Lin Manuel-Miranda has dropped a video from the Hamilton Mixtape album featuring K’naan, Snow Tha Product, Riz MC and Residente. Its a powerful story of fruit pickers, slaughterhouse workers, maids, and others who put their lives at risk just to come to a country where they will be despised for taking the jobs the citizens don’t even want.
I hardly need to run through how timely this song and Hamilton itself is for the American public, that’s been a subject of many think pieces for years now. What is new to Hamilton (as far as I can tell) in this mix tape is the inclusion of a European and specifically British point of view of migrants and refugees.
Riz MC (aka actor Riz Ahmed) raps about “fugees” and the British Empire while images of people being pulled from rubble and running toward fences roll by.
“Ay yo aye, immigrants we don’t like that
Na they don’t play British empire strikes back
They beating us like 808’s and high hats
At our own game of invasion, but this ain’t Iraq
Who these fugeeswhat did they do for me
But contribute new dreams
Taxes and tools, swagger and food to eat
Cool, they flee war zones, but the problem ain’t ours
Even if our bombs landed on them like the Mayflower
Buckingham Palace or Capitol Hill
Blood of my ancestors had that all built
It’s the ink you print on your dollar bill, oil you spill
Thin red line on the flag you hoist when you kill
But still we just say “look how far I come”
Hindustan, Pakistan, to London
To a galaxy far from their ignorance
Immigrants, we get the job done”
Riz himself is of Pakistani origin, and obviously shouts out immigrants from the subcontinent in the verse, but the images are plainly a reference to Syrians. Videos of Syrians being pulled from buildings destroyed by Assadist and Russian forces from the White Helmets very popular on the internet for both their documentation of the crimes against civilians and the hope for survival it can inspire. When those refugees do arrive in Eastern Europe, they are met with barbed wire fences, dogs, and aggressive police forces. In Western Europe, they drown while trying to cross the sea or languish in camps unfit for human habitation.
Hamilton premieres on London’s stage this fall. I couldn’t get tickets but I am really excited for the British public to embrace the political consciousness its built around race and immigration. We’ll see if audiences love it the same way they do in the States.
Note: I’ve put the “migrant crisis” in quotes in the title because its an ambiguous term that can be interpreted to mean the migrants themselves are the crisis. But its the most commonly used, so that’s what we’ll go with for simplicity’s sake.