On Sunday, Feb. 3, rapper 21 Savage was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on charges of being in the U.S. illegally. According to ICE, he is a British citizen in the U.S. on a visa, which had expired. According to his attorneys, Savage (whose real name is Sha’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph) had reapplied for a visa in 2017.
In the wake of the arrest, memes about 21 Savage began circulating the internet, along with jokes about his arrest and his deportation. One such meme was originally tweeted by Chris Brown and appeared to use a clip from a music video of 21 Savage to make fun of the legal situation that he is currently experiencing.
While some might say that the jokes are all in good fun, and that no harm is intended by sharing memes and “humorous” posts, that doesn’t negate the harm that they do. American or British, legal immigrant or not, 21 Savage is a human being with a family that depends on him.
According to his lawyers, he was not only brought to the U.S. as a child, but he was already taking steps to ensure that he remained in the country legally. Mocking a situation that he and many others are experiencing while being separated from their families and not knowing what will happen next does nothing but make light of the fact that people are suffering.
Would the people making jokes at the expense of this rapper be doing the same if he wasn’t famous, or if he was an immigrant from Mexico or Central America? Would they laugh about his separation from the people they love?
If the answer is no, then the question becomes why they think it’s wrong to mock other detained immigrants but not to mock 21 Savage. If the answer is yes, then the question becomes why they find the situation amusing.
Not only has 21 Savage been detained, but as of Friday, Feb., 8, he was being held in the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, GA, from where many reports of abuse of detainees have originated. Rolling Stone ran a report on Feb. 7, detailing the conditions that researchers, former detainees and attorneys have reported from the facility.
Several news outlets now have stories that mention the conditions at the detention center. This makes it even more sobering that people are so quick to make fun of what happened. It took 21 Savage getting arrested for major news outlets to start reporting on conditions in detention centers.
The arrest and detention of 21 Savage is not a joke, just like the arrests and detention of the thousands of other immigrants being held in the U.S. is not a joke.