It’s been approximately 48 hours since Kim Kardashian revealed the SNAP heard round the world, and while I awoke knowing that there would be think pieces regarding the public dismantling of Taylor Swift’s carefully crafted persona, I was disappointed to not find one that addressed the deeper more nefarious issues Tay’s lie had.
By now its public knowledge that Taylor who claimed to have no prior knowledge of Kanye’s controversial verse in Famous, not only knew about it, she helped write it. Let’s take that in for a second, this woman has spent months acting as though a lyric Kanye wrote and pre-vetted with her was so detrimental to her moral sensibility she needed to dedicate her entire two minute Grammy speech to subliminally assassinating Kanye and his character. So we now know that he did get her approval, just like he said and thanks to Kim Kardashian we also know that Taylor also suggested part of the verse be reworded to be ‘more provocative.’
While I along with the majority of Twitter rejoiced the momentous moment that Kim snapped, and snapped the video of country darling turned pop princess T Swizzle giggling and thanking Kanye for being a friend and telling her about the lyric beforehand. Let’s also put that into context, a rapper reached out to someone they are rapping about to seek their approval, this is unheard of!
As radio personality and Breakfast Club co-host as Charlamagne pointed out, during the height of Eminem’s career in which he roasted any and everybody in the industry he most definitely didn’t seek their approval.
So Ye extends a proverbial olive branch and Taylor’s all, ’thanks that’s so kind of you’, when in reality she is like I’m going to get this guy. Now whether this was revenge for the MTV awards incident I don’t know, however what I do know is Taylor’s false — at this point there is no dispute that her claims of being unaware are false– her false claims feed into a nefarious narrative that dates back almost as far as slavery, one in which white woman falsely accuse a black man of a crime.
This trope of blaming otherness stretches as far back as fancy literature and is basically the largest theme of Othello. In recent decades this theme has emerged in literary classics like To Kill a Mockingbird and movies like Rosewood and while these may be fictional works their core message is often tore from real life headlines of false allegations and real life examples.
In fact it is so prevalent there is a term for it, the Racial Hoax and the ramifications of white women blaming a black men for a crime they did not commit have cost men and even boys their lives. In 1931 the Scottsboro Nine – a group of nine young black boys ranging in age for 12-19– were arrested after an altercation with a group of young white boys. Later two white girls would come forward claiming before the altercation between the groups of boys the Scottsboro Nine raped them.
Despite one of the accusers later recanting her story and that of her friend the trials and persecution of the nine teenagers dragged on for more than two decades and ended with some of the accused being sentenced to 99 years in jail while other defendants were set free.
Dr. David Pilgrim, Professor of Sociology at Ferris State University and curator of the Jim Crowe museum has written on the idea of the black male brute and the prevalence of the trope in media and literature.
“The ‘terrible crime’ most often mentioned in connection with the black brute was rape, specifically the rape of a white woman. At the beginning of the twentieth century, much of the virulent, anti-black propaganda that found its way into scientific journals, local newspapers, and best-selling novels focused on the stereotype of the black rapist,” writes Pilgrim. “The claim that black brutes were, in epidemic numbers, raping white women became the public rationalization for the lynching of blacks.”
The prolonged proceeding surrounding the Scottsboro Nine have been cited time and time again as evidence of the Racial Hoax and may have served as inspiration for Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. The case surrounding the Scottsboro Nine was also instrumental in paving the way for the end of all white juries.
The trials were not effective in ending felonious accusations however, in 1944 in one of the most egregious cases of racial hoaxing 14-year-old George Stinney Jr., a young black boy, was convicted of the first-degree murder of two pre-teen white girls by an all-white jury in South Carolina. Despite a complete lack of physical evidence Stinney was convicted on the fictitious testimony of three officers who said the boy confessed.
In June 1944, Stinney became the youngest person ever executed in the 20th century when he was strapped into the electric chair. Accounts say his small body didn’t fit into the restraints designed for grown men and the boy’s small body writhed in pain while he was executed.
