Was it right for Stormzy to publicly shame Snowbombing Festival?

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Stormzy

Following Stormzy refusing to play Snowbombing after an alleged racist incident, Getintothis’ Olivia Douglas looks at racism in the public arena.

Recently, Stormzy made the decision to publicly voice his anger and frustration with Snowbombing Festival held in Austria after his team and friends experienced racial profiling at the hands of the Snowbombing security team.

There’s been some contention about whether Stormzy should have just played the slot for the sake of his fans who had paid good money to attend the festival with the main intention of watching his headline set. However, his strong stance against the treatment by the festival holds so much power, and here’s why.

Racism is not a new issue. In fact, it’s an issue that is supposedly no longer an issue, yet I hear daily of cases young black males being aggressively handled or wrongly accused of crime.

So it wasn’t a surprise to us – although it may have been to others – when Stormzy posted a thread to his Instagram story a couple of weeks back about the racial profiling his team and friends had experienced whilst accompanying Stormzy to Snowbombing Festival.

Unfortunately, although Stormzy is a high profile artist, himself and his team are still viewed as members of the black community, and to an unfortunately ignorant minority of people in this world, he may never be seen as more than that.

The incident occurred when security at Snowbombing Festival in Austria had received reports of someone carrying a weapon. According to Stormzy’s Instagram story, the security targeted, searched and aggressively handled members of his team and his friends, despite none of them fitting the person’s description.

Subsequent to this event, Stormzy made the decision to pull out of the festival and took to his Instagram story to explain to his fans and followers why.

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Now first of all, these situations happen regularly, whether it involves someone of high profile or someone working within the industry itself. It could be a case of getting searched at a gig or withstanding stares from other gig goers because you’re one of the few black members of the crowd. Whichever it may be, indirect racism is a huge problem in the 21st century and the biggest problem about it is that no one wants to address it.

It needs to be addressed, and it is inspiring to see someone with so much to lose make such a gesture to call it out.

It’s not the first time a racial attack has taken place and been publicly addressed by someone of high profile within the music industry. 3 years ago, Solange Knowles was subjected to an object being thrown at her and alleged racial abuse when attending a Kraftwerk gig with her husband, her 11 year old son and her son’s friend.

Following the incident, Solange wrote an open letter about why people of color are often “uncomfortable being in predominately white spaces” and the frustrations that she and members of the black community have to withstand throughout their lives.

It’s both astonishing and sickening that in an industry that prides itself on being so forward thinking, a pioneer of social cultures and subcultures, things like this are still happening.

As expected, Stormzy experienced an online backlash for pulling out of the headline slot so last minute, accusing him of pulling the race card.

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The music industry itself is dominated by white males, giving them white privilege, whether they want it or not. That isn’t a slur against all, if any, white males in the industry, its simply a fact.

White males within the industry (and outside the industry on that note) are so used to the acceptance and ease of authority or respect that they receive, that it may be very difficult to understand why Stormzy felt passionately enough to call out Snowbombing Festival on such a public platform, and take such drastic action.

However, the reason people struggle to understand why he did it is exactly the reason he did it.

Why has indirect racism and race based stereotyping become so normalised and accepted? Not only that but when did it become that way? It is NOT NORMAL for people to think that he should have just turned the other cheek, took the money and played the slot. If a female performer experienced an incident similar to that before a gig, they would be inundated with support for pulling out of their show and calling it out.

We are lucky that there is so much awareness surrounding sexism in 2019, so why stop at sexism. Lets start to support artists like Stormzy who call out racism.

As an incredibly successful artist, Stormzy has built himself a huge platform and a lot of his supporters are of an impressionable age, an age that can be positively influenced and an audience that will grow to be the future of our society.

It is the responsibility of influential people like Stormzy to provide an example to this audience and show them that no matter what, the sort of treatment endured at Snowbombing is not acceptable, and that it should always be called out until it ceases to exist.

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The fight for equality in any industry or walk of life for the black community has almost quietened, and that is a statement made with pride and a statement made not because racism has subsided. In fact, quite the opposite based on the reports of police brutality, profiling and stereotyping), but because as a community that has continuously been subject to injustices, and constantly worked harder than the white population to receive acceptance and acknowledgement for accomplishments, black musicians now successfully pave the way for their own success.

There is no desire to become a part of mainstream culture or to reach the charts in order to feel recognition from the wider industry.

In 2016, not one black British artist was nominated for a Brit award, regardless of the success of some of our now flourishing and chart topping British rap and R&B artists.

Stormzy began as an independent grime artist and hit mainstream because of his incredible ability and talented team and management. As one of the first grime artists to have a Number 1 album on the Official UK Albums Chart, and the first UK artist in history to have every song from the same album appear on the UK Singles Chart concurrently, his success speaks for itself.

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As a black artist who likely has a huge white following, calling out this incident could have lost him a lot of fans, but likewise could have gave a lot of fans some serious food for thought and built awareness around the frustration and upset that racial profiling can cause. The gain is a lot more than the loss in this situation and Stormzy has set an example for us all to follow.

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