Don’t Touch the Hair! Does Taylor Swift Have a Racial Blind Spot?

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R&B singer The Weeknd recently opened up about how Swift petted him—like a pet—when they met. But Swift’s odd racial behavior goes back further than that.

In his new Rolling Stone cover story, The Weeknd dropped a bomb about the first night he met reigning pop queen Taylor Swift, aka the whitest girl at the party.

According to the “Can’t Feel My Face” singer, Swift opened with a compliment, calling one of his early hits “The Morning” one of her “favorite songs ever!” But Swift’s incredibly sweet and sincere ability to make a Google search was quickly undermined by that fact that she then proceeded to stroke The Weeknd’s hair. Naturally, the R&B artist wasn’t exactly on board with being mistaken for Olivia Benson (the Taylor Swift cat, not the fictional sex crimes detective): “I think she was just drawn to it—she must have been a little gone off a few drinks. And of course I’m not going to be like, ‘Hey, can you stop?’ I mean, it felt good!…But when she started petting my hair, that’s when I was like, ‘I definitely need a drink.’”

As hilarious as it is to imagine the perpetually polished, belly button-less Swift as a drunk mess with a childlike sense of wonder/unshakable desire to introduce herself to The Weeknd—we’ve all been there—this incident definitely triggers the Taylor Swift microaggression alarm bell. Swift herself corroborated the story in an earlier radio interview, explaining, “I woke up to an email from the Weeknd, and he was like you told me how beautiful I was for like 15 minutes straight and started to pet my hair,” to which BBC host Nick Grimshaw responded, “This sounds like quite the evening. You petted The Weeknd. Like an animal.”

Let’s take a second to unpack what we talk about when we talk about petting The Weeknd “like an animal.” After all, non-consensually touching black people’s hair is basically a white national pastime, like owning a Toyota Prius or talking about indie music/Whole Foods/The Daily Show/David Sedaris. This textbook move is offensive on multiple levels. First of all, it reinforces notions of difference and exoticism; implying that someone’s hair is fascinating enough to be examined, asked after, or touched mirrors Western standards of beauty that render any non-white physique as strange, other, and less than. Secondly, it gets into all sorts of thorny issues of consent and personal space. Everyone should be in control of how their body is touched, interacted with, or perceived, and this rule of thumb takes on an added significance when race comes into play. It’s scary to think that Taylor Swift’s careless framing of this story as a hilarious anecdote could be read by her white fans as a free pass for their own obtuse tactile explorations.

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SOURCE: Amy Zimmerman 
The Daily Beast