Ahead of 21 Savage’s release on bond, a look at how humiliation and degradation are such a major factor in his arrest and others.
One night, back in 2006 when I was 18 years old, I had one of the most memorable nights of my life. I was at home with what a family friend I affectionately called “Ninine Lau.” Her real name was Marie and the rest of the family called her “Launie.” She was the mother of my Godmother and she was at least 70-years-old at the time. I stayed at her home during my last year of high school when I moved to the United States two years prior after spending most of my high school years in Haiti.
On that night, the DEA knocked on our door. As a U.S. citizen through birth but raised in Haiti, I had no inclination about my rights as a citizen. The DEA agents on the other side of that door, knocked with so much force that it jolted me from my sleep. I approached the door, half awake and half stupefied. “OPEN THE DOOR, WE’RE LOOKING FOR EDWIN CASTOR!” “Edwin Castor?“ I thought to myself. “But, he’s in jail. Wouldn’t they know that?” Edwin Castor was Marie’s youngest son. He obviously ran the streets, was in those circles and did the hustles we’re all familiar with or know of growing up how he grew up. At the time, he was arrested, convicted and had been in jail over a year. (After his release he was sent back to Haiti when he reformed his life and met the love of his life, only to be killed after. We miss him dearly.)
As the Feds knocked on the door with continued force, a bit confused by their presence I opened the door as Marie walked to the living room. Within seconds they rushed through the door, military style weaponry brandished. They screamed, insulted, and cussed. “WHERE THE FUCK IS EDWIN??!!” A particularly short bald white man stuck out in my memory. He was the most demonstrative and seemed to be leading the charge. After explaining several times to him that it was only Marie and I in the house and Edwin has been in jail for at least a year, he didn’t believe us. “If you don’t fucking tell me where Edwin is right now, I’m locking your bitch ass for obstruction. I don’t give a fuck, I know you’re hiding him in here.”
They ran through the entire house, ransacked through everything, and continuously cussed at us and insulted us. Marie burst into tears. As if the heartache of her son being in jail for as long as he was wasn’t enough, she had to contend with military style weapons in her face. After realizing that we were not lying, some of the agents ran to her to console her and apologized for what happened. The one bald white man, however, was indignant as if there was something not adding up. They finally all left, and I can never forget that look of disappointment and aggravation in his face. He barely acknowledged us as he left.
In all my years on this earth, I’ve had a lot of experiences with authority. Many, if not most, of them were incredibly kind and were more focused on a solution-based approach, even when I was the one who created the predicament. But like everything else in life, the negative experiences stick out more. With every bad experience with a member of authority, the humiliation is what always stuck out.
It’s why 21 Savage’s arrest was fascinating to me. The first play in the U.S. Immigration And Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) playbook was humiliation.
On Super Bowl Sunday, Feb 3rd, news broke the street rap star, 21 Savage was arrested by ICE. ICE? The headlines created so much confusion for so many people. It turned out 21 Savage’s status as a legal resident of the U.S. has evaporated. ICE alleged he came in the country as a minor in 2005, and his Visa expired making him an illegal immigrant. He migrated from the United Kingdom and after his papers lapsed in 2006, he was in the U.S. illegally. ICE used the basis of a 2014 felony conviction to create the urgency to apprehend Savage and attempted to deport him. CNN quoted an ICE spokesperson who stated “His whole public persona is false. He actually came to the US from the UK as a teen and overstayed his visa.” This quote came out as soon shortly after the arrest was made and it is emblematic of some of their goals to humiliate. Right away, social media clung to the quote and the jokes were in full swing. Memes were all over Twitter and Instagram. Jokes are to be expected as they are a fixture in social media but watching some be overzealous in the critic and shaming of 21 Savage being in that position, was interesting to watch. It’s as if people completely forgot the targeting process of the ICE that was outlined in cases before.
Kuck Baxter Immigration who is representing 21 Savage in this case, released a statement shortly after challenging all the information that was being spread by ICE.
ICE reported 21 Savage came in the country when he was 12-years-old, his lawyers stated he was in the U.S. since 7-years-old. While ICE stated they detained him because of his felony in 2014, his lawyers stated the record had been expunged and should not have been used for his detainment. His lawyers also stated he has filed for a U-Visa application more than once and as recently as 2017. They stated that DHS has known of his status and has had his address updated since that recent application was submitted. As this information rolled out, I could not help but be taken back to that night when I was 18, when the DEA knocked on my door. How could they not know? Was this gross incompetence or was this purposeful? Did they know and disregarded the information in front of them? These are the questions I asked myself and these are the same questions I asked about 21 Savage.
It has been reported by people close to him he was being held in lock-down for 23 hours per day. For over a week, he was held and was denied release. The humiliation wasn’t enough, it was also imperative to break him of his will. Even if he was guilty of all the things they were accusing him of, why would he be such a danger and a threat for them to not only refuse to release him but keep him in lock-down for 23 hours per day. Finally, after a total of 10 days in lockup, 21 Savage will be granted his release on bond. He is finally able to go back to his kids and family and hopefully will be able to put all of this behind him.
This is less to do with how you feel about 21 Savage’s detainment, his past, or even immigration in this country. It’s more asking yourself, what alleged infractions are worthy of you being ripped of your humanity or dignity? Are humiliation and intimidation part of the deal when dealing with authority figures? Do 21 Savage’s gangster lyrics and his supposed past allow him less dignity? Less empathy as a human? All I know is, like the night back when I was 18, I don’t wish that feeling of humiliation on anybody. Especially those that likely don’t deserve it to start.