“This is America:” A Message for All of America to Consider


On May 5, Donald Glover (otherwise known as Childish Gambino) sparked conversation and debate when he released the music video for his new single, titled “This is America”. The video already has over 200 million views on YouTube and is creating quite a stir among the media and the public. The video was not only an immediate success and a perfect partner for the polarizing single, but also a masterful way to put a spotlight on the current epidemic in America of gun violence and police brutality, specifically against the African-American population.


The video was shot in an abandoned warehouse. As the song begins, the video begins with a shot of an African American man playing a guitar, sitting in a chair. The camera then pans to Glover, who begins dancing, then promptly shoots the man in the head. One of the most striking moments displays Glover dancing in front of of an all African-American church choir, then killing the entire group in a single second with an automatic weapon before promptly moving on with his dance. This was meant to represent the mass shooting of an African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015, an example of a modern day hate crime against the African-American community. Another shot, which concludes the video, shows Glover on the floor above running from a group of people. The slow-motion, smooth movement of the otherwise dark and scary scene, along with the apparent panic in Glover’s eyes, make the shot especially chilling.


The majority of the video consists of Glover and his background dancers performing popular current dances through the warehouse in front of chaotic scenes, including mobs of people running randomly, burning cars, flashing police lights and even a person jumping off a platform onto the concrete. A fleeting shot also shows a group of young men wearing dust masks, filming Glover and his dancers rather than the tumultuous scenes occurring all around them. All this considered, it is clear that one of Glover’s goals with the video was to nod to the fact that many of the people in our country are distracted by the trivial, rather than the serious injustices that occur every day in America. Glover represents these injustices in countless ways throughout the video.


After watching it multiple times and researching more subtle aspects of the video, the true depth of the symbolism that Glover incorporated is revealed. When Glover pulls the gun to shoot the man at the beginning of the video, sources such as the Washington Post point out that his pose is almost identical of that of the iconic “Jim Crow”. Glover wears uniform pants traditionally worn by Confederate soldiers during America’s Civil War. Another very subtle, but powerful, symbol included is not in the song, but the pause. At 2:44 into the video, the music and chaos cease, and Glover is shown coming out of a frozen pose (mimicking shooting a gun) and lighting a joint. The music then resumes at 3:01, and many sources (such as Washington Post, Insider, etc) that this 17 second moment of silence is a tribute to the 17 lives lost during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018. Among these examples, there are countless more ways that Glover symbolizes both America’s history of racism and current issues such as hate crimes, mass shootings and police brutality.


Many people in America are shockingly blind to the fact that racism is still a significant issue in the United States today. People of color still face a variety of obstacles that white people in America don’t face, and hate, ignorance and complacency are some of the biggest factors. America’s claim as a nation and a people is that we are a diverse, free and accepting place, “land of the free, home of the brave.” However, it is clear that we aren’t truly free until we can learn that despite our differences, we are all citizens of the same country, working towards similar goals. The current political climate in America is no doubt polarizing, and it seems as if compromise and open conversation have been lost to some degree. Be that as it may, artists like Donald Glover, who choose to speak up and share messages like “This is America,” are using their platforms to start important conversations among the public, a feat that everyone in America should acknowledge.