21 Savage is British: Being a Black Immigrant in America

By: Oduntan Oluwateniola

On Jan. 29, 21 Savage performed a remix of his hit single “a lot” on the “The Tonight Show” Starring Jimmy Fallon where he addressed Trump’s border stance as well as the Flint water crisis.

Six days later on Feb. 3, he was arrested by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It seemed that there was more to the Atlanta-based rapper than meets the eye. It surfaced that 21 Savage, who’s real name is Sheyaa Bin Abraham Joseph, was actually born in the London Borough of Newham, United Kingdom. Contrary to the Atlanta neighborhood where he claims he is from. 21 Savage moved to the United States when he was 7 years old. According to Savage’s lawyers, his parents work visas expired when he was a child, leaving him without a status. They also state that he had applied for a new visa two years prior to being detained. The rapper was recently released from detention and may face deportation.

21 Savage’s story is not unique; It is one of 2 million stories like his. Of people who came to America as children and do not have a status. These children grew up in America but unfortunately end up facing deportation back to a country they can barely remember. Within this group of children, certain demographics are not acknowledged. For example, with Donald Trump as president, a lot of emphasis was placed on immigrants from Latin American and Arab countries. But people often forget that there are immigrants from African, Oceanic, Asian, Caribbean countries and, in this situation, European countries that are coming into America on a daily basis.   

Despite the support from some of his fans, a lot people have taken to social media to make light of the otherwise heavy situation. With stereotypical memes of British culture; from Harry potter, to Shakespeare, even red coats. It is as if people have forgotten that someone’s livelihood and citizenship status is at stake.

Even celebrities have been posting memes. Chris Brown took to twitter to drop his own meme filled with stereotypical British slang, causing him to get involved in a Twitter dispute with rapper, Offset. Even Demi Lovato put her own input into the trending topic, an input that resulted in fans dragging her so much, that they drove her off of twitter.

It is one thing to be an immigrant, but when fans found out that 21 Savage was not born in Atlanta and was actually born in a foreign country, some people’s perception towards 21 Savage’s blackness changed. Once affiliated with gang-and-glocks, rapper 21 Savage is now being associated with Harry Potter and quilted pens, a culture he does not have a connection to.

Similarly, when Barack Obama’s paternal heritage was discovered, the public had a field day, calling him every stereotypical African name under the sun, despite him being half white and born in Hawaii.

This also happened when the film Get Out was released. Samuel L. Jackson took to the radio to discuss lead actor, Daniel Kaluuya’s, unsuitability to play the role, due to his British nationality. But how can a black man from a western country tell another black man from another western country, that he cannot relate to racism, despite racism being an international issue and not a domestic one? Racism stems from inter-relations between countries, such as Europe and Africa, or Europe and Asia.

It is one thing to be black in America and it is one thing to be an immigrant, but it is another thing to be both. Although the general reception is improving due to America’s media exposure, Black immigrants from other countries are still faced with some hostility in what is supposed to be a melting-pot country.