Look What You Made Taylor Swift Do (Come Out Against White Supremacy)

Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images.

Taylor Swift spoke out forcefully today against President Donald Trump’s incitement of military violence in the wake of protests calling for justice after the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis. “After stoking the fires of white supremacy and racism your entire presidency, you have the nerve to feign moral superiority before threatening violence?” the singer wrote on Twitter. “‘When the looting starts the shooting starts’??? We will vote you out in November.”

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The specificity and passion of her statement — in contrast with more vague celeb tweets preaching peace and love — drew praise: “SAY IT WITH YOUR CHEST TAY TAY! I never saw this coming in 2020, y’all, but here we are.” “GET HIM TAYLOR!!!” “I love this song.” Fire emojis came and it got “Tay Tay” trending on Twitter. According to Twitter, it was her most-liked tweet ever, hitting 1 million likes in less than five hours.

Swift has had a long and complex relationship with vocalizing her political beliefs. Many were angry that she did not endorse Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, a decision that some saw as tacit support of right-wing politics. But in 2018, Swift changed course: First, she spoke out against gun violence and donated to March for Our Lives after the Parkland shooting — a move that didn’t support either political party, but aligned with Democratic positions. Then, in a game-changing post on Instagram, she endorsed Democrat Phil Bredesen (who later lost) in his race against Marsha Blackburn in Tennessee, Swift’s home state. Blackburn has voted against reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and is anti-LGBTQ+, which stands in direct contrast to Swift, who has advocated for women’s and LGBTQ+ rights. Despite Blackburn’s win in the midterms, Swift helped substantially increase youth voter registration in Tennessee.

The pop star has been increasingly politically active since then. In 2019, she donated $113,000 to an advocacy group working against anti-LGBTQ+ policies in the Tennessee legislature before promoting LGBTQ+ rights in her “You Need to Calm Down” video, which urged viewers to support the Equality Act. That same year, she wrote an essay ahead of her 30th birthday in Elle magazine talking about finding her political voice: 

“I took a lot of time educating myself on the political system and the branches of government that are signing off on bills that affect our day-to-day life. I saw so many issues that put our most vulnerable citizens at risk, and felt like I had to speak up to try and help make a change. Only as someone approaching 30 did I feel informed enough to speak about it to my 114 million followers. Invoking racism and provoking fear through thinly veiled messaging is not what I want from our leaders, and I realized that it actually is my responsibility to use my influence against that disgusting rhetoric. I’m going to do more to help. We have a big race coming up next year.”

In her Netflix documentary Miss Americana earlier this year, Swift addressed why she had been reticent to speak about politics before 2018, saying she hadn’t thought people cared about her views. Referencing the 2012 presidential election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, Swift said at the time, “I just figure I’m a 22-year-old singer. I don’t know if people really wanna hear my political views. I think they just kind of want to hear me sing songs about breakups and feelings.” She also worried about losing fans within the country music scene, given the response to the Dixie Chicks, who faced extreme backlash after criticizing then-President George W. Bush at a London concert in 2003. “Part of the fabric of being a country artist is don’t force your politics on people,” she explained. “Let people live their lives. That is grilled into us.” When she finally decided to go public with her views, she got into a confrontation with her management, who very much didn’t want her getting political for fear of backlash. But Swift had finally decided to take a stand. “If I get bad press for saying, ‘Don’t put a homophobic racist in office,’ then I get bad press for that, I really don’t care," Swift said. 

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Of course, Swift should not get praise simply for speaking out against white supremacy, and people were right to call for her to “send your money to Minneapolis” and not just tweet. But considering her huge fanbase, most of them young white women, it’s essential that she continue to use her platform for good. “I recorded an entire podcast about Taylor Swift's silence re: Trump and white supremacy,” wrote podcast host Bridget Todd. (You can listen to it here.) “I'm so thrilled to see her speaking out today, setting a strong, clear example for the millions of white women and girls who look up to her.”

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