Yesha Callahan

Open Thread: Is Taylor Swift’s Video Really A Racist Nod To Colonial Africa?

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 10.49.08 AM

During Sunday night’s VMAs, Taylor Swift debuted her latest video for the masses, “Wildest Dreams.” By Monday morning that dream had turned into a nightmare with everyone from urban blogs to NPR going in on the video for romanticizing colonialism.

The issue is the set for “Wildest Dreams” is a nondescript African country of some sort — as evidenced by the antelope, zebras, and a Cecil the lion type predator carefully placed behind Taylor as seen in the shot above. There’s also the safari style of dress characteristic of the early days of British colonial rule and the omission of any native people who actually call Africa home that has some saying the video insensitively mimics the days of European settlement when foreigners saw the continent as nothing more than vast land for the taking. And when you think about the negative consequences of that paradigm that people native to the fifty-four countries that make up Africa are still enduring today, it’s hardly a dream.

In looking at the video and the plot line of “Wildest Dreams,” I truly don’t believe Taylor intentionally set out to glorify white reign in the motherland. The likely problem is she simply didn’t think about the message she would be sending. And that’s often the underlying issue in all of these cases, from wiping out our history and current existence altogether to appropriating our culture for themselves, a number of privileged individuals simply don’t think about the implications of their actions because no one’s ever forced them to. However, one can only claim ignorance for so long.

Weigh in Clutchettes, do you think Taylor Swift’s latest video is offensive?

Photo Credits: YouTube Screenshot

  1. September 3, 2015 - Reply

    This video looks like an homage to Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. If it were just a romance set in a white washed Africa then sure, I’d follow the argument, but it’s a couple of actors on set having a lustful fling while filming a movie set in Africa. Watch it again and just think of Liz Taylor. It’s pretty spot on.

    • September 4, 2015 - Reply

      @Jennifer

      You know I thought of Out of Africa as well. My point is, we just keep jumping on trivialities like these when there are more important issues. A pop video? Really? This is romanticized fiction for crying out loud and people want teeny bop TS to be a poster child for race or what??? Can’t we just watch fiction and take it for what it is…fiction? Those who actually lived in colonial Africa times don’t give 2 hoots about this! Frankly, I didn’t like the song. It was just meh.

      • September 4, 2015 - Reply

        @AfroCapricornette

        It’s not a triviality when it is a reflection of a larger problem. I get what you’re saying, but if it didn’t do that and things weren’t as they are, then no one would say anything.

        • September 4, 2015 - Reply

          @FromTokyo

          ITA re: “it is a reflection of a larger problem.”

          Whenever I see travel & tourism ad campaigns for any African country, they are usually photos of animals during a safari, or deserts. The second largest and second most populated continent, and somehow you never see photos of Black Africans. The exception is advertising for North African countries. I doubt the concept for this Swift video deliberately excluded Africans, it’s just the typical cluelessness they exhibit re: acknowledging Black people as humans-and that includes their surrogates like the Chinese director of the video.

        • September 5, 2015 - Reply

          @FromTokyo

          People react to really, really trivial issues all the time. No wonder the Black community is always said to complain about everything. It’s like the boy who cried wolf. When he really needed help, no one believed him because of that. And I know what you’re saying too, it is a wider problem, but come on! This?? If she had portrayed something really offensive it’d have been different, but I didn’t lose sleep over this…and yes, I am full African. Believe me, most sensible Africans are not losing sleep over this particular issue. We see the stereotypical safari pics and videos, hunger, ebola and poverty of ‘Africa’ in western media as if that’s all we are and we are combatting those images via social media and our disaporan communities. Hark back to when CNN said Kenya was a ‘hotbed of terror’ and all such nonsense. Those are real ignorance issues I (we) always get on, not this.

