This is America
Childish Gambino’s “This is America” music video has swept the nation with its poetic lyrics and its hidden messages. The song has only been out for a week (as of this writing) and the music video already has over 139 million views on YouTube. With its growing popularity, I have decided to compare this music video to Neely Fuller’s view of entertainment. Also, breakdown the contents and significance of his music video.
Background of the Music Video
The music video takes place in a warehouse, and starts out with a guitar on a chair as a black man comes, picks it up and sits in the chair. The camera moves and you see Childish Gambino standing and as the music plays, he starts to dance. He dances towards the man, who before was sitting down playing the guitar, but now has a bag over his head. When Childish Gambino is right behind him, he pulls out a pistol and shoots him. He then hands the gun over to a teenager in a school uniform and starts dancing again. While dancing, teens come and start dancing behind him. Also, while they dance, you can see that there is rioting going on in the background along with a police car.
After, the camera shifts and you are in a room, and a church choir is singing. Then Childish Gambino comes in and starts dancing while they sing. And while they sing, Childish Gambino stops and is tossed an automatic rifle and shoots the choir, which could refer to church shootings. He then hands the rifle to the same teen he handed the pistol to. He dances out of the room and in the background, there is more rioting. Then he dances some more while the rioting goes on around him, then the camera shifts and you see the teenage dancers start dancing again. After a while, the camera shifts again revealing teenagers with bandanas while holding their phones, appearing to be filming the riot. Then the camera moves to show Childish Gambino and the teenage dancers dancing again, and still in the background you can see that the rioting is still going on. Then you see a white horse pass by with a white guy riding it. Then the teenage dancers dance in a circle around Childish Gambino, seeming confused, but is shocked when Childish Gambino acts like he shoots a gun. Then while everyone is running you hear a faint scream. Then Gambino lights a cigar and walks away.
After, the scene changes to Gambino walking up a car and standing on top of it. Then starts dancing on it while the camera zooms out, and shows old cars surrounding him and the black man who got shot in the chair (earlier in the video) and a woman sitting on a car. Then the camera shifts to a scene where he’s running from white people.
Dancing in the Music Video
The dancing in the music video is very African centered. When Childish Gambino is about to shoot the Black man playing the guitar, he poses by putting his butt back and putting his right hand on his hip. I assume he got this pose from a Jim Crow poster of a Black man doing the same thing.
Lyrics in the Song
When the song begins, you hear what seems to be Africans singing, they may be singing to the Europeans that come to “colonize” them. Also, when they reveal Childish Gambino, he starts singing, “We just want to party, party just for you. We just want the money, money just for you.” The “you” may refer to America, and how Americans just want to party and want money all the time. Then when there was rioting going on behind him, he says, “Police be tripping now.” Very likely referring to the police killings and beatings on Black people. Also, while the rioting is going on behind him, he says, “Yeah, yeah, this is guerilla.” Meaning guerilla warfare, referring to the riot that was going on.
Does the Song Fit Neely Fuller’s View of Entertainment and Does It Promote Justice?
In Neely Fuller’s book The United Independent Compensatory Code/System/Concept: A Compensatory Counter-Racist Code, it says, “During the existence of White Supremacy, always expect most so-called “entertainment” for Non-White people to be, basically, pitiful, primitive, stupid, and/or silly.” So, the question is, does the song make Non-White (specifically so-called Black) people look pitiful, primitive, stupid, and/or silly?
It may be viewed a little silly (since during the music video, Childish Gambino has no shirt on), but I don’t view it as making Black people look pitiful, primitive, or stupid. Also in Neely Fuller’s book, he says, “Do not “dance,” or participate in so-called “group-dancing” unless all of the persons participating have a collective understanding of what the “dancing” is designed to produce, in regards to the result.” Since it seems that Childish Gambino (and his background dancers) meant for this song to point out all the disorder in America, I think the song fulfilled its purpose. Now for the important question, does the song promote and/or produce justice? I think that the song may promote justice, in the sense that it may get people to think about all the disorder in America.
The song itself is good (even though it does say one curse word). If the black (i.e. Non-White) people watching it were to look at the video in close detail, I think people will be shocked at what they find. All in all, I think the music video does produce justice and sends a wakeup call to the nation.
This has been my thoughts and observations of the “This is America” music video. I hope you enjoyed this blog post and learned something while reading it.