Yesterday prominent LGBTQIA publications Attitude Magazine and Pink News, exhibiting journalism skills to rival Pulitzer Prize winners, unearthed six-year-old tweets from British rapper Stormzy in which he used homophobic language on several occasions. Fans berated the publications for their targeting of the musician, believing it was a blatant attempt to tarnish not only his image but by extension the image of his partner (super babe) Maya Jama, currently a guest of I’m A Celebrity’s sister programme Extra Camp on ITV2. Reading both articles, they serve no clear purpose other than to expose his past conduct, align Stormzy with YouTube star Zoella, whose old tweets were also recently uncovered, and label him a hypocrite for his criticism of the BBC’s representation of young black men.
Stormzy issued the apology I expected him to. The familiar misstep of “if anyone was offended I apologise” was nowhere to be found as Stormzy laid out point by point how badly he fucked up and how he’d go on to do better because it was his ignorance at the time that made him “feel comfortable” to use those homophobic slurs. There is a clear divide in opinion with what the revelations of his past use of language means for how fans and non-fans alike should treat Stormzy going forward and how to digest his apology. Oloni wants Blinded By Your Grace, Stormzy's Gospel song featuring MNEK to be Britain's Christmas Number One, Jason Osamede tweeted the apology was “mature, considered and respectful” contrasting one guy called Paul who believes Stormzy’s apology was made to “only protecting [his] business interests” Right wing news outlets swooped in on the news like johncrow after roadkill with The Daily Mail, who hate black people so much they’re angry at the night, having already declared his apology “grovelling” and The Evening Standard, who hate black people a little less (the jury’s still out) reporting Stormzy “slammed for ‘terrible’ apology.” Even The Guardian, who normally appears to like black people, dug out their most aggressive image of Stormzy for their article covering the story.
I am a Stormzy fan. He is the rapper I as a black, British woman have been able to rely on to care about my issues and lift me up both in action and in verse. I love the man. I bought his album. I am able to look at these tweets and despite their egregious nature, I choose to see beyond them and look at the man who I’ve been presented with today. However, and it cannot be stated enough, it is a luxury and a privilege that I am able to ignore his past missteps because I was not the target of this language. The homophobic slur he used was not designed to denigrate me. Therefore, how I personally feel is of little concern to those who have been made to feel worthless and inhuman because of that word. The same way white women cannot accept Lena Dunham’s apology on behalf of women of colour, I cannot accept Stormzy’s apology on behalf of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Intersex and Asexual community.
When Logan Sama recently lost a hosting gig for anti-black women tweets he sent years ago, I wrote a post, sautéed with glee marinated in vindication, expressing a sentiment that at its core boiled down to “chat shit, get hit.” As a black woman, I felt I was within my right as a member of the aggrieved party to address the issue. Similarly when popular comedian Don’t Jealous Me was revealed to have made disparaging comments about Chewing Gum star Michaela Coel’s physical appearance in tweets years ago, I dove into action, articulating all the ways in which he was going to learn today. Therefore, I must question if apologies are only effective when the person in the wrong is someone who we all like. Do those caping for Stormzy sound like white women who stand strong for Lena Dunham after her innumerable fuck ups? Do those of us choosing to look at the bigger picture echo Russell Howard fans convinced he was right in his wide of the mark “jokes” “white people don’t need advice on how to speak to black and Asian colleagues about race”?
No, we are not. Stormzy is not Lena Dunham, who is powered by her ability to ignore, offend and antagonise people of colour. I only learned what a Russell Howard was yesterday but I am confident in saying Stormzy’s fuck up was six years ago and Howard’s was last week, therefore aren’t comparable because it's clear to see Stormzy's been on a journey of unlearning the toxicity of his past behaviour. Couple this with Attitude Magazine and Pink News weaponising their position as powerful voices of the marginalised white gay community against Stormzy, also a member of an unrepresented group and the anti-blackness is plain to see. Reading Pink News’ Josh Jackman’s article, it’s littered with misrepresentations of the facts from the article’s headline “Stormzy has posted homophobic tweets” to later in the article when he writes “according to the hip-hop artist, it’s extremely funny to position masculine stereotypes in opposition to homosexuality.” Without a keen eye, it would appear that these were recent things Stormzy had tweeted and note old tweets dug up to vilify an artist who has clearly undergone a huge amount of growing up since he was eighteen years old. There is a history of the toxic relationship between white homosexuality and black masculinity that plays into this narrative that I can identify but one which I am ill-equipped to explore and look forward to learning more about.
I am sympathetic to those whose old tweets have been uncovered because I was also part of the lawless, reckless Twitter of yesteryear and it is timing alone why my career isn’t yet in a position where anyone cares enough to delve into my past. While Stormzy and his management must hold this L for allowing tweets no longer representative of who he is as a person to remain accessible and have done so with an apology that I would be inclined to accept were that my place (it is not, I cannot), the excitement with which white people welcome any opportunity to tear asunder all Stormzy has achieved is galling to behold. I have long written about the importance of giving stars, black and brown stars in particular, the room to grow and evolve in their socio-political understanding. These are not our politicians, police or teachers, they are entertainers and as long as we see evidence of concerted effort to change both in their words and their actions and they’ve taken full responsibility and accountability for the trash they said in the past, let them live, innit?
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