It received over 10 million views in 24 hours. It’s littered with meanings and symbolism. It’s unapologetic, irreverent while remaining significant, and deeply political. There’s a reason why everyone is talking about Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” video. It’s an effing masterpiece. At the time of writing, it has over 36 million views — and it just continues to grow.
The whole video bounces us around a warehouse, where Childish Gambino — Donald Glover’s alter-ego — dances, sings, and distracts us from the brutal violence happening behind him. It’s a commentary not just on racism and gun violence, but also on how we respond to it — our infinite distractions, our ability to switch between violence and entertainment. And of course, Childish Gambino himself dances this line, flitting between entertainer and partaker. But, in the end, there is a sudden transition that remains us that no level of fame can protect you from what it means to be a black man in America. The video speaks for itself. You can watch it here but then watch it again. And again. And again.
There are a lot of different theories about what is going on in this video. Some have said that he’s playing Jim Crow, others that it’s a message to the police, and others still have suggested it’s about Glover himself being forced into typically black roles. The truth is, there’s a lot going on and if you take a while to digest it, that’s OK. Glover hasn’t yet commented on the piece or his intentions. Watch it, let it percolate, then watch it again. Gun violence and racism in America have reached horrifying levels. And there’s no reason that art can’t be a persuasive, powerful way of standing up against that.