This Is America

Cassandra Downs, Debates Editor (2017-18)

On May 6th, the music video This is America was released by Childish Gambino as a cultural phenomenon. This song portrays the many ills currently plaguing society (as well as have in the past), and how desensitized we are to them. Such ills include mental health, racial issues, consumerism and gun obsession.

With southern African music and dances playing throughout the majority of the song, black culture is celebrated while all of the issues we face are ignored. Not only this, but the dances are used as a distraction from the background, and resemble the Jim Crow symbol from the past. In the background, crimes are constantly breaking out, someone commits suicide, and a hooded man riding a white horse, which is a biblical symbol for the apocalypse, rides by.

While all of these symbolic meanings shock us, the biggest shock comes through the gun violence we witness throughout the music video, resembling past shootings, as well as the ways we prioritize guns in comparison to human lives. In each of the two shooting scenes, the gun is taken away with care and wrapped in a red cloth, while the body is just dragged away carelessly. This suggests that red America, or the Republican demographic, cherish guns more than lives. In the next shooting that takes place with the choir, it is clear that this is a resemblance of the Charleston church shooting in 2015, where nine African Americans were shot down by a white supremacist and racial discriminations were drawn.

Even with all of these deplorable crimes going on, many people, children included, are too stuck in their phones and worried about recording the crimes to take action and do something about it. Also, Donald Glover, the main actor in the music video that goes by the stage name of Childish Gambino, represents America. In the last scene of the video there are tons of old car models, and thus he is portraying how America is stuck and is therefore unable to progress.

Overall, This is America is a very relevant and much needed voice in America right now, saying what no one else is willing or able to say. It both reflects on the past and present and demonstrates how we are doing nothing about these issues, and how we should take action.