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“This is America” Childish Gambino

May 11, 2018

Viewers were taken back after the release of Childish Gambino’s song and music video “This is America” directed by Hiro Murai. The song focuses on the controversial aspects of American society; such as gun violence, police brutality, and the general ignorance Americans have on such topics.

This video clearly evokes deeper meaning that requires multiple viewings. When you first watch the video you may be so focused on Gambino and not pay attention to the chaos that’s happening in the background. This is the same for our lives where we are focused on pop culture and ourselves that we ignore the serious problems that corrupt our world.

Here are some things you might’ve missed in the video:

Police Brutality:

People have suspected the song’s line

This a celly (ha), That’s a tool (yeah)”


is referencing Stephon Clark’s death. Clark was killed by two Sacramento Police Department Officers who were investigating reports of someone breaking into cars. They mistaken him for the robber, chasing Clark through a backyard.
When Clark turned around the officers thought he was holding a gun which was actually a cellphone and he was shot 20 times.

We can repeatedly see police cars in the background of many scenes. In one scene in particular we see a police car following a white horse with a cloaked rider. This is referencing the Bible verse Revelation 6:8.
“And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.”

American Ignorance:

Along with the dancing in the video being a distraction from the mobs and riots going on the background, there may also be a deeper meaning behind it. America likes to pick and chose things to take inspiration from, specifically from Black culture, but doesn’t want to take responsibility for the way they’re treated. 

In referencing the quote above many people theorize the reference to a “celly” is representing cellphones being misused today when they have the potential to be used as a “tool.”

Gun Violence:

Gambino’s thoughts on the issue of gun violence are very clear in the video. In the beginning we see a man sitting playing a guitar in what seems to be an abandoned warehouse. At that point the camera then goes to Gambino who walks over to the man, who now has a bag over his head, and is handed a gun from someone outside the frame.

People have commented on the similarity of Gambino’s stance in comparison to the Jim Crow law poster. Jim Crow laws were passed to segregate black people in the US.

Gambino nonchalantly shoots the man from behind, hands the gun back to the unknown hand and proceeds with the video. In the background the gun in rapped in a cloth while you see men drag the dead man’s body away from the video. This scene is commenting on how guns are treated compared to people. Also how normalized gun violence is, one moment people are killed, and the next moment people go on like nothing ever happened.

There are a couple different shootings referenced in both this song and video. We see a gospel group standing outside singing “Get your money, Black man.” As Gambino enters the scene dancing and singing along we see him stop look around and then is handed a machine gun and shoots the entire choir. Once again the gun is taken away in a red cloth. The video symbolizes the deadly Texas Church shooting with the same regard as he did the man from the beginning scene.

 


Gambino has used his fame and influence on the younger generations to inspire a change though this video. He reminds them to look at what’s in the background of life, not just what’s on social media or in pop-culture.

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