28yr old Personal Trainer Dean Simon is otherwise known as latest UK social media sensation, Rants N Bants. Sometimes described as a comedian, other times an activist, everyone agrees that his viral videos are thought provoking, entertaining and in the current, shaky political climate, a voice that needs to be heard. Earning overnight notoriety for his video about the Brexit vote which, to date, has close to 500k Facebook views. While he still has one foot in the gym, Dean is also aware of the following he has created and how he can use his new found following in a positive way. He spoke to #TBB10 about his plans for the future…
How did your Social Media career begin?
It all came about using Snapchat on holidays in the Caribbean with friends. I didn’t even know what it was at first, they persuaded me to download the app and most of the time they didn’t even realise I was filming during the day. In the evenings they would watch my story and comment on how hilarious it was. Back in the UK I started putting up a story a day and people kept telling me how much they enjoyed it, so I set up a Facebook page, my friends shared the videos and it took off from there.
Did you begin with social commentary?
Not at all, I just spoke about topical subjects. I didn’t get into politics or social commentary until Brexit, I did that video because it meant something to me. When I woke up that morning and saw the result, I felt a way about it. The demand after that was so high for political content, I kept doing it.
Would you call yourself a Social Activist?
No, I’m a journalist. You won’t see me out on the road with signs protesting, because I think it’s useless. Black people have been marching for hundreds of years and it hasn’t made a difference. The powers that be don’t care until you hit them where it hurts – their pockets. Everything they do is for money, if these protests were effective, they wouldn’t clear the roads and allow them to happen. Police would be out there, and it would be martial law. When people were blocking the airport and runways that caused a problem because they were losing money.
Do you think the black community are ‘sleep walking’ i.e just allowing our oppression to continue?
No, but a lot of us are blinded; we’ve been offered a false sense of security. In this country they give us just enough so that we don’t complain. A lot of the things that happen here couldn’t happen in other places where they have real poverty and they have nothing to lose. We have bad poverty here but not in comparison to some places in South America for instance. Here, a lot of people are raised in a sheltered multi-cultural community so are not aware of what’s going on in the world until they get older. But I grew up with parents who came here in the 60s. My dad was chased by skinheads after school, so I knew what this country was like at a young age and nothing I’m seeing now surprises me.
Were your parents activists? Did they participate in marches and protests?
Not at all. My parents and grandparents were just hard-working people. They came here to provide a better life for their children. There were racial incidents, but they took it on the chin and got on with their lives. They were not about to be on the street marching; their main priority was ensuring we were good.
What do you think we need to do in the UK to change things?
‘We’ as in black people, can’t do anything because we are only small percentage of the population. I don’t think people realise how small our numbers are, only 8% mostly in Birmingham, Manchester and London, there aren’t many of us elsewhere. The only way there can be major change is if the majority open their eyes to what’s going on but most of them are in denial or try to kid themselves that racism doesn’t exist. You don’t have to be a member of EDL, it’s the passive racism that we face on a daily basis which they think is harmless, that affects us the most. The likelihood of being stopped in the street and being racially abused is very slim, but white people need to realise that they don’t need to use the N-word or call us names, There are subtle little things they do that let us know, this is not our house; we aren’t supposed to live here. So until they wake up nothing will change, the only thing that has changed in 30 years is they’ve become better at hiding it.
What does the future hold for millennials in the UK? Would we be better off moving to our parents’ homeland?
When I go back I feel at home, you are treated better, but there is still something missing. That’s not our home because we were not born there. My roots are there, but my home and my friends are in London where I grew up. I’m used to the London way of life. Plus, when you’re there you’re not really seen as a native, they call you ‘English’. It’s a double-edge sword because we don’t have a home there or here. We didn’t ask to be born here in the UK, but we’re here taking on a lot of madness and some of us we can’t really go back to our parents home either. The real problem is we were not given an opportunity to really start over, there have been reparation payments for holocaust genocides but we’ve never been compensated for everything that they smashed, destroyed and stole during slavery. If that had happened I’d go back to Africa because it would be a lot better than here. They owe us billions more than they owed the Jewish community and I know that money is never coming because we would take over.
So how do we counteract this? Do we jump on the ‘buy black’ movements which emerged after the Brexit vote?
