Taylor Swift Celebrates Cultural Appropriation in “Shake It Off”

Taylor Swift Celebrates Cultural Appropriation in “Shake It Off”

Neither Lily Allen nor Miley Cyrus took notice of our open letter “Stop Twerking, It’s Racist!” Now it seems that Taylor Swift wants a piece of the action too. In her new music video for “Shake It Off,” the country musician appears in several dance and music scenes, including two scenes of black stereotypes in which she moves and dresses herself to fit in. Of course, there are also scenes of cheerleader stereotypes and of ballet dancer stereotypes. However, fortunately for them, we are not often witness to the murder of unarmed ballet dancers at the hands of prejudiced police officers.

It didn’t take long for a Black artist to take a stand against the video.

Indeed, Earl is right— you don’t have to watch the video to understand that Taylor Swift is engaging in the same dialogue as her predecessors Lily Allen, Miley Cyrus, and indeed Lil’ Debbie. And for many, it will not come as a surprise that Swift is trying to get down with the “homeboys” and “homegirls” in order to seem relevant in 2014. But at what cost? 2014 is also a year of an astonishing number of deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of white police officers, which makes us realize that while white people have a level of unparalleled access to the joys of black culture, black people do not have anything close to the same level of access to the privileges of whiteness.

What is perhaps most insensitive about this video is its arrival at a peak of great tension in American race relations. Popstars and musicians often feel that music is an apolitical space— after all, Swift tells us to just “shake it off”. In fact, it is directly responsible for the images which we use to digest notions of race in this country. More importantly, songs are powerful tools of political inspiration and motivation. There were few songs that chose to tackle Trayvon Martin’s murder directly, but we salute Rick Ross for his attempt. J. Cole has taken a stand and now Nelly. These are the songs you hear playing in Ferguson because they have real significance to people and inspire action and solidarity.

This white writer is ashamed that this is the image of American culture that other white people want the world to see.