Black pop fans have fought to be seen for decades — by the artists they love, and by the rest of their fan community
Black superfans have been erased from the story of pop for decades. Now, in looking for visibility and change, they’ve found each other
A narrative has emerged celebrating the K-pop stan community as fun, fearless progressive activists. Black K-pop stans beg to differ.“The Dallas PD thing was dope,” Davonna says. “The White Lives Matter and All Lives Matter hashtags are completely counterproductive to everything we are trying to do and that they should be doing, which is to amplify black people and the Black Lives Matter movement.” For black stans, she says, giving more traction to racist trending topics is more triggering than helpful; it’s a confusing mobilization, at that.
“We’re good at trending things!” she says. “Why not trend things outside of those hateful hashtags? If they had consulted with black people, that wouldn’t have happened.”The hosts note that there is actually a surprising conservative faction of K-pop Twitter that has supported Trump and MAGA culture. Many non-black stans have continued to use racist language and threaten to call the police on black stans, all while having “BLM” in their display name. For Davonna and Stephanie, billing the fandom as a whole as “unexpected heroes” of the movement, as has happened over the last two months, yet again erases work black stans have been doing for years with little widespread support or response.
“I’m grateful for any allyship, but black stans in K-pop havebeendoing this because we have to. That’s our life,” Davonna adds. “We’re black people who happen to be K-pop stans, but we’re black first.”Nineteen-year-old MyshalaTaylor Swiftstan for 12 years. Biracial and raised in North Carolina primarily by her black mother, she grew up on R&B acts like Mary J. Blige. One day while driving around with her white father, she heard Swift’s “Our Song” on the radio and soon grew into a huge fan of Swift and then pop music more generally, citing Normani, Ariana Grande, Niall Horan, and Styles as a few of her other favorites.
Myshala has never gotten too deep into the Swiftie fandom, and has yet to see her favorite artist live, but she is well aware of the perception of Swift’s fanbase as overwhelmingly white. Just a couple days before our conversation, she commented on a friend’s TikTok Live. The TikToker, who is black with a large audience, had offered to draw an artist of Myshala’s choosing on a jacket. When Myshala requested Taylor Swift, the rest of the viewers assumed she was white and made comments about it until Myshala corrected them.
The teenager notes that there is not any single identity for black people, nor should there be. “That’s what so many racist white people use against us as an act of oppression,” she says. “Being a fan of Taylor Swift has sometimes put me into an uncomfortable position where I have to question my blackness.”
Writer and actress Ajhée Nolen, 25, describes a similar disconnect between her blackness and her Taylor Swift fandom. Growing up in Michigan, Nolen first started listening to Swift in 2010, just before the singer releasedSpeak Now. As a then-aspiring writer, Nolen fell in love with Swift’s lyrical storytelling as well as how down-to-earth she seemed in behind-the-scenes footage from music video sets.
“She’s just so warm and fun and didn’t act like this big star,” she says. “I just really saw myself in her.”Growing up, gospel music had been all Ajhée knew until Disney exposed her to pop music. In her predominantly black high school, she was known as the “black white girl” because of her taste in pop culture phenomena like
Twilight. She had yet to become more active online in the Swift fan community, but she enjoyed Swift’s music privately.“I wasn’t so much disconnected from my blackness as I was very ignorant at the time, as most teens are,” she reflects. “I don’t have, like, a racist, colorist past, thank God — but I [thought], ‘I’m not like other girls.’ It was very cringe-y.”
Nolen began logging the majority of her “Taylor Swift defense hours” in 2012, soon after she started using social media. She wasn’t seeking out fellow stans, but happened to build a small community organically as she used her platforms to stand up for an artist who has meant a lot to her.
For many Swift stans, 2016 proved to be a trying year: The star was locked into a very public battle with Kanye West that left many deeming Swift the villain in the situation. When the presidential election arrived in the middle of Swift’s hiatus from public life following that feud, her silence leading up to Trump’s win was heavily scrutinized. Nolen, meanwhile, was going through her own personal shifts.