Movements like this will definitely work but I believe we are too weak right now. The will might be there but they give in to convenience. It’s not ingrained in us like with the Asian or Jewish communities who have been doing it for generations. In those communities they pool their funds and buy property, you get siblings and parents living next door to each other. With us, because we’ve been historically separated it has affected our sense of community. We are the most inclusive people, we let people in easily. When we came here we didn’t keep to ourselves, we integrated, we allowed people to participate in our culture and merged their culture into ours to our detriment. We should’ve been more hostile. You couldn’t have white people making Bollywood music freely without the Asian community losing their minds, they would go nuts. But us, we allow people to use our culture without any opposition, acting as if there is enough to go around but there is not because we are not the ones eating. We need to be more protective of our culture because it’s being exploited. Recently a white guy from Birmingham went viral because he was impersonating Jamaican artists and black people were celebrating, it made me angry. If he were black, those people wouldn’t have bothered to watch the entire video, it’s embarrassing.
Black Twitter has been impactful in America for highlighting their issues… ( this question gets interrupted…)
Yeah, I have a problem with that because it’s not Black Twitter, it’s White Twitter, we just have our segment and the white man is still eating from it. That’s my thing, we need our own outlets, like a BET, owned by us, for us. Nothing like BBC 1Xtra for example, which is cool, they play black music and have black presenters but the white man is still eating off that. No matter where you look they are eating from our culture, we are the most exploited because without us there is no culture. You can’t have a successful night club if you don’t play black music, you won’t get the celebrities or people who spend big money in your club. Without us there would be no music, it’s all ours. Without our culture, our music, our input, this world is Vanilla, it’s dead!
When we do put out our own music and films they tend to be stuck in the same genre, do you think our home grown content sometimes perpetuates stereotypes?
Yes, and we need to stop doing that, how many times do we have to be a gangster or drug dealer? Are you mad? There are black doctors out there, we are doing everything. Remember we had doctors before these guys were even civilised. Understand that the Greeks & Romans came to Egypt to learn from us, they were useless. Then we they do research showing that our brains are small and all this rubbish. If our brains are small, how small are yours? We need to stop doing these council estate films, as soon as I see them I switch off, I’m not supporting it. These films are the reason why people are grabbing their handbags when I walk down the street in my tracksuit. We have a responsibility to represent ourselves correctly, we can’t be mad at everyone else every time they make us look stupid if we’re still doing the same thing.
What do you say to actors who accept stereotypical parts?
They’re sell outs. They can be bought. You could offer me £2m to portray a drug dealer in a film I’d tell you to take your money and exactly where to put it. It’s not helping us.
What about the filmmakers who say its just entertainment, and no one complains about when white characters do the same thing, like James Bond running around with guns for instance.
You can’t compare James Bond with a council estate film. It’s fantasy, you know man’s not running through a hallway with bullets flying and not getting hit once. Agent 007 is like a Spiderman character, but these council estate films are about road life that happens everyday. If it’s really like a James Bond type of film why don’t they diversify their cast? It’s always all black men. It’s foolishness. They might as well leave a GoPro camera running on a council estate because it’s always the same. ‘I’m a drug dealer, oh someone stole my drugs, oh I have to get them back, oh lets kidnap his cousin, oh I’m bored!’ How many films are you going to make with the same stuff? They are very shortsighted, and that’s why they’ll always be broke making budget films, they’re not thinking ahead. They prefer to make a little money now and get a few Instagram likes and then what?
We’re making our own content but still being exploited, is this because we are weak or ignorant?
A lot of us are very ignorant and misinformed, we don’t know our history. We’ve grown up here and been taught that the white man invented everything, and Winston Churchill was a hero, even though they clearly had help from other nations, Indians and Russians during the World War. They made Winston Churchill the greatest Briton, which is an insult when you realise the amount of black and asian people he killed and we have to look at our money and see his face. Be honest, look at the size of this small island, do you think we can take out the whole world by ourselves? Are you mad? Hitler would’ve run up in London and ended the place.
Schools are a place where they brainwash your children early, teach them foolishness so they can go out and work for people, be a servant. School is a joke. I can honestly say there is nothing I learned at school today that has got me anywhere in life. Everything I know is self-taught. Schools teach you how to tick boxes so you can go work for them and that this little island here, who don’t own or grow anything is great. There’s never really been anything great about this country, it became great because of the lies, theft and bloodshed, but they don’t teach you that.
