Many of my peers and I have often talked about our dreams of going to the United States for college; however, these dreams were shattered when we saw and heard the social issues expressed in the new music video by Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, “This is America.”
Gambino starts his hit single(which received a breathtakingly high 34 million views in the last 48 hours) with soft acoustics to make viewers feel secure, but he seems to only express this feeling in the video to reveal the opposite, that they should be insecure and frightened, because, while we hear these soft acoustics, we also see Gambino sneakily approaching a masked person and then, moments later, shooting him.
The first time my friends and I watched this video, his exaggerated and grotesque dance moves distracted us from all of the craziness happening in the video, and we thought that was the point he was trying to make. Our generation can be so easily distracted by some ongoing hip-hop moves and be ignorant of all of the riots and gun violence happening around us.
Seconds after Gambino shoots the masked hostage, we see a black man bowing down with a red piece of cloth to receive Gambino’s gun, handling it with utmost care. I think what Gambino is emphasizing through this gesture, is just how sacred and precious guns are in the United States. They are handled and treated better than people are.
“This is America” are the first words to come out of Gambino’s mouth after he shoots the masked hostage, commenting on the large amount of gun violence in America. The next lyric is, “Don’t catch you slippin’ up,” further revealing the necessity to remain present and alert in a gun violence-stricken country.
It impresses me how Gambino expresses all of these social issues through hip-hop culture. Gambino knows that few people of this generation read the news and are aware of these shootings and riots. This explains why he expresses these thoughts through a music video as he knows it is the only real way to raise awareness and reach the audience, which revolves around social media today.
The ending of the video is especially thought-provoking. It shows a distressed Gambino running away from what seems to be the police along with many other dark-skinned people, potentially stressing the police brutality on black people in the United States and the need of black people to quite literally run for their lives.
The strong and disturbing images of gun shootings and the police brutality in the United States that followed in the video make me question whether it would actually be best to get a college education in America. Do I really want to get an education in a place where guns will be better treated than me?
All screenshots taken from Childish Gambino’s “This is America.”