Well, this was opportune.
Earlier today Lainey asked whether politics belongs in gossip—I would say it’s impossible to talk about pop culture, anyway, without it. Sometimes these days we will talk about possible topics for Show Your Work and note that there’s been so much real-life news happening that pop culture hasn’t penetrated as much as it might otherwise.
So this video, for The Hamilton Mixtape track Immigrants: (We Get The Job Done)… of course it’s not an accident. Of course it isn’t. Not when the travel ban is back in the news. Not when the track refers to immigrants as “America’s Ghostwriters”. The song alone was powerful:
I got one job, two jobs, three when I need ‘em
I got five roommates in this one studio but I never really see ‘em
It’s what Hamilton would have said if he were here. It’s what so many immigrant families— and hell, all kinds of families born and raised in Canada or the US or Britain or many other places—know is normal. You do what you have to, even if it doesn’t look like the ‘American Dream’ you’re supposed to aspire to. There’s not always summer camp. The family can’t always sit around the table for dinner, because there are always more jobs to be done so there can be dinner. Those ‘essentials’ are for a generation from now… maybe even two. That’s not new.
But the video deftly makes a point that’s sometimes missed – the ‘immigrants’ that people are afraid of? They’re walking among you every single day.
I love this video and it makes me so uncomfortable. I love it, and it’s so far from being part of a “!!!SMASH BROADWAY MUSICAL!!!!” yet comes from exactly the same place. The reminder that the people who are criticized, who are being denied the same rights as ‘American Citizens’, for example, are already here, making the country work in the first place. And if they sometimes react differently than you do? Well, you know, it could be that they’re legitimately terrified of being torn from their beds.
It’s hard to even talk about the star power in the video because it’s so much more than that. But watch for Riz MC, for Daveed Diggs in the credits. It’s a particular point of pride for me – for us? – that lead singer K’naan is a Somali-Canadian immigrant.
But really, it doesn’t matter who, and where from (though I suspect director Tomás Whitmore is about to get much, much, much busier).
Immigrants aren’t just America’s ghostwriters…