Calling Childish Gambino aka Donald Glover’s music video (above) This is America politically charged would be the understatement of the year. This is America really is contemporary America – it is Glover’s America, the average African-American’s America, and currently, it is also Donald Trump’s America.
People all over the internet are already calling it the “video of the year”, and there’s good reason why.
Glover’s music video, directed by long-time collaborator Hiro Murai, is a visceral and metaphorical representation of violence, especially interracial violence, in America over the years. It is a bold, biting commentary on modern American discourse and the racial disparity, gun violence and vanity that come with it. Most crucially, it is a deeply nuanced visual manifestation of how social trends and pop culture – in this case, Glover’s dancing – pose as a serious distraction from all the chaos in the background.
The video follows, in what looks like a long single-take, Glover dancing manically through a warehouse – an entirely white warehouse, it should be noted. School children follow Glover’s dancing move for move, except when he dramatically stops to shoot a man, and an entire gospel choir (remember the 2015 Charleston shooting?)
The symbolism is apparent – each time, the gun is wrapped in a cloth and carried away like precious cargo, while the bodies are either left behind or dragged away. Glover, meanwhile, continues to gleefully dance away, performing some of the trendiest dance moves like the Hustle and Gwara Gwara while he ignores the chaos, violence and riots that erupt in the background.
The video is studded with famous African-American stars (look closely at the choir) and ad-libs from other rappers, which simply reinforces the point that while the rest of the world embraces black art and culture, they choose to ignore the racial disparity and violence black people face in their real lives.
This is America is a video that needs to be watched not once, but again and again, to slowly peel away the symbolism and, very plainly, to notice everything going on in the background. The tweets below explain it: