This is America by Childish Gambino: Lyrics and Video Analysis

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“This is America”- the Grammy award-winning music video for the song.“This Is America” by Childish Gambino is a matter of cultural importance. The powerful video has brought up many controversies in America. Believe it or not, there are still many people who judge minority groups because of the color of their skin. But, why is Childish Gambino dancing with a group of students? This is to get the audience from seeing all of the violence that is going on behind them in the same way black art is used to distract them from the real problems in America. “This is America” is shown with extreme shocking imagery and metaphor. We are shown major elements of what America has brought some to bear, as witnessed by black Americans and Gambino himself for whom he speaks, are interest of importance, violence, beauty, ugliness, and other support of the Black experiences. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and disrespecting black people is not going to help solve the problems in America. He’s shirtless throughout the video to remind us that violence is committed through black bodies, which shows us that he is black and vulnerable because that is the way most white people see black people as.

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Gambino shows a slight contrast between the beauty and strength of the guitar player at the beginning of the video. He then shoots the man who has been tied up execution-style. The pose he uses while shooting the man resembles Jim crow, this illustrates the fictional racist character that characterized African Americans as lazy, slow, stupid, and less of a human. Then he hands the gun over safely to a man who runaways with the gun afterward. This shows that people value guns more than they value a human's life, guns are being treated with more care, while black bodies don’t get the same dignity. He breaks out into a movement retracing the camera path from the guitar player, singing and dancing his way further into the audience’s hearts with funny metaphors for African Americans. This is a way to make the events that are going on around him more of a joke because society doesn’t take black lives as seriously as white lives. Society tends to view African Americans as dangerous and armed because of the color of their skin. Critics may say that this claim is inaccurate because not everyone is prejudiced. However, the color of a person's skin should have no bearing on the type of person they are viewed as because of someone else actions.

He gives the audience a view of everything that is going on in America that they ignore while taking a different approach. There is a flurry of mass shootings, black deaths, police brutality, gun violence, and other vicious attacks in our daily lives, that’s why “this is America” is truly vital in reflection. The message Gambino is giving is about weapons and the violence that is going on in the world today and the fact that most consume those situations as a part of their entertainment. It is better to take in the video as a whole because America itself is a country of madness. Even though some people may think that discrimination is over, he is forcing us people to see that there is nowhere to run, we have to deal with this violence in order o continue to sustain. Gambino further gives his audience a visual presentation of what it’s like being black in America. He explains how minorities can’t escape this violence because the color of their skin is considered a threat. There is nowhere to run or hide for African Americans you have to deal with this one way or another to survive in this mad world. He raps” This is a celly/ that’s a tool.” The scene shows teenagers with cell phones recording all the madness that is going on in the world. Which could mean these cell phones capture images of police violence? A man in black can be seen riding a white horse and the name that sat on him was Death, and hell followed him. This means a police car is following the death on the horse, symbolizing the connection between police brutality and the death of African Americans. Police brutality has been a huge problem in America today and that is something that needs to be heard.

He then can be seen posing as if he is about to kill the children who were dancing behind him, but this is interesting because he isn’t holding a gun in his hand. Then he gives 17 seconds of silence for the 17 high school shooting victims in Parkland. He can be seen dancing on top of the cars as many of the cars have the driver’s door open in the lot. It could represent how African Americans are pulled over and forced by officers to step out of their vehicles. Black drivers are being asked to pull more than white drivers. Gambino can be seen running from a riot of white police officers. The police care more about African American men using drugs than gun violence. Prejudice and racism aren't right and something has to be done to stop this madness. We must show people that the color of our skin does not define who we are. Life would be so much different if people valued life over guns.    

Works cited

  1. Childish Gambino. (2018, May 6). This Is America [Video]. YouTube.
  2. Cobb, J. (2018, May 7). Childish Gambino's "This Is America" Is a Beautiful, Hateful, Bloody Nightmare. GQ.
  3. Greenberg, R. (2018, May 7). Childish Gambino's "This is America" Video Exposes the Violence Black Americans are Forced to Live With. Business Insider.
  4. Kennedy, G. (2018, May 7). How "This is America" by Childish Gambino expertly channels political protest music. GQ.
  5. Lawson, R. (2018, May 6). The References You May Have Missed in Childish Gambino's 'This Is America' Video. The Atlantic.
  6. Macias, A. (2018, May 7). Childish Gambino's "This is America" isn't the first music video to stir controversy. CNBC.
  7. Narayan, A. (2018, May 7). Childish Gambino's "This Is America" Video Explained. Pitchfork.
  8. Ross, A. (2018, May 8). Childish Gambino's "This is America" Is a Graphic Reminder of How Black People are Viewed in America. Time.
  9. Sisavanh, M. (2018, May 16). Childish Gambino's "This Is America": The Political Message Behind the Music Video. The Huffington Post.
  10. Wu, N. (2018, May 7). The Symbolism in Childish Gambino's 'This Is America' Video. The New York Times.

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