On May 5, Childish Gambino (comedian/writer Donald Glover) unveiled the video for his new single “This is America,” directed by Atlanta’s Hiro Murai.
The video came shortly after his appearance on Saturday Night Live, where he performed the song along with another new single, “Saturday.” It was the first time that new music from the singer/songwriter/rapper had been heard since 2016's Awaken, My Love. NPR described the performance as part of Childish Gambino’s “Black Renaissance.”
The music video has only been public for a couple of day, but has already garnered over 20,000,000 views. Thousands have taken to the internet to dissect the video, and, like anything on the internet, criticize or defend it.
Some users on Twitter have likened Childish Gambino’s movements to that of the minstrel character Jim Crow, a possible critique of black artists’ desire to make money and entertain rather than address the many social issues that affect communities who aren’t in the spotlight. The choreography, which takes place mostly in the foreground, is largely used as a distraction from the chaos that unfolds in the background. The video will likely require multiple viewings to catch everything that’s happening.
Curious about #ChildishGambino’s dance movements & facial expressions? This is a blackface reference & Jim Crow in character. Thank you for pointing it out @nicky_furiosa— Nicole Taher (@nicoletaher) May 6, 2018
Art without awareness isn’t art. pic.twitter.com/3Fs94LkNrq
An easy to spot metaphor comes in the form of the way that gun violence is treated. Childish Gambino is shown killing another black man executioner style with a pistol, shooting him in the back of the head. The man’s body is dragged off screen in a careless manner and is juxtaposed with a well-dressed man delicately taking the gun from Childish Gambino's hands with a red cloth. Later, Childish Gambino guns down an all-black church choir with an assault weapon. The police are present, followed by what looks like angry protestors, but the shooter (Childish Gambino) walks away freely.
There is a lot to unpack in this video, so it’s best to just see it for youself. Watch “This is America” below.