, deserves revisiting.