This weekend, Childish Gambino dropped a new song and music video called “This is America.” The video was nothing short of iconic. Loaded with poignant imagery and sharp comparisons, Childish Gambino’s piece was chock full of messages and wake up calls that we all should take a moment to absorb. We are all aware of the racial oppression and tension that permeates this nation’s culture and politics. Recent controversial comments made by Kanye West has started many conversations, as to whether Black people in America are truly free or if we remain mentally enslaved. “This is America” further elaborates on the notion that we are still mentally enslaved, trapped in a vicious cycle with endless distractions to keep reality in the background.
Throughout the video, Childish Gambino is dancing and bopping to the song, all while chaos and crime surround him. In today’s media age where entertainment is accessible from your fingertips, it’s easy to become wrapped up in the fame and lifestyle that many entertainers including musicians promote. There are school-age children seen following Childish Gambino around and imitating his dance moves, desensitized to all of the turmoil around them. The world is much bigger than what we see on our TV or the music we listen to. There are deeper issues that stay in the dark because they don’t receive the attention they need and deserve. By being able to separate what’s glorified and what is, we can then begin to address these issues.
Shuckin’ & Jivin’ For the Bag
Childish Gambino’s lively dance throughout the video is comparable to the “shucking and jiving” dance that was commonly associated with Black people during the Jim Crow era. His moves are more than rhythmic; they are reflective of the way that Black people are viewed as entertainers as well as the lengths that some artists are willing to go to break into the mainstream music industry. This reminded me of when Fox News reporter Laura Ingraham told LeBron James to “shut up and dribble” after he made comments about the state of this country and its politics. America loves black culture, black entertainers, and black athletes, except for when they use their platform to shed light on the real issues that are present today and affect those who do not have celebrity status. We have seen many occurrences where an entertainer has seemingly turned their back on their community or have aligned themselves with someone whose values and actions has made them controversial. Is it worth shuckin’ and jivin’ for someone who could care less that your neighborhood is crumbling or that people that look like you are targeted on a daily basis?
Jim Crow is Still Alive
From the very beginning where Childish Gambino cold-heartedly shoots an innocent black man, the allegory to Jim Crow is strong. Gambino strikes a pose that’s eerily similar to a poster that was used as propaganda during the Jim Crow era. This only goes to show that Jim Crow is still alive and present, but is stealthily masked within our laws and system that restricts the cultural, social, and economic progression of black people in America.
A major issue in our country, gun control remains one of the most controversial issues today, especially in light of a multitude of public shootings. The answer to gun control may seem simple, yet our government finds it a challenge to put laws and regulations in place to minimize the amounts of unnecessary deaths that occur due to gun violence. It sometimes seems as though gun and gun owners have more rights and protection than blacks and other minorities in America do, and this is demonstrated by the way the guns are removed after Childish Gambino mercilessly shoots innocent people. After each shooting, the weapon is delicately placed onto a soft, red cloth and carefully taken away, while the victim is dragged away, devoid of all respect and honor. When he shot at the choir, it was reminiscent of Dylan Roof, the young man who took the lives of church members in Charleston. Again, the lives of the deceased were treated as insignificant while the gun was carefully taken away by a well dressed professional. It should be noted how easily Childish Gambino was able to obtain an assault rifle; it was thrown to him.
Social Media Has Desensitized Us
In addition to Childish Gambino using his catchy song and dance moves to distract from what’s going on in the background, the children who are seen dancing with him are also seen recording the chaos around them, desensitized to everything. We now live in a society where the world is available at our fingerprints, and when we see something happening, it’s easier to take out our cell phones and start recording than to step in and facilitate a solution. Too often we receive notifications on our phones of shootings and other injustices, and the power of social media has taken away the ability for us to seek information and justice properly.
The setting that Childish Gambino chose to shoot this video is no coincidence either. He chose a large industrial factory, and even though there were cars and other outdoor happenings, the video remained in the building. At the end of the video, Gambino was seen being chased by a crowd of white people, yet he had nowhere to go and remained trapped inside the building. Not only is this reminiscent of how “hood” life is almost inescapable, but it shows the pressure that black people feel, fleeing from various burdens, but the chase seems endless with no place to go or hide.I’m sure there’s an endless amount of messages that are in the “This is America” video. What messages did you receive? Let me know!