Approximately two weeks ago, the artist known as Childish Gambino released a music video that had the world talking. From memes to in-depth analysis, his video and song entitled This Is America captured the attention of everyone willing to partake in this conceptualize idea and prism that we call America. Now, it’s easy to say that This is America is not a video that can just be consumed entirely in one viewing. If you set aside the video’s graphic nature, the very essence of what Childish Gambino, also known as Donald Glover, is attempting to do is widely apparent.
This is America attracts you, with its melancholy picture and it’s infectious melodies and beats. The video even forces you to separate the personas that encapsulate one man and the people around him. The individual persona representing the artist Childish Gambino finds and correlates with the persona that represents Mr. Glover himself. And throughout the video, each side is juxtaposed by varying experiences and emotions. As the video opens and you find yourself intrigued by what you think will be a typical music video, you are given a jolting shock. But psychologically, this jolting shock does not deter you from turning your eyes and ears away. Mr. Glover’s This is America has succeeded in its first goal of grabbing the viewers’ attention by showing blatant violence in the careless death of a black man. To add insult to injury, he does not emphasize his life, or by now, if you haven’t subconsciously noticed, your desensitized feelings.
The second goal is accomplished by distracting the viewers with both Mr. Glover’s appearance and the drumbeat and lackadaisical rap energy found in most popular urban radio hits today.
While the video carries forth, the background’s terror and mayhem get lost behind the conscious reasoning and is upstaged by Mr. Glover dancing around almost minstrel style in the foreground. Void a shirt and simply donning plants that strongly resemble enslaved people’s attire, Mr. Glover then joins a group of kids by emulating the current dance crazes and drawing more attention to his materialistic and self-serving lyrics.
But it is the moment that we also see the artist Childish Gambino resurface in his artistic genius. The scenes between him dancing and jigging to the syncopated beat designate the distraction from reality. Society has become blinded by both the tragedies and the world’s violence because we are busy seeking materialistic devices.
As the video pushes towards a close, Mr. Glover reminds us of a sobering reality that continues to haunt our society. That reality is the blatant disregard for the rights of human life, specifically towards people of color. With the painful reminder of the nine innocent souls that were snatched away from this world to the grips of hate to the praise of gun usage and the sheer terror welled up within him in the end as he runs for his life, This Is America ends as an unfinished conversation would. The discussion about gun control, mental illness, and social justice are just a few topics that need to be discussed more openly and inclusively. But it’s going to take more artists and people of more significant influence to keep providing us with the raw, ugly reminders that we systematically have become desensitized.
In closing my reflection and thoughts on this video, I would like to discuss some of the most potent lyrics from This is America.
“We just wanna party, Party just for you, We just want the money, Money just for you.”- I picked this as a powerful line because it showcases and insinuates the fact that most people of color, specifically Blacks and African Americans, are always supposed to be jovial and portrayed as people that are always looking to please others for the personal satisfaction and mocking of the majority.
“This is America (Skrrt, Skrrt, Woo) Don’t catch you slippin up (ayy), Look at how I’m livin now, Police be trippin now, Yeah, this is America (woo, ayy) Guns in my area (word, my area) I got the strap (ayy, ayy) I gotta carry ’em.”- I picked these bars because it showcases the present state of the society when it comes to talks about Police and Community Relations and the world of concealing and carry issues in this country. So far, these issues have been left out of many conversations because of reasons that are wildly perceived as unfair or unsupportive of the present laws and actions in place for gun owners. The adlibs also serve as a disguise towards the lyrics as it centers on the representation of party and pop music standards found in songs today.
“You just a black man in this world, You just a barcode, ayy.”- And finally, I picked this line because this line defines the attitude that many involved in consumerism perceive about the African American community. It is statistically known that African Americans spend over a billion dollars on retail goods each year. The amount continues to grow exponentially despite the ethnic group being among the poorest in retail products resources in urban and rural communities. This line also represents the African American male image’s fragility as ego, intelligence, and being in American society and by stereotypical standards.
This is America has started the discussion for many more avenues of exploration of this subject and many more issues affecting America’s minority communities. I highly recommend that you view the video if you haven’t already and decide, learn and research the historical references of the video, and process your reflections and thoughts about how the footage either represents you or represents your perception of the world around you.