Taylor Swift Calls for Permanent Removal of “Racist” Confederate Statues

"You can't change history, but you can change this"

Taylor Swift confederate statues racism tennessee political, photo by David Brendan Hall
Taylor Swift, photo by David Brendan Hall

    The Black Lives Matter protests spurred by George Floyd’s murder aren’t stopping anytime soon — unless, of course, racial equity magically appears overnight. While marching for racial justice and calling for the police to be defunded, protestors have begun taking it upon themselves to dismantle, if not destroy, statues honoring white supremacists from history like Robert E. Lee and John B. Castleman. As it turns out, they have a huge celebrity supporting that cause: Taylor Swift.

    On Friday, the Grammy-winning pop star released a statement calling for the permanent removal of all Confederate statues in Tennessee. “As a Tennessean, it makes me sick that there are monuments standing in our state that celebrate racist historical figures who did evil things,” Swift wrote on Twitter. “Edward Carmack and Nathan Bedford Forrest were DESPICABLE figures in our state history and should be treated as such.”

    For those unfamiliar with history, Carmack was a white supremacist newspaper editor who published pro-lynching editorials, one of which incited the arson at Ida B. Wells’ office. Carmack’s statue, which rests inside Tennessee’s state capitol, was torn down during last week’s protests and local government officials vowed to replace it — a decision that would use state funds.


    Then there’s Forrest, the first grand wizard of the Klu Klux Klan and a brutal slave trader. Not only is his statue still standing unharmed — even though local legislators suggested replacing it with a Dolly Parton statue last year — but there’s also a holiday named in his honor, “Nathan Bedford Forrest Day”, on July 13th. It seems like a no-brainer to ditch someone that awful, but it’s not that easy in practice. Due to the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act, a law passed in 2013, public statues and monuments cannot be renamed, removed, or relocated unless two thirds of the Tennessee Historical Commission approves of it.

    Those who forget history may be doomed to repeat it, but it’s important to remember that removing a statue isn’t erasing history when the facts are already immortalized in prestigious museums and accessible textbooks — and Swift clearly understands that. “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,” the Lover singer tweeted. “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 concluded the call to action by directly addressing her local government officials and demanding change. “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,” she wrote. “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.”


    Taylor Swift’s fight against anyone “stoking the fires of white supremacy and racism” is in colorful company. Fans in Richmond, Virginia launched a petition to replace their Robert E. Lee statue with GWAR’s Oderus Urungus atop a horse. Instead of batting that away as nonsense, the band’s drummer did what anyone with a heart and brain would do: visit the newly defaced statue and loudly exclaim, “Fuck that guy!”

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