Singer Taylor Swift, 28, did something few expected her to do: she spoke openly about politics. But, her passionate defense of voting in the upcoming midterm elections seems lacking when you think of her state’s growing prison population.
On Sunday, Swift took to Instagram to post a heartfelt message about the Tennessee candidates she’s supporting and why she believes her decision to come out matters.
“I’m writing this post about the upcoming midterm elections on November 6th, in which I’ll be voting in the state of Tennessee,” Swift wrote, explaining how she was once reluctant to discuss her political opinions but now, she felt she could do more to instigate real change.
“I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country,” the singer explained, saying she believes discrimination of any kind is wrong and that “the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent.”
That’s when she justified her decision to vote for Senate candidate Phil Bredesen and Jim Cooper, the candidate for the House of Representatives.
The current state senator, Marsha Blackburn, has a voting record she cannot support, Swift explained.
“She voted against equal pay for women. She voted against the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which attempts to protect women from domestic violence, stalking, and date rape. She believes businesses have a right to refuse service to gay couples. She also believes they should not have the right to marry.”
“These are not MY Tennessee values,” she boldly added.
She then urged her followers to educate themselves on their candidates’ history, their proposals, and what their policy preferences could mean to the people of her state.
But while the pop star got plenty of attention for this message, especially from former foe, singer and fellow pop star Katy Perry, 33, she failed to explain that the state is the number one cause of "systemic racism."
With incarceration rates that stand out globally for how quickly and massively they grew over the last four decades, Tennessee’s black population is highly overrepresented in its prisons and jails, with 1,962 for every 100,000 people incarcerated in the state being African-American. Only 503 for every 100,000 are white.
Despite the state’s growing prison population, the reality is that crime in the United States has dropped considerably — despite a slight increase in 2015 and 2016 when there were 384.6 and 386.3 violent crimes reported. Still, as explained by FreedomWorks’ Jason Pye, the rates remain lower than 2012 levels.
In addition, burglaries and property crimes have declined considerably, with only 429.1 burglaries per 100,000 inhabitants reported in 2017 and 2,378.9 property crimes per 100,000 inhabitants in the same year, an obvious improvement from 1980, when the burglary rate was at 1,694.1 and the property crime rate was 2,378.9. So why would Tennessee’s prison population be on the rise as crime across the country continues to drop?
Why Criminal Justice Reform Matters
According to 2016 data, the state saw a major increase in its prison population simply by putting more women behind bars. But that’s not the only explanation for the state’s overcrowded prison system, as drug-related laws are also to blame.
In an era marked by states defying the federal government by passing their own drug laws, research from The Sentencing Project shows that most racial disparities in the prison system across the country are still found among drug offenders.
Because of harsh mandatory minimums, prisons across the country see a persistent racial disparity when it comes to drug-related arrests, as “blacks are nearly four times as likely as whites to be arrested for drug offenses and 2.5 times as likely to be arrested for drug possession,” researchers explained.
While Swift made a passionate plea to her fans and followers, urging them to take control of the voting process by making their voices heard on election day, the singer mentioned a series of policies that impact minorities directly without ever touching on her state’s most pressing issue.
With the state incarcerating more blacks and women thanks in part to drug-related offenses, the pop star seemed to underestimate the institutionalized racism and sexism behind the numbers. As a result, her message, which is now being read and widely shared online, will fail to wake her fellow Tennessee residents to the reality that there are countless people in prison right now for engaging in non-violent drug consumption or commerce, two “crimes” that produce no victim.
The singer should become more educated as to how the number one perpetrator of racism in her state operates. And when that day comes then perhaps she will be using her star power to be part of the call for complete criminal justice reform — an even more meaningful political revolution.