On Dec. 17, 2014, Stinney’s conviction was vacated by Circuit Court Judge Carmen Mullen, effectively clearing his name 70 years later.
Emmet Till, a 14-year-old black boy from Chicago visiting relatives in the Deep South in 1955 was kidnapped, tortured and murdered because he may have whistled or said something to a white woman, a story that was never corroborated however it didn’t prevent Emmet’s grisly murder.
In a report published by the University of North Carolina, entitled White Women, Rape, and the Power of Race in Virginia, 1900-1960, Lisa Lindquist Dorr the report’s author states:
White women’s accusations of rape also brought struggles for power among whites, both women and men, to the fore. The rape myth, based on white women’s role as the symbolic guardians of white purity and virtue, gave white women considerable ability to accuse black men of rape and demand that white men provide protection through revenge. This power theoretically resided in the hands of all white women, regardless of their character or social status, and thus gave all white women, no matter how untrustworthy, virtually dictatorial power over white men’s actions.
While Lindquist was focusing on the 60 years between 1900-1960, the recurring theme of white womanhood falling victim to black masculinity has endured.
Susan Smith a mother of two drowned her two small children in the family car while she stood there and watched. She then called police and said that she had been car jacked by a black man. After a throng of media attention and police scrutiny Smith finally came clean, admitting to drowning her two boys and concocting the carjacking story.
Almost 58 years to the day that the Scottsboro Nine were falsely arrested on trumped up rape charges, The Central Park Five were arrested. The five Latino and African-American men were arrested for the rape of a jogger in Central Park. Although all five vehemently denied any involvement at first after hours of interrogation and police cohesion some of the young men confessed.
Subsequently the men were convicted of the crime and began serving long sentences in the New York penal system. That is until, 2002, when a man who had no connection to the Central Park Five confessed to the crime, his DNA was tested and it was confirmed that he was the assailant.
The Central Park Five were then exonerated and freed after spending more than a decade behind bars. I’d like to say the examples end there, but they don’t. In this day and age where black people especially men are the targets of this malicious eviling even by law enforcement officers it is not only mean, it is extremely detrimental for Swift to perpetuate this false narrative especially while knowing it is utter nonsense.
And let’s make this extraordinarily clear, I did not for one second doubt what Kanye said. I have often over the years felt odd about defending his antics to people, but never once disbelieved him when he said he had gotten her co-sign. He after all may be a lot of things but a liar is not one of them. I suspect a lot of people suspected there was truth to what Ye was saying, even though white feminists were quick to rally round Taylor their homogenous ‘I like provocative rap, don’t call me a bitch’ brand of feminism.
On the other hand we have Taylor who has made a career of using people for whatever purpose then discarding them into her song lyric generator for maximum pop benefit. I read an article about her while cycling through the think pieces dubbing her the Beckiest Becky and the ones that somehow found a way to make her a victim. In the article the writer talked about even her name story being a lie depending on the crowd she is in front of, according to said writer she has been known to say she is named after Fire and Rain singer James Taylor in honour of her parent’s obsession with the folk crooner. Taylor has also been known to say her parents –both business people– wanted her to have a unisex name like CK One so she couldn’t be predetermined by her resume, what her name is a type of feminism affirmation, awesome.
Now that we all know the truth I feel less than satisfied, mostly because it took another white woman to show the receipts and clear Kanye’s name. Ultimately his word was not good enough when it stood in dark contrast to the white light that is Taylor Swift and I find that disturbing.
In Black Skinheads, Kanye eloquently raps, “They see a black man with a white woman At the top floor they gone come to kill King Kong…” and while he was probably referring to his relationship with Kim it could also be an allegory for his dealings with Swift and the perception America has of the black male, which dictates, you can exist for our benefit but if you get to close to our shiny princesses we will come for you.