This Is America?

Ariana Bondi, Staff Writer

With the history of gun violence in America, people have found many ways to protest; this includes rallies and other methods of raising awareness about the issue. Donald Glover, also known as Childish Gambino, has used his recent song complete with a music video to strike a chord with regard to many prevalent issues. This disturbingly graphic music video, entitled “This is America,” has attained 130 million views on YouTube in this past week. It presents chaos and people being shot to the tune of Glover dancing to choir music.

The music video starts with the strumming of a guitar and a man with a bag over his head, most likely a hostage, playing the guitar. A shirtless Glover appears dancing before getting into a notorious Jim Crow pose and shooting the hostage. At that moment, the music transitions to rap with the introductory statement, “This Is America.” A formally dressed man in slacks appears with a red cloth and carefully raps the gun that was used. Glover continues dancing jovially. When the music transitions back to choir music, we see a stage with ten black choir singers. Glover procures an automatic weapon and shoots them before the rap music again commences with the verse, “This Is America.” In the midst of the chaos that appears in the background, Glover dances happily with kids that have school uniforms on. The music video closes with Glover fleeing from cops and civilians chasing him.

Some people find the video to be magnificent, Glover “never failing to inspire,” according to a YouTube comment. On the other side of the spectrum, some believe it is “racist” and ask “How can YouTube keep this up?” There has been a bombardment of twitter streams arguing over the meaning of the video, reigniting the fight over solutions for gun violence.

The position Glover stands in when he shoots the first victim resembles a Jim Crow pose, that of a character in the 1830s, played by a white man in blackface. This character would act as a brainless black slave, demonstrating the segregation in that time period that still prevails today. There is also a nod to the time period of slavery when we see the style of trousers he is wearing, which are the pants of a Confederate uniform. The Confederacy was a state based upon white supremacy and the suppression of black slaves. The meaning behind him wearing the pants may be an implication that blacks still are suppressed to this day.

The initial shock occurs at the beginning of the video when the most graphic scene takes place. When Glover shoots the hostage in the chair and verse one commences, the message is conveyed that this is the type of violence that occurs in America. The man is left to bleed out on the ground, but the weapon used to kill him is wrapped neatly in a cloth. The gun is handled with care, while the injured man’s body is dragged away apathetically, the point being that in America guns are valued more than people’s lives.

The way Glover continues to dance while chaos ensues represents how many people are ignorant or careless of the current situation in America, and how some attempt to distract themselves with forms of entertainment and media (like music). What makes this scene even more disturbing is the fact that Glover is seen dancing with a group of uniformed kids. To press his point further, Glover pauses the song for seventeen seconds. This commemorates the seventeen lives that were taken in the Parkland Florida shooting, the shooting that triggered the revival of the gun debate. Glover also hearkens back to another shooting through the choir. In 2015, Dylann Roof shot nine black people in a church basement at the Charleston shooting, which was supposedly racially motivated.

At the end of the video, Gambino is seen terrified, running from a crowd of white men. The lyrics at this moment are:  “You just a Black man in this world / You just a barcode, ayy.” “A barcode” could mean that black people are just a product of themselves, and they are all the same. Gambino runs to signify the how black people used to run as slaves to save their lives, and sometimes still do from the police.