Taylor Swift Urged Tennessee Leaders To Remove Its Racist Statues

Savannah Walsh
Photo credit: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin - Getty Images
Photo credit: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin - Getty Images

From Marie Claire

Today, Taylor Swift let her 134 million Instagram followers know where she stands when it comes to preserving monuments that honor racist figures. Her powerful post comes a few days after finally advocating for the Black Lives Matter movement on Twitter.

"I’m asking the Capitol Commission and the Tennessee Historical Commission to please consider the implications of how hurtful it would be to continue fighting for these monuments," Swift captioned a lengthy statement on Instagram. "When you fight to honor racists, you show black Tennesseans and all of their allies where you stand, and you continue this cycle of hurt. You can’t change history, but you can change this. 🙏"

In her post, Swift spoke about how statues celebrating Edward Carmack and Nathan Bedford Forrest, a pair of historical figures with well-documented racist pasts, made non-white visitors of her home state feel unwelcome. She outlined racist acts from both Carmack and Bedford Forrest, which are among several controversial statues to fall around the world during protests after the unjust deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.

"Taking down statues isn't going to fix centuries of systemic oppression, violence and hatred that black people have had to endure but it might bring us one small step closer to making ALL Tennesseans and visitors to our state feel safe - not just the white ones," she concluded her post. "We need to retroactively change the status of people who perpetuated hideous patterns of racism from 'heroes' to 'villains.' And villains don't deserve statues." Swift also shared this message in a thread on Twitter.

The last time Swift referenced the Black Lives Matter movement, she asked her Twitter followers to register to vote and directed them towards Former President Barack Obama's Medium article about sustaining the movement's current momentum. "Racial injustice has been ingrained deeply into local and state governments, and changes MUST be made there," she wrote. "In order for policies to change, we need to elect people who will fight against police brutality and racism of any kind. #BlackLivesMatter."

Swift has drawn criticism from fans for not speaking out about her political beliefs sooner. Most notably, she stayed quiet about endorsing a candidate during the 2016 election, leading to conspiracies that she aligned with white supremacist beliefs. That silence was broken in October 2018 when she announced she'd be supporting Democrat Phil Bredesen in the U.S. Senate race in Tennessee, encouraging her followers to do the same. Her recent documentary Miss Americana also shows the motives behind this moment and shows her express regret over not speaking up sooner. In her essay about turning 30 for ELLE published last March, Swift explained that she was only beginning to educate herself and find her political voice.


View this post on Instagram

I’m writing this post about the upcoming midterm elections on November 6th, in which I’ll be voting in the state of Tennessee. 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. I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country. 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. Running for Senate in the state of Tennessee is a woman named Marsha Blackburn. As much as I have in the past and would like to continue voting for women in office, I cannot support Marsha Blackburn. Her voting record in Congress appalls and terrifies me. She voted against equal pay for women. She voted against the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which attempts to protect women from domestic violence, stalking, and date rape. She believes businesses have a right to refuse service to gay couples. She also believes they should not have the right to marry. These are not MY Tennessee values. I will be voting for Phil Bredesen for Senate and Jim Cooper for House of Representatives. Please, please educate yourself on the candidates running in your state and vote based on who most closely represents your values. For a lot of us, we may never find a candidate or party with whom we agree 100% on every issue, but we have to vote anyway. So many intelligent, thoughtful, self-possessed people have turned 18 in the past two years and now have the right and privilege to make their vote count. But first you need to register, which is quick and easy to do. October 9th is the LAST DAY to register to vote in the state of TN. Go to vote.org and you can find all the info. Happy Voting! 🗳😃🌈

A post shared by Taylor Swift (@taylorswift) on Oct 7, 2018 at 4:33pm PDT


Swift's full comments can be read below:

"As a Tennesseean, it makes me sick that there are monuments standing in our state that celebrate racist historical figures who did evil things. Edward Carmack and Nathan Bedford Forrest were DESPICABLE figures in our state history and should be treated as such.

Edward Carmack's statue was sitting in the state Capitol until it was torn down last week in the protests. The state of Tennessee has vowed to replace it. FYI, he was a white supremacist newspaper editor who published pro-lynching editorials and incited the arson of the office of Ida B. Wells (who actually deserves a hero's statue for her pioneering work in journalism and civil rights). Replacing his statue is a waste of state funds and a waste of an opportunity to do the right thing.

Then we get to this monstrosity. Nathan Bedford Forrest was a brutal slave trader and the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan who, during the Civil War, massacred dozens of black Union soldiers in Memphis. His statue is still standing and July 13th is 'Nathan Bedford Forrest Day.' Due to social pressure, the state is trying to overrule this, and Tennesseans might no longer have to stomach it. Fingers crossed.

Taking down statues isn't going to fix centuries of systemic oppression, violence and hatred that black people have had to endure but it might bring us one small step closer to making ALL Tennesseans and visitors to our state feel safe - not just the white ones. We need to retroactively change the status of people who perpetuated hideous patterns of racism from 'heroes' to 'villains.' And villains don't deserve statues."

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