Opinion: Racism’s not dead, but are we seeking it?

Carley Hull is a senior magazine journalism major. Contact her at [email protected].

Carley Hull

Unfortunately racism is far from over in America. With the recent shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri by white police officer Darren Wilson, tensions are high. Although we must take in the idea that Brown was possibly guilty of theft, the shooting and killing of an unarmed teenager, regardless of skin color, is not acceptable. With the militarized police violence toward a largely black group of Ferguson citizens and outside protesters, America looks like it has taken a huge step back in time to the Civil Rights Movement. It’s clear that the U.S. has some serious racial tensions that need to change. 

Shortly after the fiasco in Ferguson broke out, accusations circulated online about Taylor Swift’s new video “Shake it Off” being racist. While I see a satirical video of an awkward girl embracing her bad dancing and shoving it in her haters’ faces, others only focused on one scene involving twerking that actually had both black and white dancers. It is clear that almost all of the genres have diversity. The ballet section appears mostly white, but who am I to determine who is dark enough to be considered a minority? 

On Twitter, the rap artist Earl Sweatshirt claimed the video was “perpetuating black stereotypes to the same demographic of white girls who hide their prejudice by proclaiming their love of the culture.” The video shows different dance genres: hip-hop, Lady Gaga-esque disco something, ballet, ribbon twirling, cheerleading and interpretive dance. Swift does a pretty good job at being horribly awkward in all of them. Is it not also racist of Sweatshirt to claim that white girls are hypocritical racists? I find it inappropriate to fight racism with racism. 

Racism is taught. No one is born racist because we are the same species. Americans need reminding that we are all the same species and therefore the same race. In 2003, the Human Genome Project discovered that the same amount of genetic variation exists among all types of humans. This means that there is no significant difference between the genetics of Asians, caucasians, Africans, etc. We are all undeniably one race — human. 

Now as a fellow human, Taylor Swift’s twerking scene seems no different than another human twerking. It is a problem in itself that hip-hop and rap music often sexualize black women, but we cannot deny that twerking is part of hip-hop dance moves and is ultimately part of the cliche portrayed in the video. Within the same time, Nicki Minaj released “Anaconda.” Instead of a few seconds of twerking we are talking a whole video of buns, Sir Mix-a-Lot style. Unlike Swift, Minaj is a woman of color, yet her video is either praised for accepting the large behind or complained about for the same reason. Practically nothing has been said about Minaj sexualizing black women. It seems to me that people are actively seeking out racism by stereotyping acts by color rather than the act itself.

I’m not ignoring the fact that stereotypes are still prevalent, but I think a step toward quelling racism is not making a stereotype strictly offensive by the color of a person’s skin. We will only continue racism if we seek color to gauge what is offensive and instead should start making offenses a human issue.