In a recent interview with a leading Italian publication, Stormzy has said Britain is “definitely, 100%” racist and it has worsened under Boris Johnson.
According to Stormzy, the prime minister was a “figurehead” whose actions had made it more acceptable to say racist things in British society. “If the top person can 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.”
The grime artist, who has just released his second album, Heavy is the Head, said since Johnson had been in office the situation had deteriorated, with people who hold racist views feeling emboldened to express them in public.
“Before, people had to hide their racism. If you felt something bad about 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.
“It’s like ‘Oh no, we’re not racist’. But there’s a lot of racism in the country,” he said. “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.”
Stormzy is the latest high-profile black British cultural figure to say they would consider turning down an OBE or MBE. The spoken-word artist and podcaster George the Poet said he rejected an honour earlier this year because of the “pure evil” perpetrated by the British empire.