Musicians and artists have an insane amount of influence when it comes to their creations. Depending on how they make their statements it can change the way so many people view both the artist and the world. A really good example of this is Donald Glover’s (rap alias Childish Gambino) new music video and song “This Is America.” Many people look at rap and hip hop as a vapid genre that can never have any meaning beyond money and drugs. Glover challenges that idea, with this video especially. The video is a jarring and heartbreaking symbol of what it is to be a black man in America. It breaks you out of the complacency that so many songs on the radio nurture.
The video is filled with powerful imagery and symbolism. The guns are always immediately removed from the screen with care, cradled by someone in white and clean clothing while the bodies are simply left where they fall or dragged off screen with little regard. This is an incredibly strong statement about the current gun control climate. The focus constantly being on Gambino’s dancing and not the violence, chaos and death unfolding behind him makes a statement about the way the American public focuses on the viral to avoid dealing with the fact that changes need to be made. There are black school children following Gambino’s every move, illustrating the exact way that America’s youth often blindly follow artists.
Many people are theorizing that the fact that Gambino is a black man running from the violence, mirroring a scene from Get Out, at the end is the biggest statement of the video. He can commit acts of violence and get away unharmed, but as soon as he starts smoking, he’s chased down. Throughout, he is an artist and is able to live above and away from the misery of living in America, he can pretend that he is somehow more than just a black man surviving in America, where black children are taught to fear, but in the end, that’s what he is. A black man fighting for his life in a place where it’s dangerous to be a black man. Glover’s new song and video is one of the biggest pop culture topics at the moment, and it’s clear to see why. Even though he spends the entirety of it mocking the internet and the way America handles serious topics, people are making jokes and memes and focusing solely on the dancing. In a way, that’s just getting his message across further. What does it say about us, as a society, that we are continuing to laugh into the infinite echo chamber of the internet even while being mocked for it? If you haven’t yet, I urge you to watch the video, and then watch it again. The second time, pay attention to the hundreds of symbols and meanings in the background. You may just learn something about our society.