Childish Gambino (AKA Donald Glover) had a busy Saturday night.
Yesterday, May 5, in addition to hosting SNL, the performer dropped a brand-new single and music video, and the song is resonating with people all around the country. Titled “This Is America,” the video opens with the unsettling juxtaposition of cheerful music and an execution of a black man by gunshot, leading into Gambino’s first verse. That dichotomy is a common thread throughout the video, as we simultaneously see contrasting images like joyful dancing taking place against a backdrop of violence.
“This Is America” explores a lot of themes at once (such as gun violence, hypocrisy, and police brutality), while shedding light on what it’s like to be a black person in the United States today. As people are pointing out online, the video seems to be making the point that many people in the country are so distracted by certain things, they fail to notice the bigger picture or larger problems that are poisoning our society. Consequently, there are almost too many references within the video to unpack in its first viewing. Many of the nuanced details happen so quickly that they need a second glance — like the sudden gunfire aimed at a choir, a likely nod to the 2015 mass shooting at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina that targeted black parishioners.
The video, which takes place entirely within a warehouse, culminates with Gambino running through the dark hallways, seemingly being chased by bodies that are blurred into the background. The music, which has been relatively jovial throughout the entire song, gives way to an eerie silence.
Unsurprisingly, the reactions on social media have been pouring in, with many writing how much the song has impacted them. One fan described their takeaway by writing: “Mass shootings, protests, riots, violence against protesters, white supremacists, and overall being more enamored with trivial things…rather than making an effort to speak out about the realities of our world.” Another said: “Donald Glover’s #ThisIsAmerica is such a cool music video for showing how many split personalities America actually has + how the culture puts blackness in several narrow boxes at the same time.”
Mass shootings, protests, riots, violence against protesters, white supremacists, and overall being more enamored with trivial things like dance fads / talking about drugs & money rather than making an effort to speak out about the realities of our world
— Taylor Berry (@sewnfruit) May 6, 2018
Donald Glover's #ThisIsAmerica is such a cool music video for showing how many split personalities America actually has + how the culture puts blackness in several narrow boxes at the same time.
— Monique Jones IS ON ROTTEN TOMATOES! FINALLY! (@moniqueblognet) May 6, 2018
Mesmerizing. Disturbing. Violent. Beautiful. Tragic. Materialistic. Melodic. Chaotic.https://t.co/jET1KfgRvx
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) May 6, 2018
The more you watch the #ThisIsAmerica video, the more you realize that there's so much going on in the background and that Donald is just a distraction – and that's the whole point. #StayWoke (don't catch you slippin' now)
— Siya6onga (@sabu_mahlaba) May 6, 2018
People are so caught up in Gambino’s shoot that they don’t even realize what the hell is going on in the background. He’s literally talking about people who don’t care about what’s happening in society, but care about the latest dance fad. He’s talking about y’all.#ThisIsAmerica
— E-Money ? (@imanimlewis) May 6, 2018