Op-Ed | Childish Gambino Takes Aim at Way More Than Gun Violence in “This Is America”
The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those solely of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of Highsnobiety as a whole.
At a time when one of hip-hop’s biggest stars has sided with Donald Trump, the responsibility to call things out like they really are has fallen to another Donald entirely, one who’s willing to fight for what Kanye West refuses to even acknowledge. On his last album, Childish Gambino implored us to Awaken, My Love!, but the message didn’t get through, so Donald Glover has now returned with his most woke track yet, “This Is America”.
In the first 24 hours after its release, the accompanying video directed by Hiro Murai racked up over 10 million views and was celebrated by the likes of Erykah Badu and Janelle Monáe as a landmark moment for the industry. By juxtaposing the chaos of real life with the distractions that America uses to cope, Childish Gambino has proved himself to be anything but childish in his artistry, creating a multimedia experience that doubles as a powerful statement of political intent.
It’s impossible to fully understand the message of “This Is America” in its entirety after just one viewing. By its very nature, the video strives to distract viewers from the hard hitting visuals that take place in the background through the use of unnervingly happy choreography and acts of brutal violence. As a result of this, the way that firearms are treated in these key moments has become the focus of most discussions surrounding “This Is America”, but gun violence isn’t the only issue that Childish Gambino takes aim at in his latest tour de force.
Rather than focus solely on how the guns are treated more carefully than the actual people in Glover’s “America”, it’s also important to recognize the ramifications of this in the rest of the video. As people are shot and killed all around them, the children depicted focus instead on Childish Gambino and his exaggerated dance moves, evoking the minstrel shows that were popular in the South during the Jim Crow era.