As I got older I have honestly lost touch with most of the music scene nowadays In fact, I cannot even name more than half of the artists that are on the scene and those that I can, I barely know their songs. As a by-product of my age my desire to keep up with the
Joneses have reached an all-time low especially after I hit 40, because I still crave the classics that I listened to in my youth and partied to in my twenties during my clubbing days. Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” and NWA’s “Express Yourself” were anthems that spoke to the conscious state of Black youth as their lyrics courageously challenged the pitfalls of police brutality and racial discrimination that we have suffered on a frequent basis, regardless of our socio-economic status. Even for those whose upbringing bordered on the pristine, “F**k the Police!!” was an affirmation of our pain that was so strong that it normalized the cringeworthy language that is still unforgiveable to our parents.
At 51 my maturity helps me reflect on the sentiments of my ancestors and appreciate the disdain that they had for the lyrics of my generation, because as I listen to today’s music I find myself repeating their words. Sometimes random curiosity leads me to the internet in my spare time as I wonder what is going on in other parts of the world. Since the COVID-19 pandemic prevents me from traveling to these places I can at least imagine myself being there until World Health Organization permits such. An early ‘90s smash hit “Secrets of Success” by UK’s Cookie Crew is a liked video in my YouTube feed since I almost played it to death and is a part of my favorite mixes that YouTube instantly creates based on my preferences. Whether I search for them or any other ‘80s favorite British pop group, a myriad of alternative artists show up in the video feed on the right scroll. By happenstance I “discovered” artists like Stormzy, Skepta, Jme (Skepta’s brother), and a few others that have been popular on the British Grime scene for several years. Though my addiction is latent I got hooked on Stormzy’s “Big For Your Boots” and Skepta’s “Shut Down” which were both released three and six years ago respectively. Beyond the music I occasionally become interested in their lives which led me to a video that was posted by Jme, (legally known as Jamie Adenuga) chronicling his encounters with police. Since it was posted in 2020 I assumed that the incidents happened recently until further research revealed that they occurred as early as 2015, which puts me far behind my information schedule once again.
In the first clip Jme is stopped by an officer in an urban neighborhood and he asked why. The officer’s initial response was dodgy when he cited UK Traffic Code 163 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, which allows an officer to stop the driver and request his/her driving credentials (otherwise known as ‘details’ in the UK) for any reason. In instances of stopping moving vehicles even when there is no clear violation a motorist must surrender his or her driving documentation upon an officer’s request. Upon persistent questions from the rapper the officer ‘quite frankly’ stated “You are driving a really nice car in a not so nice area, and I want to know if everything is alright.” Even for the average Black motorist who’s accustomed to more subtle biases the shock value of the officer’s words in the post Jim Crow era would be a surprise, except for the man who experienced it himself. Nonetheless, like a kind Englishman he complied with the officer's request and went about his day. The following examples along with the YouTube video will explain his desensitized reactions.
In the second clip another officer bypasses his vehicle in a van with others and makes a U-turn toward his vehicle and stops in front of him. Like the first scenario the officer was politely direct with him. The officer reassured him that he wasn’t getting ‘nicked’ but asked him for his driver license. Upon review of Jme’s license he noticed that he stopped him before and realized who he was. After Jme confirmed such and that he is Skepta’s brother the officer befriended him and confessed that he has their songs uploaded on his phone. The interaction was short and sweet and ended with a handshake before they parted ways.
Although he was not confrontational his tension was imminent when he was approached by an officer while sitting in his car in the third instance. Again, he was in an area known for drug use and the officer wanted to know why he was sitting there. Within the back and forth exchange, even though the officer confirmed that there was no code violation for sitting he rudely requested Jme’s information. Since he was sitting and not driving, Jme declined but showed the officer all of the slips that he obtained from officers without having to give his details. He gave an estimated of 50 slips but noted that it has happened more times than that.
When he was stopped in subsequent scenarios he was bombarded with detailed excuses ranging from a license plate search with no name, searches producing a name without insurance, and reports of burglaries and stolen cars. The latter excuse was made while the artist was driving in a more affluent neighborhood when UK Police claimed that burglars would use canes or other blunt objects to break into homes and retrieve the car keys hanging on visible hooks. He was even stopped one night and he and his passenger were forced to stand outside in the freezing cold while they verified his credentials and searched his car.
Since hip-hop has been branded as a gangsta genre with broad strokes that are ill-suited for certain canvasses, one might assume that he may have been targeted because of his high-profile status in the UK Grime industry. Unless appearances are deceiving, most of the officers that stopped Jme did not know who he was. Furthermore, when I saw other viral videos of Black men being pulled over in the UK for no definitive reason, I conclude that Rule 163 has a microscopic clause that grants enforcement immunity to cops while one is driving Black. Jme has been stopped about 75 times, yet it should be commendably noteworthy to mention that despite being asked if he is “known to the police”, he has never been arrested in his life. Nonetheless, I imagine that his experiences are only the tip of the iceberg for Black motorists in the UK. In practical terms I would argue that especially in the technology age where information is readily accessible in real time, if there is any justifiable suspicion other than race most of these traffic stops could have been eliminated for several reasons. If someone’s car was stolen, upon awakening from a burglary most likely it would have been reported stolen and noted in the police databases. Especially with the newer cars equipped with standard GPS technology the task of recovery would have been much easier. As Jme pointed out in one case there were several nice cars that bypassed the officers prior to him being accosted. Whether parked in a driveway or cruising on a roadway can a cop accurately determine whether a driver is a banker or a burglar based on their appearance? Considering the multiple errors in judgment they made with Jme what would they discover if they looked beyond color and surveilled everyone fairly?
I live in a predominantly White neighborhood that is low on crime but not crime-free. Though few, most neighborhood updates on criminal profiles that I receive for my area are of White men. True, there are brazen crooks that venture off into unfamiliar territories but most would agree that burglaries are likely committed by people that blend with the locals and are familiar with the area. Nowadays, many home owners have cameras installed to give a clear image of the suspect. In absence of such if these burglaries really occurred is it logical to assume that a Black man was a prime suspect?
Stop and search or stop and frisk is nothing new to Black America. Though our Constitution forbids the treatment that we still receive, even after countless lawsuits that have been fought and won, we still have a long way to go for true racial equality. Most of us who work diligently and exercise our right to live the American Dream do so with the expectation that our success and prosperity would not be undermined by those in power that are supposed to protect our civil liberties without restricting them. Unless I can be told differently, despite Mr. Adenuga’s celebrity status and the exposure of his painstaking journey of stop and search, there has been no amendment to Road Traffic Act 1988 to grant a social reprieve to ensure that UK motorists will not be stopped for frivolous reasons. As an act of social security the UK Parliament has a duty to uphold the civil rights of all of its citizens without the fear of discrimination. The American Dream as we know it should be a globally aspirational privilege to capitalize on our God-given talents for the benefit of humanity. About half the time in my driving experience, when traffic is backed up it’s usually an officer causing gridlock. Regardless of the reason, it slows everybody down.