Can I call you Taylor? Or should I refer to you as Ms. Swift? Swifty? The Swiftress?
Look, I know you probably have no idea who I am. And if you do, I’m sure you don’t have a very high opinion of me. I won’t even try to deny that I have made fun of you, ad nauseam. I won’t even try to list all of the times I have disparaged your name, except to say that if I had a nickel for every time I threw shade at you, not only would I be a rich man, I would probably wonder where the fuck they got all those nickels and why the pay was so low.
Also, why nickels? Are you calling me a “nickeler?” That sounds a lot like “nigger,” Taylor.
I hope you aren’t still salty about that time I called you Beckyoncé or Mayonaisse Rihanna. I take back all that stuff I said about your cover of Earth Wind & Fire’s “September.” If I’m being honest, I haven’t even heard it. I was afraid my ears would turn against me and try to stab me in the lower jaw.
But, I digress.
The reason I’m writing is that I saw your Instagram post endorsing Democratic candidate Phil Bredesen for U.S. Senate and Jim Cooper for the U.S. House of Representatives.
In your post, you say, “In the past, I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now,” adding:
I believe in the fight for LGBTQ rights, and that any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is WRONG. I believe that the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent.
I cannot vote for someone who will not be willing to fight for dignity for ALL Americans, no matter their skin color, gender or who they love.
I must admit that I am now more conflicted about you. Not since I discovered Jennifer Spelowski was the best beatboxer in my middle school have I felt this level of confusion about a white woman.
On one hand, Taylor, I applaud your efforts. One of my recurring themes is that it is not incumbent upon black people to end discrimination because white supremacy is a system created, maintained and perpetuated by whites. As someone who often talks about white people’s unwillingness to speak out about racism, it would be antithetical for me to criticize your newfound wokeness.
You are right that Trump-supporting U.S. Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn is a problem. Most people knew it two years ago when she insisted that institutional racism and police bias did not exist, warning people to “be careful” about how they talked about police bias because the thin blue line is what “separates us from anarchy.”
On the other hand, it is hard for me to ignore that your Instagram activism is convenient and indicative of the privilege that you so blithely enjoy. When you attributed your revelation to “several events in my life and in the world in the past two years,” I could only think about how nice it must be to ignore discrimination, homophobia and racism until it affects you personally.
I know you have to protect your celebrity status, and sometimes that means being apolitical. Even though I don’t think most people look for guidance from pop singers, practicing willful silence is not apolitical. It clears a space for evil to flourish. Speaking up only when you are personally affected is not brave. It is an act of selfishness.
Do you remember all those black women who joined white women at the Women’s March in 2016? Oh wait, you weren’t there. Perhaps you remember celebrities such as Beyoncé, Meryl Streep and Robert DeNiro (who, I believe, has placed Trump firmly in the category of people who will catch the hands on sight), each of whom spoke out against Trump and faced the daunting consequences of nothing happening to them at all.
And that is why we are here now.
The fault does not lie solely at the feet of the 53 percent of white women who voted for Trump. It belongs to people who are cool with a pussy-grabbing, dim-witted, racist buffoon until he threatens the peace, safety and prosperity of people who look like them. It belongs to the people who are apathetic about discrimination until it directly affects their lives.
The white women who stampeded through the halls of Congress outraged their senator would give a lifetime appointment to a man who might have abused women, will sit on their hands when police shoot a black child in the face. The well-meaning feminists who rail against the very real culture of sexual misconduct are conspicuously silent about the culture of racism. They don’t care about any of the blood until it gets on their shoes. Black people are always left alone to do the heavy lifting. To be honest, it might be, at least in part, because of our own self-interest, too.
The senators who ignore rape culture also ignore racism. The homophobic lawmakers are also usually willing to pass anti-black laws. The ones who take away women’s rights also take away non-white people rights, health care and equal opportunity. We have to fight it all. But you, like so many other white women, get to decide when to carefully set your dainty little parcels of white privilege on the same shelf that held the mint juleps you mixed while sitting on plantation porches as you benefited from every form of white supremacy in history.
And as always, if and when you are finally able to topple the patriarchy you speak of so often, I’m sure you will raise your banjo-playing strengthened arms, uphold systematic inequality, and stiff-arm that pesky little negro problem and declare, “We did it!”
And for that, I thank you.
A real nickeler