(This view echoes a recent video put out by Channel 4 with MP Shashi Tharoor about schools not teaching the real history about colonial Britain – watch here)
Do we need a stronger position in government? More Black & Asian MPs or a Prime Minister?
Of course we do, but they are controlling the system. Someone like me would cause extreme problems for them. They would get lit up on national television anywhere, I wouldn’t care. It doesn’t matter what side these MPs are on they’re all the same. They all went to the same schools. The media is another area where we need to be represented, we make up 0.2% of media in the UK, but they are the ones talking about us all the time.
What can you suggest we do to move us from this position of weakness to at least being comfortable with the system.
I think we need to stick together, build our own stuff. Invest in ourselves. Don’t be buying your hair or food or getting your nails done elsewhere. We need to get to a point where when we have enough money, we need to reinvest it into our communities, but we don’t do that, we go missing. The attitude is ‘well I got out’ and that’s how it’s been, there is no willingness to give back. Those who do well, look after their own families and that’s cool but it doesn’t help the bigger picture. If you’re black in the UK you are 4x more likely to grow up in poverty, so if you overcome this, it just means you got lucky.
Do you feel like you are playing a part in educating the youth?
My audience is old, 60% are 25-35, and I have people in their 70s who watch me. Teenagers who watch me must be very switched on. But they shouldn’t have to worry about politics, Brexit or racial abuse they should be playing Playstation and worrying about trivial things. They shouldn’t have to watch what I do to become educated. No one wants to be a gangster or drug dealer but they’re seeing that it’s the only way they can eat. It’s a sad reflection on this country because there are other countries in Europe who are closing their prisons because they don’t have enough crime. It’s the system that’s flawed, it’s not the people.
Would you go into politics or teaching?
Maybe, but I can’t be told what to do. I don’t take orders, I take requests! To be honest politics right now is a joke. Jeremy Corbin for example is supposed to be leading the Labour party and was the face of the main campaign but was threatening people in his own Cabinet if they don’t vote for Brexit. When did his morals just change like that? If you really believe in something you stick to your guns regardless, whether it’s the popular choice or not. He either wanted the Brexit vote in the first place or he’s weak, either way that doesn’t sit well with me. That’s why people don’t vote.
Are you normally a Labour voter?
Yes, only because I grew up in Harlesden. We don’t vote for the Tories in Harlesden. I didn’t mind David Cameron, at least you knew where you stood with him, but Theresa May is a joker like Corbyn. Ideally we need to lose both of the main parties, maybe the Lib Dems need to come back for 4 years so we have something different. Labour and Conservative policies don’t work, we’ve seen that. I’m a very liberal person, I’m not far left because I believe they breed laziness and entitlement which is what gave us Brexit. A lot of the lazy English people who complain that foreigners are coming and taking the jobs that they are not even qualified to do, the reality is they have a sense of entitlement born out of generations of being out of work. Our families came over here to work not take money from the system, and that gets passed down through our families, we always see hard-working people in our households. A lot of these people are third and forth generation bums, living outside of London, up North paying £300 for a two bedroom house, complaining that we have it easy in London while we’re working hard and paying £800 for a room.
At the end of 2016 you launched a charity campaign for the homeless, why did you decide to do that?
99% of this world is full of talkers and doers. I’m a doer. I said instead of giving my money to these corporations, most of these charities are cons anyway, I’m going to do it myself and hand it out myself so I know it’s getting done and there are no hidden admin fees like with big charities. I raised money from my followers and then went to the wholesalers and bought items to put in care packages which consisted of food, hats, scarves, gloves, sanitary stuff etc. We made 150 packages and handed them out in London and I donated the money leftover to independent charities in Birmingham and Manchester which don’t have adverts on the tube or in the newspaper, because if they can afford to do that they don’t need donations.
What’s next for Rants N Bants?
I have a lot of stuff going on, I’m getting offers for a lot of things including acting which I don’t want to do, and writing; I’ve never written for other outlets but I will consider it. There are a few things I can get into. I’m doing a lot of sport videos now, I did my first video about the England team selection for the European Championships last year and then there was a lot of pressure to cover the England games so I did that and I’m doing a lot of boxing as well. There are no limits.
You can catch up with Rants N Bants via the following social media platforms: