Childish Gambino’s USA
Statement on Guns and Racism by Donald Glover
Donald Glover (AKA Childish Gambino) is having a moment in pop culture right now. His hit TV show Atlanta returned on FX for season two and he’s starring in the new Solo: A Star Wars Story (opens on May 25) as Lando Calrissian. Glover was also recently on Saturday Night Live as its host and musical guest, and he just released a very thought-provoking music video for the new song, “This Is America.” It’s the perfect piece of pop art for 2018.
The music video, directed by Hiro Murai, features Childish Gambino — who assumes a Jim Crow-era caricature stance in Confederate soldier-esque pants — in a warehouse space as he moves through gun violence, riots, and chaos, while he dances and jirates to distract the viewer from the problems of black America today.
It’s a very abrasive and impressive music video that works on multiple levels of entertainment, commentary, and empathy on what it’s like to be black in America, as times can go from pure joy to unexpected violence in a moment. It’s a voice for all Americans — black, white, and people of color everywhere.
While some might not like the art, or understand it, I feel it’s important to be confronted with something that makes you go through a variety of feelings throughout its 4:04 running time. It speaks to America’s love affair with guns over lives, media’s distractions from real-life violence, and how black suffering is turned into entertainment and art.
“How can those of us granted a moment in the proverbial spotlight just use it to entertain ourselves to death?” asks Justin Simien, the creator of Netflix’s Dear White People, on Twitter. “It’s a challenge and a series of questions. Like art should be.”
The music video ends with two haunting images: one of Glover (with SZA) dancing on old, stationary cars (the inability to move forward), and the other of him running through dark hallways (a frantic and never-ending run), over the lyrics,
“You just a black man in this world
You just a barcode, ayy
You just a black man in this world
Drivin’ expensive foreigns, ayy”
The song and music video don’t offer any solution, and nor it should. It presents the feelings and emotions of black communities throughout the country. Maybe instead of pretending there is no problem, maybe it’s time to listen and act.
“This Is America” is now available on Spotify and YouTube. Watch the music video to catch more symbolism and hidden meanings.