Childish Gambino’s recent music video to his new single “This is America” has been shaking up social media platforms with its disturbing but real depictions of America. With an estimate of 68 million views within the first few days of the video airing, the perspective of the meaning behind the video can be debatable. However, whether it is coincidental or not, Gambino is a black man in America and is telling it from his perspective. It is a brilliant way to showcase the intensity of this country’s actions.
The video takes place in a warehouse and it opens up with Gambino doing peculiar dance moves followed by facial expressions, before he poses and shoots his first victim in the head. “Dear White People’s” creator, Justin Simien, pointed out Gambino’s movements and expressions model after Jim Crow.
Jim Crow was a racist fictional character known to be played by Caucasians portraying ethnic depictions of Blacks and their culture. That is where Jim Crow laws, the practice of segregating Blacks in America, got its name.
After the man is shot, a boy comes to wrap the gun in a red cloth, and safely taken away from the scene while the body gets dragged. This scene shows how guns are handled with care, while humans are dragged carelessly. The red cloth seems to symbolize how red America values guns over human lives, highlighting the gun violence epidemic in America.
In most of the video, Gambino and a few children do recently popular dances, but if you don’t pay attention to the background you could miss majority of the videos subliminal meanings. Watching the video several times, you pick up something new each time, especially when you look beyond the dancing.
The dancing is a distraction to what is really going on in America. So much violence and chaos is happening while the dancing is going on, which can be interpreted in two ways: America moves on too quickly after a tragedy has occurred, or how America ignores violence all together.
The dancing could also symbolize America’s obsession with adopting things from the black culture. Whether it is music, dancing, fashion, etc. This country does not care about the real issues that Blacks face everyday. For example, the police brutality within black communities and incarcerating blacks.
In one of the verses Gambino says “Look how I’m livin’ now. Police be trippin’ now.” A reference to police brutality and the fact that in 2016, Blacks were considered nine times more likely to be killed by law enforcement than any other demographic, according to The Guardian.
Black communities learn to cope with this trauma, just how in the video it shows children recording the chaos unphased by what is happening. Gambino says “This a celly, that’s a tool,” and the two interpretations of that could be he is saying how the cellphone is a tool and being used to capture the wrongfulness of America. Or Gambino could be referring to a celly as a cell in a prison, because the warehouse does resemble a prison, and they are known to unjustly keep Blacks incarcerated.
When Gambino decides to shoot up the happy church singers in the second verse, there is an immediate correlation with the 2015 church shooting that happened in Charleston, which was racially motivated.
There is a hooded man in the background of the video, which is known to be a biblical symbol for the apocalypse. The verse from the bible is Revelations 6:8 which states:
“And I saw and behold, a pale horse: and he sat upon him, his name was Death, and Hades followed him. And there was given unto them authority over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with famine, and with death, and by the wild beasts of the earth.”
The madness that occurs in “This is America” is an actual depiction of the country everyone desperately wants to be a part of, however the country does not even care for its own. Like stated previously, it is a brilliant piece of work. Gambino is bound to get criticized due to the country’s sensitivity of actual events that occur through America.