  2. September 3, 2015 - Reply

    Dear Lord! People and their knee-jerk reactions! It’s a music video telling a love story a la typical Taylor Swift, tween, pop-star celeb thingy! Yes, it was set in colonial Africa and unfortunately it was all European-centric in those days. People saying she should’ve kept it authentic by using Africans as part of the fictional film crew…Wow! Really?? You think Africans were film directors shooting European movies in the colonial era??? Should she have sang about race relations or cast them as servants and safari guides (which some people wrote that they didn’t want to see) and risk being called out? Not sure I would want her talking about that as it’d be awkward, still, can’t we just watch/read/see fiction as FICTION? Seriously, it’s getting really tiring to read all these trivialities!!! /rant over/

    • September 4, 2015 - Reply

      @AfroCapricornette

      If this thread had a Black American accidentally referring to a Nigerian as a Ghanian/Cameroonian/etc., it very likely would have turned into a rant about how ignorant Black Americans are about African cultures. White folks using Africa (no specific country even indicated) as a backdrop for a music video with nary an African in sight, then it’s a “knee jerk reactions” to the criticisms.

  3. September 3, 2015 - Reply

    The video is similar to the plot of the Out of Africa movie. People have the right to think of the video as they wish. I don’t begrudge people who agree or disagree with the composition of the video as music is meant to be critiqued. That’s freedom. Some people think that is glamorizes colonialism in Africa and others think it just describes a romance story and it does omit the cultural diversity of Africa. Obviously, the video deals with a romantic story. I do believe that should be used an opportunity for people to learn more about Africa. Regardless of how people feel about the video, people should learn about the diverse ethnicities, languages, cultures, and other beautiful aspects of Africa. Africa has diverse fauna and flora too. Also, Africa is the Motherland of black people. Taylor Swift isn’t my cup of tea musically. What is most important is improving our communities, standing up for the truth, and establishing solutions in our world.

  4. September 3, 2015 - Reply

    Off topic but I’m just so tired of seeing white people everywhere I look on TV, movies, music. I couldn’t even get through that video…i just need a damn break from them…

    • September 4, 2015 - Reply

      @roo08

      I hear you, and I’m sick of seeing many of them in real life also in certain environments. Just yesterday at my train stop in still mostly Black Bed Stuy, there were two hipster white gay guys holding hands and smooching on the platform during rush hour, gazing in each other’s eyes. They were surrounded by Black folks on our way to work and oblivious to the looks of disgust on many of our faces. Yes we all have a right to live our lives, but the freedom Whites (no matter their group-gay, punk, Goth, Jewish, whatever) have to go wherever they want and do whatever they like, without any repercussions, is becoming increasingly annoying. Black people are still getting harassed in mostly White in many areas of Long Island, but white gays can openly french kiss each other in a Black neighborhood.

  5. September 3, 2015 - Reply

    Well, the entire video is a romanticization and glorification of the symbols and imagery of the colonial period, which, coincidentally, was also the most brutal period of African history. Not to mention that the video is supposed to be set in some Isak Dinesen-style African utopia, but there’s not even a single black person in sight. Do we need to have a talk about how this glamorous and romantic lifestyle was only made possible by the subjugation of African people?

    • September 3, 2015 - Reply

      @Adebisi's Hat

      Great points.

      The Berlin Conference was in 19th century and Leopold murdered millions of black Congolese people too.

      • September 3, 2015 - Reply

        @truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

        Agreed on all points. The Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 was nothing more than an opportunity for European rulers and nations to divvy up the spoils of Africa – its people, land and considerable resources – and it set the stage for many of the ongoing territorial conflicts on the continent even today.

        • September 3, 2015 - Reply

          @Adebisi's Hat

          You’re right. Also, the Berlin Conference disregarded the ethnic groups and their territories in Africa. It just created arbitrary, manufactured borders, which was similar to the Sykes-Picot Agreement of the early 20th century involving the Middle East. European imperialists extracted cobalt, coal, gold, diamond, and other resources without concern for the betterment of the masses of the people. Colonialism has influenced the conflicts in Africa now.

          Africa deserves true independence from neo-colonialism and from puppet bourgeois leadership as well. There is great GDP growth in many places of Africa as well. Many Africans are doing what is right and are fighting for freedom.

          • September 3, 2015 - Reply

            @truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

            You ain’t never lied.

        • September 3, 2015 - Reply

          @Adebisi's Hat

          I appreciate your knowledge as well

          • September 3, 2015 - Reply

            @Mary Burrell

            Thank you, Mary Burrell. As always, I appreciate your support.

      • September 3, 2015 - Reply

        @truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

        Thanks for sharing that.

