Vic Mensa Calls Out White America's Empathy Gap When it Comes to Migrant Children

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Still from Vic Mensa's 'Camp America' music video, which features white children in ICE detention. (Vic Mensa/Roc Nation)

Within the 24-hour (or more like 24-minute) news cycle, everyone moves on to the next trending topic in a matter days and sometimes hours, making it particularly hard for activists to gather the numbers needed to sustain long-term organizing.

The crisis in United States immigration detention centers is no different. ProPublica's audio of sobbing children, separated from their parents and locked in cages, drew outcries when the outlet published it in June 2018. But a year later, news of deaths in ICE custody hardly gets a reaction from the public at large: earlier this month, only about 15 people attended a protest at ICE headquarters in San Francisco following the untimely passing of detained trans woman Johana Medina Leon.

Chicago rapper and singer Vic Mensa and his new band 93PUNX hope to draw attention back to the 13,000 immigrant children currently in U.S. immigration detentionfive of whom have died in custody within the last two years, and over 4,500 of whom have reported sexual abuse in the last four years. The band's new pop punk single "Camp America" riffs on ICE Deputy Director Matthew Albance's (ridiculous) comparison of detention centers to summer camps. In a faux cheery voice reminiscent of Billy Joe Armstrong on Green Day's American Idiot, Mensa sings, "So much fun, you lose count of the days / Playing hide and go seek inside of your cage / Daddy loves you, so he sent you away / to Camp America."

In the music video, Mensa and director Titanic Sinclair point to white America's empathy gap. Notably, all the children in the video are white (unlike the mostly Central American kids in ICE detention), calling to mind the question: Would this human rights crisis sound more alarms if the children affected looked more like the ones of those in power?

"My intention for using white kids as opposed to minority children is to point out the blatantly obvious fact that this would never happen to white kids in this country or maybe anywhere on this earth," Vic Mensa told The Daily Beast, which exclusively premiered the video (it officially drops on YouTube at 9pm Pacific). "Although the nature of the actions the kids were involved in were graphic or shocking, it was all taken from actual occurrences reported at 'detention' centers."