Childish Gambino’s Grammy-winning music video “This is America” explores what it means to be a black person—and a black entertainer—in 2018 America. The video starkly and provocatively explores structural inequalities and tensions in modern-day America. In the opening scene, a shirtless Glover dances in exaggerated movements (borrowed from African traditions) and with wide eyes towards a black man playing the guitar. As the music shifts, Glover shoots the (now hooded) man in the back of the head; quickly, the gun is wrapped up in a red cloth and Glover continues his show. Throughout the entirety of the video, Glover’s fluid movements are contrasted with scenes of extreme violence in the background. He dances with a group of schoolchildren, who are safe from the brutality. In one scene, he shoots down a church choir and strides nonchalantly by a policeman. In another, he dances underneath a group of teens filming the violent environment with their cellphones. The final scene depicts Glover being chased by unknown figures down a dark hallway, running for his life. Numerous cultural critics have dissected the video, calling it a “perfectly timed masterpiece.”
What kind of contrasts or tensions in tone and in the environment can you point to in the video?
How do the scenes depicting gun violence allude to actual events?
What do you think the scene depicting a group of teenagers filming the chaotic events signifies? What does this tell us about the role of media and witnessing?
What does the video say about the black experience in America, specifically comparing the beginning to the ending?