K-Pop superstar BTS visited the White House Tuesday to speak with President Joe Biden on the topic of combating hate crimes against Asian Americans. This was a great way to add some star power to an otherwise scary and sad topic.
J-Hope and RM, Suga and Jungkook joined White House press secretary Karine Jean Pierre at a briefing with reporters on last day of Asian American Heritage Month. Jimin stated that the band was "devastated" by the recent rise in crime and intolerance towards Asian Americans, which has continued since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Through an interpreter, Suga stated that "it's not wrong for you to be different." V stated that equality begins when people embrace their differences and openly acknowledge them all.
V said, "We hope today is one of the first steps towards understanding and respecting everyone as a valuable individual."
The members of the band wore black suits with ties and briefly took it in turns to step up to the podium. The band members were given a tour at the White House prior to the briefing and had a private meeting in the Oval Office with the president afterward. Biden administration officials held roundtable discussions and meetings with Asian American leaders in recent weeks to discuss violence.
BTS's self-produced music has gained worldwide recognition since its 2013 debut. The band also made an appearance at United Nations. The group topped the Billboard Hot 100 charts three times in 2020 and was nominated to major music awards such as the Grammys and Billboard Music Awards.
The White House briefing room, which is usually cramped, was packed with journalists covering BTS. They also crowded the aisles along with rows of seats that were assigned to outlets who attend regularly. The White House livestream -- not known for large, middle-of-the-afternoon audiences -- attracted more than 230,000 viewers before the event even began.
After the band members had spoken and their comments were translated, reporters started to ask questions. Jean-Pierre, who previously stated that members would not take questions, intervened saying, "We are gonna go." This prompted BTS members, to say, "We're sorry," as they filed off the podium.
Brian Deese (director of the White House National Economic Council), was next to the band. He was there to address reporters following the meeting between Jerome Powell, Federal Reserve Chairman, and Biden earlier in that day.
Deese laughed and said that he could go home to tell his kids that BTS had opened for him. He also joked that the room was just as excited to discuss inflation's effect on the U.S. economic system as they were for the band.
While the scene was entertaining, the real issue that brought them to the White House was much more serious. Eight people were killed at Atlanta-area massage shops in March 2021, six of them being of Asian descent. This was part of the rise in anti-Asian hate crime and discrimination since 2020.