“This is America” tackles guns, racism, and ignorance

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“This is America” tackles guns, racism, and ignorance

Photo courtesy of theearlyregistration.com

Photo courtesy of theearlyregistration.com

Photo courtesy of theearlyregistration.com

Jared Cohen and Angeline Daniels

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Childish Gambino’s newest song and music video, “This is America,” exceptionally highlights numerous issues in today’s society. Using graphic depictions of gun violence, Gambino shows the effects of social media, materialism, racism, and ignorance.

As the video starts, a man sits down and begins to play the guitar. The camera pans to a shirtless Gambino as the music plays. After about a minute of dancing, Gambino walks over to the man, who is no longer playing the guitar, and instead has a bag tied over his head. He unexpectedly shoots the man, and the music changes from a light-hearted tone to an unsettling one.

After the fatality, a man rushes over to carefully retrieve the gun in a red cloth. He hurries away, paying close attention to the welfare of the gun, while the body is negligently dragged away, leaving a trail of blood behind it.

Later in the video, Gambino is happily dancing along with a singing choir but suddenly is thrown a machine gun, which he uses to gun down the choir. This is widely regarded as depicting the Charleston Church shooting.

While he does this, another discrepancy in tempo occurs. Similar to the first shooting, the gun is carefully taken away again, and although there is a police car nearby, it appears to be empty, with no officers coming to help. The overarching themes of violence portrayed in the video are the careful treatment of the guns and the general disregard for human lives. This mimics the outlook of America today, where school shootings are becoming more ubiquitous and there is a severe lack of attention paid to the victims of violence everyday.

One of the guns used in the music video seemed to be a weapons-grade machine gun, something an average person should not have access to, emphasizing the need for gun control in our country today. Further on, the camera switches on to a group of kids focused intently on their phones, either filming the violence at hand or completely infatuated with their devices. Gambino says, “This a celly, that’s a tool,” referencing the use of cell phones as a tool to document police violence, as well as the prevalence of African Americans being locked up the ‘celly,’ meaning a cellblock, and it being used as a tool to oppress thousands of Black people. Gambino also references the shooting of Stephen Clarke, a Black man shot outside of his own home carrying a cellphone which was perceived as a gun by the police.

Either way, the obsession with our phones had caused the country to ignore the injustices around us. Gambino also uses mesmerizing dance moves, including some modern dances and others like the “Gwara Gwara,” a South African dance. It is so easy to become distracted by the dancing that it taints the picture of all the violence and chaos going on in the background.

You see riots, divisiveness between people, and police brutality, as well as a person cloaked in all black riding a pale horse. This scene is referenced from a bible passage, suggesting the apocalypse, or hell, as a police car follows behind. It could very likely be associated with police brutality, or even the atrocious society we’ve imposed on ourselves from unconsciousness to the detriment our actions, and social media had instituted on us.

Materialism was a huge factor in this video. Gambino specifically says, “I’m so fitted (I’m so fitted, woo), I’m on Gucci (I’m on Gucci), I’m so pretty (yeah, yeah).” He also flips his hair to mimic girls in society.

These lyrics specifically highlight how materialism, popularity, and artificialness have consumed our society. It is safe to say America had built a superficial society based on the propriety of looks. It is one of the main sources of discrimination, unjustness, insecurities, and ignorance.

Often, certain parties are discriminated against because their bodies, faces, or cultures don’t match the intangible concept of beauty. We become ignorant, and careless to real-world problems because our society believes beauty can excuse you from all responsibilities.

Racism and ignorance. Probably some of the most obvious takeaways from this video. The first example of racism is when Gambino says, “Grandma told me, Get your money, Black man (get your money)” Gambino could be suggesting that money and success are the only forms of coping and gaining any recognition in a system that seems to be against Blacks.

We see more corroboration of racism when Young Thug, a featured artist on the track says, “You just a Black man in this world, You just a barcode, ayy, You just a Black man in this world, Drivin’ expensive foreigners, ayy.” This lyric emphasizing that despite these artists renowned success, they are still excluded from easy success, and often unprioritized by the business industry. They are still excluded from privilege because they are Black.

Lastly, the lyrics, “You just a big dawg, yeah, I kenneled him in the backyard, No probably ain’t life to a dog, For a big dog,” paired with Gambino running in the dark from a white mob accentuate the stereotype Black people are confined to.

Young Thug is comparing Blacks to dogs in kennels and how they are locked in a cage, suppressing their true potential, creativity, and contributions to society. Additionally, the part of the video where Gambino is running away is compared to the ‘sunken place’ from the movie “Get Out” asserts how Blacks are, “…Marginalized. No matter how hard we scream, the system silences us,” as said by director Jordan Peele himself.

All in all, “This Is America,” by Childish Gambino is surely a must-see video by all because of its powerful message, and its address to society and the faults within that we frequently refuse to see.