“During college, I really started to change the way I approached my own politics and what being black meant to me,” she explains. At her performing arts college, she grew to love her natural hair and understand how multi-faceted being black can be.When Kim Kardashian West leaked part of a phone call where Swift allegedly approved a lyric using her name — and Swift countered that West never told her he would use the word “bitch” in reference to her — Nolen felt conflicted.
“I felt trapped,” she says. “It felt very racial, with a white woman versus a black man.” She chose to believe Swift, someone she felt like she had come to understand over the years.“Part of me felt like I know her character,” she says. “The black part of me was like ‘This happens all the time. A black man gets accused of doing something and automatically everybody believes the white counterparts.’”
Within the fandom, Nolen noticed how often white stans’ voices were overrepresented on all things Swift. Her own personal encounter with that division occurred in 2018, when she attended the Los Angeles stop of theReputationtour with a group of friends she had made within the fandom. The six girls attended the show in a group costume —
Orange Is the New Black-themed, with each girl’s crime being a differentReputationlyric — that got the crew invited backstage for photos with Swift. Nolen’s friend Jada, the only other black girl in the group, complimented Swift on getting so “thick.” Soon after, the four other members of the group took to Twitter to claim that Jada had been “body-shaming” Swift.
“They didn’t understand that my friend was complimenting her,” Nolen says. She and Jada fought back against the claims, and the issues between all of them have since been resolved, but the incident remains a formative one for her. “There’s just always been this disconnect between black and white stans, because when we address a problem, the white stans think we’re attacking Taylor which means we’re automatically attacking them.”
After the post-concert falling out, Nolen sought out much-needed community with her chosen stan community. She established a Twitter DM group chat for black Swifties that now has around 30 people in it.“I just wanted to see if there were other people who were tired of feeling like they couldn’t talk about the B.S. that happens in the fandom while also loving the fandom,” she says. “A lot of us in high school were the nerds and weirdos that liked Taylor. It was nice to find this community of people that looked like each other.”
Lily Meade, a 26-year-old novelist from Tacoma, is one of the black Swfities that Nolen brought into the group chat. She had been a Swift stan for years, but became more involved in the online fandom during theReputationera. She recalls the painful events surrounding the 2016 election, when Swift’s political silence, whiteness, and country roots made some members of the public assume she secretly supported Trump. Some went even further, claiming without evidence that the singer had Nazi sympathies, and certain white supremacist corners of the internet made her their hero.
“It was really difficult for me as a black Taylor Swift fan to see people make a joke out of someone I admire, and claiming that she was plotting for my genocide in her free time,” Meade says. “I knew she would never do something like that.” Been doing much more important things than talk about Taylor Swift lately, but: my Black Swiftie Group Chat has been suffering for days now because of what’s going on outside but also many microagressions and improper conduct within the fandom. If you’re a white Swiftie please:Read more: Rolling Stone »
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Honestly this article speaks volumes for Black fans. It might not be intentional but we often feel alienated at times and it's nice to know that that alienation and foreign feelings is being recognized so that something can be done about it. That’s right Literally stop. Oh my god. Stop with the propaganda.
Stop demanding. aianneamado achei essa reportagem muito interessante, conhece algum artigo que trate mais sobre o assunto? i felt represented THANKS FOR THIS hsdaily Very accurate article. Finally this is something that is being talked about. Where my fellow black pop stans at hsdaily How is it any different than when a white kid goes to a rap concert?
lorenafrero vida lê esse texto!! me identifiquei muito 🤍🤍🤍🙏🏽 Harry also is the cofounder of yawn. who cares.🥱 Harry ALWAYS support his black fans .. Watch this video get that way even tho i am a light skin black person which I am privileged enough to be it’s still hard because I feel like I owe everyone an explanation about my family. Because I have been told so many times in my life that I am a mistake for being white/black it’s not
HSUpdating I love it here The way I know there is not even a bad word about neither of my divorced parents in there ❤️❤️ hsdaily Yes! hsdaily As a black pop fan..... yea it’s true, I know fandoms are very welcoming but I’ll always feel out of place😔 I know Harry loves all of us no matter our race but I will always have this doubt in my mind and this feeling that I don’t belong....
hsdaily Harry 💘 hsdaily d0peangela omg you are in this article !! hsdaily
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