“This Is America” and Its Eye Opening Meaning


Kiely Macdowell (11th), Reporter

Ever since rapper Childish Gambino, who is also known as actor Donald Glover’s musical alter ego, released his new single and music video, This Is America, it has been talked about non-stop.

In the song, Gambino references important topics like race, violence towards African Americans and their treatment by society. In the music video, Gambino plays America as well as a ring leader or facilitator of violence.

At the start of the video, we see an African American man strumming his guitar, but quickly the camera shifts to Childish Gambino clad in neutral pants which people on Twitter have theorized is similar to old Confederate uniforms. Within the first minute of the video, the man who we just saw strumming his guitar is now sitting in a chair with a bag over his head. Soon thereafter, Gambino shoots him. After the man is brutally murdered, he is callously dragged away. However, the gun is cradled in a red cloth and taken off screen.

The way that Gambino poses before he shoots the man, can be seen as a reference to the Jim Crow era, which is where white actors in the past performed with blackface as stereotypical African Americans.

Gambino is then seen dancing with school children while violence breaks out behind them.  which is seen as him portraying America as a whole. The dancers are seen as the media, they are placed there to in order to distract the world from societal problems.

The dancing in the video is overdramatic; Gambino and the other dancers all have very distinct facial expressions which is commentary on how America ignores violence as a whole, or just moves on from it too quickly.

Junior, Rikina Hall says, “I believe that his message was that we’re so caught up in the media, like the newest dances and the newest songs, that we forget about what’s going on around us.”

Towards the middle of the video, a choir is cheerfully singing when Gambino dances into the room and then promptly kills all of them. The weapon is then handed to someone and again is cradled in a red cloth, emphasizing that the gun is given more attention than the victims killed. The choir members who are killed is referencing the Charleston massacre in 2015 where a white supremacist gunned down nine African Americans.

In the closing moments of the video, we see Childish Gambino running down a dark hallway, terrified. It is almost like he has snapped out of the trance America has set everyone in.

While he and many other African Americans are running away with fear, we hear fellow artist Young Thug repeat the lyrics, “You just a black man in this world, you just a barcode.” Gambino is pointing out that African Americans have had to essentially run for their lives, dating all the way back to slavery.

Ben Berman, a junior at Drew High School in San Francisco says, “At the end, Gambino is running from a violent mob which I believe shows a clear message: If America remains willfully ignorant of its hard to solve, yet important and destructive tendencies, it will inevitably result in total downfall.”