Last week, the dumpster fire of a newspaper that is The Daily Mail published an online article with the headline “Popular grime artists such as Stormzy are [fuelling] the use of ‘skunk’ by treating cannabis as ‘product placement…” I won’t link to the article because I don’t want to give that racist paper more clicks but this article was a blatant, transparent smear attempt of Stormzy and other successful Black British grime artists. It wasn’t surprising to see this sort of disgusting racism on The Daily Mail, it’s their USP for their right-wing readers. However, it’s worth discussing how Black people are demonised and criminalised for doing drugs when White people who do them more receive less punishment.
Stormzy responded to the article perfectly.
There’s a huge double standard about drug use when it comes to black people doing them and white people. It’s true that white rock artists have been openly sniffing cocaine and other harder drugs and talking about them in their music since the 60s. There’s even a whole genre of rock music called psychedelic rock named that because that artists who made this music were under the influence of psychedelic drugs such as acid and shrooms. One of the biggest songs of last year was “Rockstar”, by Post Malone, a white rapper, whose’s hook is about “poppin’ pillies”. The infamous war on drugs in the United States enacted by Nixon and proliferated by Reagan devastated black communities across the United States in the 70s and 80s. An article by Vox cited a report by Dan Baum which refers to a quote from John Ehrlichman, who served as domestic policy chief for President Richard Nixon. According to Baum, Ehrlichman said in 1994 that the drug war was a ploy to undermine Nixon’s political opposition — meaning, black people and critics of the Vietnam War.
A study which was reported in The Guardian showed that Black people are not just significantly more likely to be searched by police for drugs than their white peers, but face almost double the chance of being charged if any are found. Black people in the UK are routinely profiled and stopped and searched leading to more being arrested for possession of drugs than their white peers. Last summer, The Metropolitan Police received online backlash for linking a kilo of heroin seized in Catford to Notting Hill Carnival, an event due to take place 12 miles away.
There are endless reports to cite which provide evidence to contradict The Daily Mail’s disingenuous smear of successful Black men like Stormzy. Yes, it’s true Stormzy talks about smoking weed in his lyrics and so do other Grime MCs. However, they’re not talking about “skunk” a strain of cannabis which is known to be very harmful for mental health. A Noisey documentary explored this topic in a much better way than this Daily Mail article. The conversation we should be having is about why some Grime MCs such as Stormzy smoke weed. Not that there’s anything wrong with smoking weed but as we’ve seen the past few years with the conversation about black men and mental health a lot of people are suffering. On the opening track to his debut album Gang Signs & Prayer, Stormzy raps “dark times, niggas dying in recession // you was fighting with your girl when I was fighting my depression, wait.” We should be talking about the deprivation in council estates across the UK, lack of mental health services, the treatment of black people in police custody and so on. With the trauma so many black people from working-class backgrounds experience they should be able to bill a zoot in peace.
2017 saw a wave of decriminalisation across North America. In the UK, there hasn’t been any progress in the last few years. It remains a Class B drug. I support the legalisation of cannabis, everywhere, and while I don’t advocate illegal activities I think the police and government should answer for the Grenfell Tower fire, Brexit and Black deaths in police custody first. There are much bigger fish to fry in 2018 so let’s leave the demonisation and criminalisation of black men and women for sometimes smoking some weed in 2017 please.
By Emmanuel Omodeinde