“This is America”: A Commentary

Nina Faynshtayn, Arts & Reviews Editor

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First time I watched it. Tears in my eyes.

Second time I watched it. Goosebumps.

Third time I watched it. Fear.

Fourth time I watched it. Power.

“This is America,” an instantly iconic music video recently released by Childish Gambino, has already sparked debates regarding its message, its intended audience, and its symbolism. In reality, people will probably spend years dissecting all of the different elements of the video. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend that you watch it.

For those who haven’t seen it, you should know the video highlights the complex African-American experience in the United States. I believe that Childish Gambino enhanced, or rather revolutionized, our view of black oppression in America. This video evokes questions of serious matters such as gun violence, media distraction, and the loss of innocence. While Childish Gambino sings in the foreground, the audience tends to miss the action in the background — the running, the violence, and the fear in people’s eyes.

Yes, this video does make some want to dance or sing along. I already know individuals who have memorized Childish Gambino’s moves. That – in and of itself – proves the video’s multi-layered symbolism regarding modern day America: We have physical beauty and “dance move” actions. For example, we appear as a great, powerful country; however, we also normalize violence and fear, and we have domestic problems that are yet to be appropriately addressed.

Childish Gambino points out some of the most serious flaws in our society so as to send the message that we must see change. I love America because although we are flawed, I know that we change.  It is crucial that we change in the right direction, together. So while the video ignited mixed feelings within me, one thing that I feel consistently is hope: Hope for progress. Hope for difference. Hope for equity. And most importantly, hope for compassion.  

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