"A nice girl smiles and waves and says thank you. A nice girl doesn’t make people feel uncomfortable with her views."
That's Taylor Swift, talking about how she worked to maintain her fame in the 2020 Netflix documentary Miss Americana.
That's also the old Taylor Swift—America's blondest, ever-smiling sweetheart, the woman who was once accused of tacitly accepting Nazi fans and just wanted to be excluded from complicated narratives (read: anything that could tarnish her pristine public image and splinter her lucrative empire).
Here's Taylor Swift as of Friday morning, May 29:
Sorry, the old Taylor can't come to the phone. Because she's gone, replaced by a Taylor Swift who stands for something—even when it makes people uncomfortable.
Her tweet—a radical act by the mainstream star's typically apolitical standards—responded to a tweet from the president that called for police to shoot those protesting racial injustice in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was flagged by the site for "violating Twitter rules about glorifying violence," but it wasn't removed.
As historic protests by brave civilians shake the long-embedded structures of endemic racism in cities across America, the focus should not be on a white woman whose net worth is hundreds of millions of dollars. But I can't help but celebrate this integrity glow-up for Swift, a person who set a tone for an entire generation—the tone usually being, "Be likable and protect your own reputation."
Artists like Cardi B, who posted a nuanced video on the protests early this morning, have been doing the hard work of communicating about racism to a wide fan base for years.
Taylor Swift could have joined in earlier, but it's great to have her now. Her stance feels like an invitation for white women who don't necessarily think of themselves as "political" or "outspoken" to be vocal and to commit to acknowledging white supremacy and using their power to dismantle racism.
Taylor Swift has always had impeccable strategy and enormous platform. Now it seems she's putting it to use. A tweet is not revolution, but it's a good start—using moral clarity to denounce a president whose supporters will undoubtedly come after her. It will also send a message to her fans and to her celebrity peers that silence is complicity. And that voting can have even more powerful global consequences than breaking up with Jake Gyllenhaal.
The woman who has taken baby steps into the political arena—encouraging voter registration and denouncing an anti-choice Republican in the 2018 midterm elections—is finally doing what she promised she would ages ago. She's speaking, now.
Struggling to follow the endless barrage of confusing bad news in the midst of a pandemic? Not sure what the Lover singer has to do with headlines about teargas and police brutality? Understandable.
Here's the backstory:
In Minneapolis, some peaceful protests against the killing of a civilian by a police officer have boiled over into unrest. Footage taken by a bystander and posted to social media on Monday has inspired historic protests: It shows a police officer holding his knee to the neck of 46-year-old black man George Floyd. Floyd, who was handcuffed, and repeatedly stated, "Please, I can't breathe," died shortly after. Three other officers were present.
The killing of yet another unarmed black man in broad daylight has inspired grief and fury. The four officers involved have been fired, but only days later, on Friday afternoon, was Derek Chauvin, the officer with his knee on Floyd's neck, charged with murder. Chauvin had a history of 18 complaints filed against him during his time in the Minneapolis Police Department, CNN reports.
Protests, vigils, and the painting of murals in Floyd's honor have occurred across the city and state. While most have been peaceful, there has also been looting and the burning of a police precinct. Minnesota state governor Tim Waltz ordered National Guard troops into the city on Thursday, after the third day of protests.
Early on Friday morning, the President tweeted a series of messages about the protests, including one tweet that announced, shockingly, "when the looting starts, the shooting starts." Essentially, the president called for police to open fire on civilians in the streets.
Thus, Taylor's tweet, which has amassed over 800,000 likes. (The president's tweets usually clock in at the 200,000 mark, max. Like it or not, Twitter is the birthplace of a lot of our political discourse these days, and likes matter.)
Civilian action in Minneapolis has inspired similar protests across the country, including in Denver, Colorado; Columbus, Ohio; Louisville, Kentucky, and New York City. Seven people were shot at the Louisville protest, which aimed to address the police killing of black 26-year-old Breonna Taylor in March. Reports say that the shots came from within the crowd of protesters, and that no one has been killed. Taylor was killed when police broke into her home. She was unarmed and asleep.
We're living through particularly noteworthy history—probably more than most of us hoped to. Black communities and activists have led the charge against police brutality and racism, but fighting injustice is not one group's job. Taylor Swift has staked a little piece of her career on it. There are a whole lot of people who could stand to join her.
Jenny Singer is a staff writer for Glamour. You can follow her on Twitter.
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