The rhythmic hum of African drums blending with bass grooves derivative of late 20th century funk was the first indication that something profound was about to happen. Anyone familiar with Donald Glover (Childish Gambino) and his array of work shouldn’t be surprised at the reception of his hit song, This is America, and its latest music video which has had the internet buzzing since its release. From Hit NBC series Community to stunning audiences with the much anticipated second season of FX’s hit show Atlanta, Glover is no stranger to avant grade productions. However, This is America isa completely different beast who’s claws dig deep.
When he first turns his body around to the rhythm, when he first steps in tune with the groove you’re instantly hooked, confused, and intrigued at the same time. Then it happens. Glover the artist, in the flesh as Childish Gambino only dressed in button down trousers reminiscent of hand-me-down fashions of the slave trade does something crazy, he shoots a seated guitar strumming Trayvon Martin father look-alike point blank range in the back of the head. His shooting stance is that of “Jim Crow” a minstrel character of post Civil War era United States, and although the stance is subtle it resonates immediately, instantly making countless observers (including myself) uncomfortable with its truth.
Guns handled with care, bodies of slain innocent African American victims dragged out of the frame. Young dance troupes appear in and out of the scene helping to desensitize vicious acts of chaos and violence. And it works, This is Americais extremely thought provoking and dare I say, entertaining? There is so much symbolism in this instalment, people will be unpacking it for years to come, however here are some of my favorite interpretations.
The deeper and more important question that begs to be noticed like an 800 pound gorilla stomping for attention is, “Is this really America?” Are we as a culture only receptive of the distractions in front of us? Have we lost that sense of humility that pushes the fight for justice, peace, and tranquility for all? Or are we as the video suggests, just children lead by the latest news feed, dance craze, or social media trend? Have we as a culture stopped paying attention to what really matters? Or rather have we as a people, as a dominate world culture and leader in the free world, have we ever been free to pay attention at all?