By Rani Ali
Following Dave’s memorable rendition of his own song ‘Black’, Ofcom received 309 complaints. These complaints were centred on his performance being racist towards white people, however Ofcom rejected them. Various BME performers, such as Dave and Diversity, have been criticised recently for using their platforms to make strong political statements. Sadly, this is nothing new. Black art styles and expression have always been criticised by mainstream society, and especially by politicians for “corrupting the youth”. With a constant focus on the violent or misogynistic content of certain rap songs, mainstream analysis purposefully ignores the performances that are used to express the lived reality of the BME individuals and communities, often labelling them as “controversial political statements”. But for many BME performers, this is the most effective way for their opinions to get heard. Therefore, instead of criticising straight away, it is important to read into their deeper messages…
The subtitles in this article are direct lyrics from Dave’s performance. The aim is to analyse these lyrics, and encourage reading deeper into the messages that are presented to us.
The truth is our Prime Minister’s a real racist
Members of Parliament are there to represent their constituency, and subsequently the nation as a whole, therefore, it is important that everyone is represented and their voices are heard. However, when we look at the composition of the Houses of Parliament, only 10% of the 650 MPs are BME. Individuals from all backgrounds are needed “at the top” to represent the diverse populations that we have in Britain, however this does not appear to be the case for disadvantaged groups in society. Furthermore, a study carried out by ITV News found that 51% of BME MPs experienced racism or racial profiling from fellow MPs. Most importantly, the problem is right at the top – Dave was right. Boris Johnson has a long record of racist comments, including describing Black people as ‘piccaninnies’ with ‘watermelon smiles’. Having the Prime Minister using such derogatory and racist language validates the institutional racism within politics. Change needs to happen from the top and filter through. It is vital for the BME population to be represented in Parliament as they experience various disadvantages in society, however the low presence of BME MPs and their treatment suggests that there is essential work to be done to ensure that everyone’s voices are heard.
How the news treats Kate versus how they treated Meghan
The way tabloids reported on Meghan compared to Kate was extremely more critical. Even when Kate and Meghan were doing the same thing, like cradling their baby bumps, Kate was praised whilst Meghan was criticised. This racial bias of the media can sadly be extended into everyday news…
Sociologist Stanley Cohen (1972) came up with the concept ‘moral panic’ – a feeling of fear spread among the general public that there is an evil threat to society. The media is responsible for the majority of these. Hall (1979) then applied this concept in his study Policing the Crisis, to argue that sensationalist newspaper reports created a moral panic over Black criminality to divert attention away from the wider economic crisis. Sadly, the ‘scapegoating’ (using someone to blame) of young Black men has continued to the present day. Studies have shown that young Black men are negatively overrepresented in news coverage, thus a moral panic has been created. The REACH media monitoring project found that stories about young Black men and boys made the news an overwhelming majority of the time (87.5% of the days monitored during the study). Concerningly, over two-thirds of this news coverage was focused on crime, portraying young Black men as ‘thugs’ and ‘gang members’. Therefore, the racial bias of the media has become significantly responsible for the negative labels that much of society attaches to young Black men. Instead of reporting on some of the amazing community work they do, such as the anti-knife crime work that rapper Jah Digga does in Nottingham, the media continues to portray young Black men as a threat to society.
All we need is unity, funding for communities, equal opportunities
The role of youth clubs and community projects are vital for community cohesion and providing the most opportunities as possible. Sadly, between 2011 and 2019, 51% of youth clubs closed. Youth clubs are there to keep kids off the streets and provide them with positive role models, but they are disappearing. MP for Croydon Central Sarah Jones said “Our figures show how in areas where support for young people has been cut most, they are more at risk of violence”, highlighting the safe haven that youth clubs can provide for young people. She continued “Youth services cannot be a ‘nice to have’. Our children’s safety must be our number one priority”. It is important for us to do the best we can to provide young people with as many opportunities we can to help better their future. Youth clubs are there to offer support and guidance both emotionally and educationally. Maths and English are difficult subjects for some young people, so youth clubs offer them a chance to explore more creative avenues. For example, many youth clubs encourage young people to express themselves through music as it is often easier for them to articulate their thoughts and feelings through rap.
Through a deeper analysis of Dave’s performance, it is clear to see that there is more to the lyrics than what is on the surface. By using his platform to raise awareness of institutional racism, Dave is able to force us to think about what is actually going on in society. Before performances by BME artists are criticised for making a strong political statement or being “racist”, it is vital to understand what the artist is trying to express. They are expressing what is wrong with society.
Here at FYA, we offer various training programmes, such as graphic design and computer basics, to give young people a focus and motivation to work on their future.
Community projects are another important aspect of our work to help the community come together, for example, #FoodParcelFriday which provides essential items to those in need.