With more than 180 million views on YouTube, the music video, “This is America,” by rapper Childish Gambino has given the United States a wake up call to how citizens are looking past important social issues in the nation.
Gambino, known for his popular hit songs “Redbone” and “3005,” went in a more political direction this time when producing “This is America.” Although it may be called controversial, it hits many issues that need to be addressed in our society.
“I thought it was definitely a provocative way to address so many different topics like guns and violence, entertainment and being black in America, and even how those three things connect to each other,” senior criminology major Alexandra Cormier said.
Many people may not realize that the first scene contains symbolism of America’s history of Jim Crow laws.
“Jump Jim Crow,” a hugely popular song written and performed by white minstrel performer Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice in 1828, caricatured black slaves in the South.
The infamous cover for the sheet music featured the “Jim Crow” character posing in a strange position, which Gambino mimics precisely while shooting a guitar-playing man in the back of the head.
Jim Crow laws, named after the minstrel song, were enacted by white Southern legislators after the Civil War and upheld racial segregation of black and white people in all public spaces, including schools, train cars and restaurants.
“The video is out there for the people. It is not really my place to explain what is going on,” Gambino said in an interview with film critic Chris Van Vliet.
Gambino also touches on the issue of gun violence in America. In the video, black choir members are shot with an assault rifle, symbolizing those killed by a white supremacist in the Charleston church shooting in 2015.
Key details show how guns have seemingly become more important than people’s lives in the current political climate.
In the first scene, Gambino hands the gun over gently in a red cloth, which he does again after the church scene.
“A lot of artists have tried to start the conversation, but it never got this much attention,” sophomore kinesiology major Savannah Fisher said. “It is sad that it takes showing such graphic and horrendous things to get people’s attention but Gambino realized it, that’s why he did what he did.”
Americans tend to take out their cell phones to record violence going on instead of helping. People care more about having the most likes on social media instead of possibly saving lives. However, it is important to document these horrible instances of racial injustice.
“I thought the video was dope, capturing the essence of the daze that a lot of us are in. The symbolism of him dancing and being entertaining, while absolute anarchy is going on right behind him,” junior business administration Devin Collins said.
Americans get so distracted by minuscule things, such as popular dances and social media trends, that we fail to realize the bigger issues surrounding us.
While 10 people were killed in the Santa Fe, Texas, school shooting last week, Americans were more interested in watching the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle than in brainstorming ways to reduce gun violence at schools.
Gambino’s lyrics and visuals send a powerful message, not only expressing issues going on in America, but the way Americans look past important issues in our nation.
Anthony Carter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.