Donald Glover – also known as Childish Gambino – has just released a poignant video for his track ‘This is America.’ It is a blunt reality of African-American affairs in the United States juxtaposed on a catchy beat and dance moves the young and old can relate to.
The beat is enrapturing, however, the message and imagery are no light matter. Keep reading for the profound symbolism present in the visuals for Glover’s masterpiece.
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The track begins with chanting and mid-level screams. Spirituals were Christian songs developed solely to convey the hardships of slavery. They were originally recited in plainsong or plainchant fashion.
— Nichia (@nicky_furiosa) May 6, 2018
Glover’s pose before he shoots the pistol is apparently reminiscent of Little Black Sambo, a children’s book which is widely known for its derogatory depictions of blacks.
Gun/rifle carried away
Each time shots are fired, the weapons are briskly carried away in a red cloth. The first occurrence of a gunshot could be a reference to gang activity or violence within the black community. The second shooting is a reference to the Charleston Church Shooting.
Mesmerizing. Disturbing. Violent. Beautiful. Tragic. Materialistic. Melodic. Chaotic.pic.twitter.com/jET1KfgRvx
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) May 6, 2018
Man with guitar
The black man playing the guitar against the spirituals is clad in white and cream clothing. His shirt and pants are soiled and he is eventually shot in the head while hooded and dragged away. Lynching victims were often hooded, sometimes shot and brutalized before being hung on trees.
Gambino is seen performing many dances that were popular and those that are just emerging. The teenagers dancing in uniform signify that no matter how “clean cut” or “mainstream” blacks attempt to be, our culture – which includes dancing, attire, etc. – permeates many societies whether credit is given or not. And no matter how some of us don’t immerse ourselves in violent activity, we are still killed in a violent way.
Dollar, dollar bills ya’ll
In a little over a minute into the video the background imagery shows money being sprayed into the air – maybe a reminder of overzealous spending?
Death riding the Pale white horse while he is followed by Hell (represented by police) going totally unnoticed because of dancing and pop culture in the foreground is the single greatest cinematic message I’ve seen in a music video to date. #ThisIsAmerica pic.twitter.com/DYaPjbvoym
— Isaiah Persons (@PersonsIsaiah) May 6, 2018
As a good time is being had, monitoring and danger aren’t too far away…
The following lyrics: “I’m so fitted,” “I’m so Gucci,” “I’m so pretty,” “This a celly,” “That’s a tool” explains how for some opt to drown ourselves in debt and materialistic objects in order to feel validated. “Black man, Black man… get your money… Black man, Black man… get your money… Black man, Black man.. get your money… Black man, Black man… GET DOWN” – a stark reality of being black in America.
In the list of musical ingenuity, Michael Jackson and James Brown are credited. Jackson popularized the moonwalk while Brown originated the iconic move.
Use of drugs such as codeine and other hardcore drugs are a huge coping mechanism and challenge in the black community.
As the song fades to the end, we here Savage 21 rapping using auto-tune. There are appearances made by SZA and Young Thug. Background vocals are also provided by BlocBoy JB, 21 Savage, Quavo, and Rae Sremmurd’s Slim Jxmmi – all heavy hitters in the music game.
No matter how we may feel about the aforementioned style of music, it is undeniable that their music is in heavy demand.
Here are some Twitter reactions to the video:
— T (@TamarM12) May 6, 2018
#ThisIsAmerica . Some of the images of the shooting in my hometown Charleston,SC evoked pain and shock the first time I saw this video. I’ve read some of the comments that this video won’t produce healing but how can we heal if we numb ourselves and are unwilling to face truth. https://t.co/h5JpgMvSHy
— Deanna McNeil (@Deamac21) May 7, 2018
— Kerman (@Aerolith514) May 7, 2018
— PeteNasty (@boxing91) May 7, 2018
The Kids In #ThisIsAmerica Could Be Seen As The Distractions Of Whats Really Going On In The Background/ Whats Going On In Real Life. I’ve Watched The Video 30+ Times Trying To Inspect The Back But I Get Distracted Everytime.
— The Crème De La Crème (@OmniTzip) May 7, 2018
— Matt Hofmann (@matt_hofmann) May 7, 2018
#ThisIsAmerica just f’ed up my WHOLE existence
— Kylar (@WonderYAskKai) May 7, 2018