Yasiin Bey, the Artiste Formerly Known as Mos Def and Dante Terrell Smith has been charged with immigration offences in South Africa, where he has been (over)staying for the last few years. He tried to leave South Africa using a World Passport. He is due to appear in court, but he had this to say in his defence:
"They are making false claims against me, a world passport is not a fictitious document. It's been accepted here in South Africa on numerous occasions…as early as 1996 and as late as 2013."
You'd think that sensible people would be trying to set him straight. He did, after all, break the South African law by overstaying. Perhaps he thinks the rules do not apply to him, but South Africa has never been afraid to enforce its rules on western celebrities. Wesley Snipes, Idris Elba (who played Nelson Mandela in a biopic)and, reputedly, Bill Gates have all been denied entry into South Africa for not having their documents in order. Hundreds of thousands of Africans from neighbouring countries have it much worse- immigration officers round them up like animals and do beastly things to them. (This clip dates from the '90s, and the cops in the video were all prosecuted. This one is constantly recycled because of its obvious race-baiting value, but there is is a more recent video, where all the cops are Black.)
The international press is trying to make a hero out of Smith. He is an advocate against police brutality in the United States. He is also a 9/11 Denier, going as far to deny that Osama Bin Laden even existed. So, gushes Tom Kershaw:
"Mos’ politics are the politics of a people not at home in their own country. It’s a difficult perspective to understand if you’ve never been there, and from the outside, comes off as hate, paranoia and even racism. However, it is the sentiment of millions of Americans and Mos, being one of their most intelligent and eloquent, adds a touch of credibility to their argument."
While he was overstaying in South Africa, other Black foreigners from Zimbabwe, Mozambique etc, were getting viciously attacked in waves of xenophobic violence. They were victims of hate, paranoia and even racism. Last year, the world, including the sort of people that celebrate Smith, was silent while a new wave of violence unfolded. Smith was Partying In S.A.
Sensible people must critically evaluate the image this man has of himself before allowing him to foist it on them. Here is a terrorist sympathiser, a man who has made a career as a champagne socialist, desperately trying to remain relevant as the world finds other rappers to worship. Here is an American who imagined that the rules do not apply to him when he visits the Third World. The international media is to be deplored for trying to make him a victim when all he has done is show South Africa such disrespect.