Read Watch Listen - 2018

"This is America" by Childish Gambino

By Jennifer Allen

It's been a month since this song and video were released on Saturday Night Live when actor, comedian, producer, director, songwriter Donald Glover was hosting. Already there's a lot of buzz about it… but why?

Childish Gambino is the musical stage name for Glover, created to promote his rap music. Ironically it came from a name generator on a website and it has gained a bit of irony on its own considering the persona Glover portrays on stage versus the music his produces. While he is most known for his acting work on TV and film and as the producer of the award winning mini-series Atlanta, his music is just as prominent.

On May 5, during a performance on Saturday Night Live, Gambino simultaneously released this music video on YouTube. In the first 24 hours it garnered over 12 million views and the song itself debuted at number 1 on the Billboard Charts. While this is impressive, the more important thing to consider is the subject matter in the video itself.

This is a video that must be watched multiple times. Directed by Japanese filmmaker Hiro Murai, it has myriad images and is full of symbolisms which make your eye shift from foreground to background at a lightening pace. One of the most obvious parts of the video depicts Gambino as a Jim Crow figure who dances with exaggerated movements along with school children who mimic his movements. There are scenes of gun violence with victims simply dragged away or discarded and the weapons used on them placed with upmost care upon red cloth. Other pieces: Children filming with their cell phones. A shot of Death on a horse riding past. Gambino standing in silence for exactly 17 seconds (1 second for each victim of the Florida School Shooting) and him standing on early 90's vehicles while singer SZA sits nearby dressed as Lady Liberty.

That's only a handful of things shown in this video. While many think this is a music video specifically about violence and stereotypes against African-Americans, the scenes could easily be applied to any culture. Whites, Blacks, East Asians, South Asians, or Mixed Race. We all have stereotypes and misinterpretations forged by those outside our social structure. Violence has hit all of us in different manners, dictated by the differences that make America what it is. Gambino dancing in front represents the media which is there specifically to distract and “shield" us from the real problems in this country.

Give it a watch. See what little Easter eggs you find. Make your own interpretations. See how both the song and the video work in tandem to open eyes and minds at just a few of the problems in our America today.

WARNING: This video does contain images of violence