“If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”
I’m supposed to be writing about menopause in this space, however tonight I feel compelled to write about a British rapper named Stormzy whom I’d never heard of until a few days ago, when the story exploded on Twitter. To be honest, I have yet to listen to his music, even. I’ve read some of the lyrics and they’re grime and gangster, and perhaps a bit offensive—so what? We’d be here all day if I listed for you every single musical artist which used vulgarities and references to misogyny and even violence against women in their lyrics. For heaven’s sake, even Johnny Cash sang that song Delia! This is the same old Tipper Gore and Christian fundamentalist rant about the evils of popular culture and vulgarities and profanity and irreverent and subversive lyrics.
Let me backtrack and say that this whole thing began because Stormzy was asked about racism in the UK following BoJo’s election win and replied “Definitely. 100%.” Given the facts about the PM BoJo, and given the history of Britain, this reply doesn’t seem terribly earth shattering or profound or offensive.
However, trust Tory nationalists to find offense in facing the truth of their own bigotry. Around the globe we are seeing the undeniable connection between right wing nationalism and xenophobia. So, despite the fact that Stormzy’s answer was brutally true, #StormzyIsAMassiveBellend is a popular hashtag on twitter. True to form, Tories cherry pick facts, and so choose to ignore that, in responding “Definitely. 100%”, Stormzywas not saying that Britain was 100% racist—rather “100%” is a vernacular slang which means “Yes. I agree.” The deliberate misquoting and misinterpretation of Stormzy’s response, and the virulent reaction it received from offended nationalists really proves the veracity and validity of his statement.
So, imagine my surprise when I see a school teacher who voted for BoJo ranting endlessly on Twitter about the harms Stormzy is doing to inner city and marginalised kids because of the glorification of misogyny, violence and gangster life in grime music and in his lyrics. Having never heard his music, naturally I googled him. I read about his apologies for offensive things he said, about his acknowledgement that grime and gangster does have a misogynist edge to it with certain vulgar word choices, I read about a scholarship programme he started for marginalised young people to attend Cambridge, and I read about his imprint with Penguin, where he will curate some literature of marginalised young writers. I’m puzzled: where is the damage to inner city kids here?
“We will be using this as a platform for young writers to become published authors, I know too many talented writers that don’t always have an outlet or a means to get their work seen and hopefully #Merky Books can now be a reference point for them to say ‘I can be an author’ and for that to be a realistic and achievable goal.
“Reading and writing as a kid was integral to where I am today.”
When it comes to our Stormzy-hating school marms and other elitist shills, it’s the same old story. We have people occupying elite positions in society clinging desperately to the delusion that rap culture, counter culture, rock/punk/rap music, and anything which subverts and criticizes authority from a place of anti-oppression are harmful and erosive forces in society. Well, dude, if this right here ain’t the biggest damned, gaslight!! In reality, these have all developed in response to marginalisation, to disenfranchisement, to voicelessness, to choicelessness—to societal and systemic forces which oppress and traumatise, and therefore erode and harm society.
Demonising rap culture, or rock or punk culture or the whole counterculture movement is really just demonising the poor and the marginalised. It’s very Cartesian and Augustinian, this vilification of marginal cultures and of the poor and traumatised—they are the scapegoats of humanity on so many levels. Just as the war on drugs is a war on people, so too is this war on rap culture. Elites using their privilege to promote authoritarianism under the guise of education are really further entrenching the stigma of inner city and marginalised life. Black music and culture has long found itself the object of classist bigotry. To me the vilification of rap and rappers is really a vilification of marginalised people and their urban cultures, it has zero to do with protecting young minds and creating a more stable society for them.
I’m calling bullsh1t on all the school marms and elitists dragging Stormzy as a destructive societal force, particularly when these critics voted for BoJo. BoJo has himself written about African children as AIDs riddled choristers, he’s described smiling Africans as having “watermelon smiles” and also described them as “flag-waving picanninies”, he’s compared burqa wearing muslim women to mailboxes and bank robbers, he’s said that Islam is the problem and that hatred of muslims is the natural response to the problematic ideology of Islam, he’s called gay men “tank-topped bum boys,” he suggested to his successor at the Spectator to deal with a female colleague who gives advice by “just [patting] her on the bottom and send her on her way,” he reportedly had a calender of naked women on his desk at the Telegraph, he compared women playing beach volley ball to “glistening wet otters”—I could go on, however I think that would serve no purpose, the character of the man who now leads Britain comes through these comments loud and clear.
It seems our Tory loving teachers have very specific notions of what is harmful ideology and what is passable. Once again, we see the double standard at play—wealthy elites have a different set of moral guidelines to abide by than do those from poverty and marginal backgrounds. In what reality will young minds not learn that bigotry is acceptable when BoJo has won an election by a landslide despite his disgusting behaviour? In what reality is a black man from a humble south London grime background who is all about black empowerment—amplifying young marginalised blacks through scholarship and a publishing imprint for young marginalised writers—more of a destructive force to young Brits than a political leader who has unapologetically and proudly, even, voiced some atrociously colonial opinions, and said utterly dehumanizing vulgarities about real humans in real life journalism and speeches?
It seems we still have a very colonial mentality in Britain, with a large portion of society appealing to false civility in order to mask hatred and contempt—ie. classism. When we have Tory voters whinging about the dangers of culture, we definitely are witnessing the desperate clutches of the privileged who feel threatened by subversive culture. Because, Tories don’t see dead white men as problematic culture, they see irreverence and counterculture as problematic and threatening though. This is really what’s going on here—welcome to the class wars. We’re about to enter the third decade of the 21st century and we are still blaming and vilifying people for the fact that they live marginalised lives.
And, so, I’ve come full circle—as Malcolm X said, here we are hating the oppressed and loving the oppressors.
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Listen to the latest episode of MICDROP - Let’s Talk About Hijab - [here].