“This is America” has fans saying this is amazing



“This is America” is Childish Gambino’s most recent hit single. His video, which features a lot of gun violence, comments on the current state of America. Fans love the song for this reason and because of the catchy beat.

Brittany Polevikov, Assistant Features Editor

Donald Glover, otherwise known by his rapper pseudonym Childish Gambino, has proven time and time again that he is a triple threat.  From his Grammy-winning music to an array of acting roles and an Emmy-winning TV series, it seems as if there is nothing that Glover can’t do.  Yet nothing could have prepared the media for Glover’s newest single, entitled “This is America,” which debuted on May 4 as a performance on “Saturday Night Live.”  In a four-minute video released the following day, Glover took the world by storm with his powerful imagery and implications of criticism directed at the current state of America. 

The chilling music video opens with a look inside an expansive warehouse.  We see a guitar propped up on an empty chair, which soon becomes occupied by a black man strumming the instrument softly while the camera pans to Glover as Childish Gambino in the background.  Gambino, who appears slightly unhinged with wide eyes and jerky body movements, dances up to the chair and proceeds to pull out a gun to shoot the now masked guitarist.  Multiple media sources have pointed out the resemblance of Glover’s stance to that of the Jim Crow cartoons of the 1800s. 

Gun violence quickly becomes a recurring theme throughout the video, as Gambino’s dance moves distract from fights breaking out in the background and lead him to another room where he promptly mows down a church choir with a machine gun.  All the while, children are standing on a balcony recording the dancing with their phones, completely oblivious to the violence and chaos around them.  To end the video, Gambino is back in the warehouse, lighting a joint in a lot of parked cars.  This scene abruptly cuts to Gambino sans joint, sprinting away from a violent mob through a dark tunnel as the camera zooms in on Gambino’s eyes open wide with fear. 

There is no question that the message in Glover’s music video was one which sought to evoke an emotional reaction from America.  With the video racking up more than 30 million views on Youtube in 48 hours and quickly becoming the No. 1 Debut on The Billboard Hot 100, news sources and Twitter feeds alike began to explode with speculation as to the hidden meaning within “This Is America.”  The majority of conversations revolved around the imagery of police brutality, social media habits, and the value of African Americans as a form of entertainment rather than individuals who are treated with respect and equality.

Gambino’s erratic dancing and exaggerated facial expressions have become a point of comparison with the blackface acts of nineteenth century minstrels, a form of entertainment popularized for mocking African Americans.  Beyond the use of this dancing to portray a Jim Crow-style caricature, Gambino’s performance serves to emphasize the lack of focus on the violence and chaos which is always present.  The schoolchildren shadowing Gambino as he dances and hanging their legs off of the balcony above the warehouse are sadly ironic, as they are more focused on mimicking his viral dance moves than the gun which is taking innocent lives.  In fact, each gun that Gambino uses is carefully placed on a cloth, showing that guns are treated with more care than the actual issue of gun violence and lack of gun control in America. 

Although some criticized Glover for contributing to the overuse of traumatic violence against black people in order to convey an artistic message, family members of shooting victims have voiced their approval of Glover’s video.  Reverend Sharon Risher, the daughter of Charleston victim Ethel Lance, told the Washington Post that the video speaks to how death has become normalized in America.  In a country that has recently faced much controversy regarding both gun violence and race issues, the sociopolitical commentary provided by Gambino in “This is America” provides a stage for further conversation on what we should be paying attention to regardless of our political stance.