March 05, 2011
When will Holder let his people go? Sing it Robeson!
While I hadn't weighed in on the subject as I perhaps should have, Michelle Malkin's post about Eric Holder's now-infamous "my people" remark inspired me to get off my duff:
I couldn't agree more with her central premise that "our people" are Americans.
For starters, that whole "we the people" thing does mean all of us who live here in the United States.
But to be honest, I have never used "my people" to describe myself along with my fellow citizens. It has too much of an identity politics ring for comfort, and I am probably too much of an individualist to be comfortable with it. Besides, if I started saying "my people" in conversation, most people would not know what I was talking about, and I would expect to be asked. Then I would have to explain that I was using the phrase in retaliation for what Eric "My People" Holder said, and maybe they'd get it, maybe not.
I have long associated the phrase with the Paul Robeson song, "Let My People Go."
So, while it is undeniably based on identity politics, the identity of the people was switched to fit the times.
When David Bernstein linked the video last year, he said "Happy Passover" by way of a reminder.
Although Robeson did more to make the song famous than almost anyone, its use was much older, and it was a rallying song of "Contrabands" (confiscated freed slaves) in 1862.
Seeing as the slaves were not considered citizens, the use of the phrase "my people" made sense, especially because it arose from the enslavement of another group of people at the hands of the Pharaohs. The phrase "let my people go" comes from the Bible:
Whether that's the earliest use of the phrase, I do not know.
As to whether it could be said to have constituted identity politics, I guess that's open to interpretation too. Certainly it would not in the modern sense of the term. But identity politics springs from the oppression of one group by another. That this happens is understandable in the context of the times when the oppression is ongoing. But when the original oppression has ceased, its use becomes an all new form of oppression, meant to stifle dissent.
I'm pretty sure that Eric Holder does not believe that Clarence Thomas, Herman Cain, Thomas Sowell, or Condoleezza Rice are within the rubric of what he means by "my people." When Holder says "my people" he does not mean all black people. He means those black people who do as they are told in the context of identity politics.
When will he let them go?
* It is probably fair to point out that Robeson was a Communist, and he also sang songs that glorified Stalin and the Soviet Union, like this one:
If Robeson actually believed that "his people" would have been better off under Stalin, I think that leaves his "Let my people go" with a lingering aroma of irony.
(As to the use of the phrase "my people" by a man who is supposed to be our Attorney General, I think the aroma is more along the lines a stench.)
IMPORTANT UPDATE: I don't know what inspires certain friends to send me links like this, but here's more letting my people go, Soviet style!
posted by Eric on 03.05.11 at 12:25 PM
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