        • September 3, 2015 - Reply

          @Mary Burrell

          You’re Welcome Sister.

    • September 3, 2015 - Reply

      @Adebisi's Hat

      Very astute

    • September 3, 2015 - Reply

      @Adebisi's Hat

      well said & side note, how the heck did Adebisi keep his hat still on his bald head?? inquiring minds want to know 🙂

      • September 3, 2015 - Reply

        @*NmySkynn70*

        LOL. 🙂

      • September 3, 2015 - Reply

        @*NmySkynn70*

        ♪ ♫ ♬ I’ll never teeeell…LOL! ♬ ♩ ♫

  6. September 3, 2015 - Reply

    She is just a empty headed white chick who probably doesn’t have a clue about the history of that era and how this would offend African and Black Americans. But then again she probably didn’t care. Like most white people are insensitive to how things are offensive.

  7. September 3, 2015 - Reply

    gr8 points made on the thread, i think it’s harmless IMHO; Taylor “seems” to be a sweet girl, granted she’s about as tastelessness/boring as they come, but because she’s whyte she’s the best thing since bread & butter (not sure how/why she blew up to be this mega-hit wielding artist, i’m truly scratching my head) . . .

    • September 4, 2015 - Reply

      @*NmySkynn70*

      I don’t get it either, but mainstream society loves rewarding mediocrity.

  8. September 3, 2015 - Reply

    Maybe she isn’t malicious but she is kinda clueless.

    • September 3, 2015 - Reply

      @Mary Burrell

      as meticulous as she is in her career? naw

  9. September 3, 2015 - Reply

    Negroes just want to live in denial and dont understand propaganda when they see it. Of course they want you think of how pretty and nice everything was in colonial Africa. They don’t want you to think of black folks and of all the millions of Africans and animals destroyed in the process to make a scenic backdrop for them to make a film. Remember all those lands which are today empty of people in Safari parks were once full of natives along with the Animals. But that is what happens when you don’t know history…. Safari lands are lands created by the colonists originally as private hunting grounds where they indiscriminately slaughtered thousands of Animals (Africans did not make these animals extinct). They also had natives who once roamed the land free acting as servants, slaves and butlers. The British were notorious for killing wildlife in Africa for big game trophies as sport. Untold thousands of animals were killed and still are being killed this way to this very day. One hunter alone, W D M Bell killed a thousand Elephants in his career. Teddy Roosevelt also killed thousands as part of his expedition there and he made no bones about his racism in the book he wrote about it called “African Game Trails”. And as part of all this no African is supposed to be in sight unless they are a servant or guide but never as free sovereigns on the land. That was the whole point and yes that is precisely what those “old movies” were trying to show white folks back home… That they had tamed the “savage” wilds of Africa and made it a place to showcase white supremacy….

    And what would the point of having Africans in the video anyway? To be historically accurate they would have to be servants and slaves.

    • September 3, 2015 - Reply

      @D1Mind

      Everything you said is absolutely true. Its also ironic how all those people were so concerned about cecil the lion when like you said white people, their colonization, and wholesale hunting of animals ( and people as well tbh) to near extinction is why there is a need for environmental protections in the first place. And its also ironic how people were so concerned about the local economy being effected by the lion being shot but can’t or don’t connect the dots to how blacks are being slaughtered here and how US economic disparities play into that as well.

      • September 4, 2015 - Reply

        @Mico

        Yeah how about somebody turned Europe into a “Northern Adventure Park” would that be OK?

  10. September 4, 2015 - Reply

    Taylor Swift is offensive…but, she’ll shake it off

    • September 5, 2015 - Reply

      @Rizzo

      I see what you did there 😉

      • September 5, 2015 - Reply

        @Staci Elle

        🙂

  11. September 5, 2015 - Reply

    This chick isnt for Black people, so Im not shocked at all. And duh everyone knows ( Phaedra Parks voice) that black culture is so much better without those pesky Black people!

  12. September 8, 2015 - Reply

    She just urks me, I cant stand this “good girl act” covered in white female privilege. She knows whats shes doing, I caught onto you when you added your token black girl to your doll collection. Sooner or later she will start chopping heads off.

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