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COLUMN: Childish Gambino is calling America out with his new single


Childish Gambino performs on the main stage on the infield before the 140th running of the Preakness Stakes Saturday, May 16, 2015, at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. Childish Gambino released his new single, "This Is America," on May 5 along with a music video. (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/TNS) Buy Photos

Donald Glover, also known as Childish Gambino, is a plethora of things. Glover is an actor, comedian, writer, director, producer, singer, songwriter, rapper and DJ, and he is using his platform to spread awareness about black oppression and gun violence. 

The last album from Glover, “Awaken, My Love!”, was in December 2016, which was around the same time his show with FX, “Atlanta” was released.

Since the release of “Awaken, My Love!” Glover has been relatively quiet on the music scene. That is, until May 5, when he graced the world with both a song and music video for “This Is America.”

He tweeted out saying “this is america” with a link on his otherwise empty twitter, which garnered over 100K retweets and over 250K favorites in just three days.

I think the song on its own is good, but the video, which has over 50 million views as of May 9 and started a #ThisIsAmerica hashtag on Twitter, is what is truly important. Without watching and understanding the video, you may miss the meaning behind the song. It says one thing loud and clear – America is distracted.

When watching the video for the first time, your eyes will naturally follow Glover as he moves through the video dancing erratically and making strange faces. The background doesn’t particularly demand any attention right away, as it’s out of focus for the entirety of the video.

The moves and faces are meant to distract you, so during the first watch they’re just doing their job.

However, during the second viewing, your eyes will start to recognize the chaos that’s happening behind Glover as he moves, such as the people sprinting around, cars on fire and police lights going off.

There are two shootings that happen in the video – one of a man playing a guitar with a bag over his head and one of a church choir of 10. After each shooting, the guns are neatly placed onto red cloths as Glover walks away. 

Red is the color of fire and blood and is typically associated with power. Placing the guns on red cloths is deliberate; Glover is showing the power guns contain in America. 

When the man playing the guitar in the beginning of the video is shot, Glover takes a certain stance. Twitter was quick to notice this mimics that of the blackface character of Jim Crow. 

The video calls America out for not paying enough attention to the oppression of black people – the shootings of the black people are the most shocking parts of the video and yet, they leave the scene almost immediately – while also bringing awareness to the fact America only cares about violence for a few days before the next trend, or dance move, comes out and we move on. 

“This a celly / That’s a tool,” Glover says, as the camera pans up to a group of teens recording the chaos that’s happening below them. This seems to be a representation of the fact phones have been the tool used to hold police officers accountable when they shoot or attack black people. 

Art means nothing without interpretation, and everyone is allowed to interpret Glover’s new video in his or her own way. However, it’s important to recognize that it goes much deeper than just a song or a music video. Every move by Glover, along with the chaos happening behind him, is calculated – it’s meant to make you think and it’s meant to be watched more than listened to. 

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