It was my initial thought that when Donald Trump was elected president, many of his immigration promises—to register Muslims, to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S.—were empty. But after he issued an executive order last Friday (January 27), halting certain immigrants from entering the U.S., his pie in the sky dreams have become an alarming reality.
While his order doesn’t specifically ban Muslims, Trump isn’t fooling anyone. He’s suspended the refugee resettlement program, which directly affects Syria, and has suspended entry from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Even permanent legal residents or green card holders permitted to be in the U.S. have faced restriction from being allowed back in the country after leaving. Though Tuesday (January 31), a federal judge placed a temporary restraining order on Trump’s mess, it still feels like we’re living in the twilight zone.
Muslim-born, Queens-raised emcee Anik Khan—the Bengali-American artist fighting for the immigrant’s perspective—has made America’s shared immigrant history the backbone of his musical narrative. Today (February 2), he released the single “Columbus” from his upcoming project, a song that directly speaks to that narrative.
As the daughter of immigrants, whose parents chose to make a life in the U.S., the song particularly struck a chord with me, because—like a lot of Khan’s music—”Columbus” is a song for immigrants. While my family doesn’t originate from any of the seven countries that Trump’s targeting, my home country of India isn’t far off.
Khan, too, is an immigrant. He came to America from Bangladesh—another predominantly Muslim country—when he was just four-years-old. From the title alone, you can probably guess the meaning behind “Columbus,” a song where Khan defiantly outlines America’s Eurocentrism and systemic racism—the sordid hand that immigrants and people of color have been dealt.
“America was made from black backs and brown shoulders / Yellow and beige arms we brought culture / We brought order, we brought fortune / We crossed oceans, and taught for ya”
Still, even though our hard work has gone unnoticed and our liberties have been constantly snatched for centuries, you can’t scare us off. “Now I’m Columbus, taking what’s mine without the repercussions.”
“Columbus” is a poignant, yet painful reminder of America’s origins, a country built on the backs, and from the hands, of immigrants and people of color. While the anguish is palpable in Khan’s voice, there is strength too—and celebration.
Make sure you also check out Anik Khan on our list of 10 Rappers Who Are Going To Blow Up In 2017.
By Tara Mahadevan. Follow her on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Ali Ateeq