No stranger to Somalia's dire problems, K'Naan, a Somalia-born rapper and refugee who's fast becoming one of hip-hop's most prolific and profound lyricists, shares his thoughts with ESSENCE.com on how he feels about the United States' handling of the teenage Somali pirate who was brought to New York City to be tried for hijacking a U.S. ship and holding its captain hostage on the open sea.
It's funny that some people have commented about the Somali pirate, Wali-i-Musi, who was captured and taken to U.S. court to be tried, and his smiling for the cameras and were confused if he were happy about his unfortunate situation. The truth is that it's a cultural misunderstanding. As Somalians, we learn as children that, no matter how rough life is, you smile. In other words, a smile comes in a form of charity, something you give. We don't think of it as a momentary expression. That's why you can watch the news or footage and seek kids in dire situations or a 6-year-old with an AK-47 and he will smile into the camera as a courtesy. This Somali pirate is a teenager and is the first time he's ever set foot on American soil and he has all this attention on him, so in his mind, the least he can do is smile. I guarantee you he's not happy and would rather be with his mother who would also rather get her son back and not be facing charges that can have him serving life in prison.
Still, it's important to understand America's history with pirates. During the country's early stages of development when it was still at war against British colonial rule, George Washington used pirates because they didn't have their own national guard to defend the waters of America from constant British invasion, so they made friends with the pirates. This is very relevant as it concerns Somalia today, because a lot of these young and desperate kids turn to piracy just to make a living. I'm talking kids who risk their lives knowing that they might die. Another interesting point is that even the original groups of fisherman who went into the waters in the late 90's and late 2000's to defend the coast is very relevant because they took matters into their own hands. People always ask, "Why doesn't the Somali government defend its own waters?" Well, because we don't have our own Somali government to defend our waters. Although I'm by no means condoning what these young men did, it's really no different from what America did and that's work with their means.
It's interesting because I like President Obama, and sometimes you have to realize there are things that someone in his position have to weigh before making the decision that he made regarding the pirates. One of the main reasons that Somalia is in dire straits is in large part because of a Black woman, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who spearheaded the Bush administration on what things had to happen, Condoleeza Rice, along with the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Jendayi Frazer, were responsible for funding the Somali warlords. One of the main reasons that Somalia is destroyed and has no functionality is because when the American government subjugates, they have to use a Black person who can employ their own ideology to other Black people. We haven't known Somalia to ever be in the collapsed position its presently in. Trust me, my country is far worse and far more dangerous than Iraq or Afghanistan. So again, I'm not condoning the pirates' behavior, but I want to encourage people to educate themselves like they would about anything else they might not have too much knowledge about and really examine the facts on a deeper level and not just the surface. It's always better not to take everything you see on television as the truth. Nothing is without provocation and unfortunately all that's going on now with the pirates is Western provocation.
The views of K'Naan are not those of ESSENCE.com or ESSENCE magazine.