Sam Smith
Singer Sam Smith is trying to bring awareness to racism after his friend was racially abused in London Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartMedia

Grammy-winning singer Sam Smith has responded to the backlash he received over his tweets about racism in London. The Stay With Me crooner said he was unaware racial discrimination was still an issue in the capital after a friend was verbally abused but his comments were met with criticism with many branding him "ignorant".

The 23-year-old recalled the experience in a series of tweets posted on 20 January and said he was left "speechless" by the racial abuse. The singer wrote: "I never ever ever ever thought that would happen here. Absolutely speechless and hurt," adding that he wanted to "shine some sort of light" on the issue of racism.

Although he was supported by some of his followers, one critic among many said: "Does nobody else find it ignorant beyond belief that #SamSmith was surprised that racism occurs in London?! How sheltered can you be?" while another commented: "But why do people have to witness racism to know it actually exists sorry but Sam Smith is ignorant."

One other questioned: "I just wanna know what Sam Smith's grasp on racism was before this point," while another Twitter user said: "Sam Smith witnessed his friend experience racism and now he wants to 'shine light' on something about as known as cars having four wheels."

The Writing's On The Wall chart-topper, who was born in London, has now defended himself in a statement via Instagram, which read: "For the record, I was merely sharing an experience I had in the hope it would draw attention to how ridiculous it is to be racist in 2016. This is not about me in any way, it's about a deep-rooted issue we have in our society that should now be extinct.

"I don't profess to know or remotely understand what it means to be on the receiving end of racist abuse, but having been bullied my whole life for being gay, what I do know is that it is wrong and completely unacceptable. Here's to people being allowed to be people."

In the midst of the backlash, many have supported Smith's attempts to bring awareness to the issue with one commenting: "I can't believe all this backlash you're getting@samsmithworld people don't understand that knowing racism exists and actually witnessing it happening are two completely different things that will get two completely different reactions out of someone."

Another said: "I can't believe all the hate! Sam Smith brought to light a rare occasion where he observed racism firsthand. It's time we bring light to real social issues like racism and homophobia, and I'm glad he started a conversation."