Stormzy Breaks The Internet With Comments About Racism And Accuses Media Of ‘Intentionally Spinning \[His\] Words’

Stormzy said that Boris Johnson’s past racist comments have emboldened British people to be more openly racist and that he 'encourages hate'.

Stormzy at Global Citizen Prize, Royal Albert Hall in London, England.

by Esther Newman |
Updated on

Stormzy is not one to shy away from political debate. This, after all, is the man who made history as the first black solo British headliner at 2019’s Glastonbury festival wearing a union jack stab vest by Banksy and got a crowd tens of thousands strong to rap the line, 'fuck the government, fuck Boris' from his number one single Vossi Bop. He very publicly threw his hat into the ring for Labour’s Jeremy Corbynduring both the 2016 and 2019 General Elections, called out Theresa May and her government for their perceived inaction following the Grenfell disaster, has called for Jacob Rees-Mogg's resignation following his hateful comments about Grenfell’s victims, and has used his celebrity to spotlight the injustices faced by young, black British kids.

Now, once again Stormzy has spoken out, pointing out Prime Minister Boris Johnson as a 'figurehead' whose actions have given others license to make racism more acceptable in British society.

The grime artist, who has just released his second album Heavy is the Head, wasinterviewed by Italian newspaperLa Repubblica and was asked about his thoughts on the issue of racism in Britain.

'It’s like, "Oh no, we’re not racist". But there’s a lot of racism in the country,' he told the paper. 'The difficult thing with the UK is, as you said, in Italy it’s a clear problem, whereas trying to explain that Britain is a racist country [to a British person] is the most difficult thing ever. They think, "No, it’s not. Stormzy you’re successful. Look at London, there’s loads of black people..." It’s a more difficult case to fight.'

'If the top personcan openly say this racist thing – the "piccaninnies" remarks, "watermelon smiles", comparing Muslim women to a letter box – if that is our figurehead, the top man, the leader we have to follow, and he openly says these things, he encourages hate among others,' he said, going on to discuss Johnson in particular.

'It’s like [U.S. President Donald] Trump,' he continued. 'Before people had to hide their racism. If you felt something bad about black people, about Muslims, you had to shut up. Now these people have the confidence to come out in public to say everything. This is scary to me, that scares the shit out of me.'

Asked whether he thought Britain was racist, Stormzy said: 'Definitely, 100 percent.'

'The funny thing in Britain is that… People are really unaware of it. It's like people are more scared to be branded a racist than actually tackle whatever racism they do.'

Stormzy said he would have to carefully consider whether or not he would accept an honour such as an MBE or OBE if offered one 'because of the British empire', but that his mother would be proud if he was offered one.

'It’s got a very dark history. You know, Britain colonised everywhere. It’s something I’d look into and decide in case of.'

Unsurprisingly, the Internet has erupted since the interview was published. Media outlets have leapt onto the story with headlines that some have condemned as ‘mis-quoting’ the star and ‘click bait’ intended to stir up debate.

'They're throwing him to the wolves because a) they know @stormzy's name generates clicks and b) they a young, successful black man calling out racism is bound to rile up the worst of the UK's frothing dinosaurs and produce headlines for days [sic],' journalist and political activist Ash Sarkar tweeted.

'Wtf is wrong with the UK? This whole Stormzy story proves how the British media believes it is more of a crime to be called racist than to actually be systemically racist itself. Britain was built on the back of colonialism- this included slavery and genocide. Britain is racist [sic],' writer and filmmaker Amrou Al-Kadhi commented.

'Any critical race intervention in this country is decades late and so a rapper announcing that the UK is ‘100 per cent' racist has turned newsrooms into disarray. A very basic + inarticulate claim and yet white men are frothing at the mouths and you lot are clapping like seals [sic],' journalist Rianna Jade Parker noted.

The resulting backlash is not enough to put Stormzy off from speaking his mind though. 'All you publications and media outlets that are intentionally spinning my words for some click bait can suck my dick and please don’t try beg it in the future [sic],' he tweeted soon after the story hit social media.

At the end of the day, the outrage Stormzy is facing is telling, especially when compared with mainstream media’s silence over Johnson’s racism and bigotry and his successful election as Prime Minister. With reports that racial discrimination cases have risen from 58% to 71% since 2016’s Brexit vote and given the accounts of racism on our streets, within our schools and universities, armed forces and on public transport, it’s clear that Britain still has a huge problem with race and racism. We sorely need celebrities like Stormzy who aren’t afraid to speak up, start conversations and hold our politicians to account.


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