Donald Glover, better known as “Childish Gambino,” has taken a break from his self-proclaimed retirement from music to release a single and music video entitled “This is America.” The video highlights many points of modern American culture, including dance trends and samples of prominent contemporary rappers. It also features the uglier parts of American culture, such as deeply-rooted racism and gun violence. The themes are blanketed by a fun, almost reggae-like beat. It’s a poignant, hard-to-swallow message wrapped up in a catchy tune.
To understand the nuanced themes of the video, analyzing the symbolism is important. A large theme is gun violence in America, visualized through Glover’s slaughtering of people in his video. Every time he shoots someone, there is a person there to take the gun away in a red velveteen cloth, while the bodies are left to lie on the pavement.
He also highlights the fact that children are watching the adults and important figures in their lives. He demonstrates this by having children dance and follow behind him throughout the video, calling on adults to be better role models for the children watching their every move. Conveniently, the children are not to be seen during the scenes with guns in them, which cruelly points out how we shield children from learning about important injustices in our society today.
Another thing that is threaded throughout the video is the chaos going on behind him at all time. He purposely places tragedy behind him (i.e. suicide, burning buildings, etc) to point out how, as a society, we forget to focus on the injustices and imbalances if something more interesting comes along.
The ending of the video is a slap in the face. Throughout the video, he ignores and is a part of the violence and injustice, though, in the end, he is running from the crowds of extreme white-supremacists. The look on his face is chilling. It forces you to look at yourself and wonder, “Am I contributing to this? Am I a part of the problem, or the solution?”