CultureMusic

This is America: Donald Glover’s Video is a Gripping Read

In times of great crisis, we create great art. Donald Glover’s video for his latest single This is America is great art. It’s not because it’s trying to be overly subtle to where only art connoisseurs can defuse the meaning. It’s that it trusts us to pick up what it’s dropping, so it drops a lot for us to hold. And I tried to pick it all up, although I’m sure I drop a few. That’s how layered this video is. That’s how textured it is. Childish Gambino (his alias) did a lot and I’m so glad about it.

I don’t make a habit of watching something 3 times in a row. Let alone 5 times. But this video, I watched 10 times, because I wondered what else I’ve missed and I want to make sure the things I didn’t miss, are burned into my memory.

This is America by Childish Gambino

The clear overall statement here is that we are too busy being distracted by what is shiny, and dancing and right in front of our faces to pay any real attention to what is happening that is destroying us. The first time you watch the video, all you can really see is Donald’s bodyrolling and bird chest shenanigans. Even that is concerning enough, but you can’t take your eyes off it. You’re too entertained by his menace. You might even wonder why he’s such a weirdo sometimes. That’s perfect, because that’s what you are supposed to think when you first watch it.

At first viewing, I was like “I’m not deep enough for this. I’ve missed too much” Then I watched a second time, and the things in the background started grabbing my attention. My pupil would slip and I’d notice there’s a fire behind him. Oh shit. Ok den. WAIT. I didn’t see that white horse the first time! WHHAAAAAAA.

Then I watched it again, ignoring Donald to give ALL my attention to everything but him. Then I watched it on mute, so his words don’t distract me either, and it was clear how brilliant it all was. Each time, I picked up something else. After my 10th viewing, I decided to write this, and I’m still probably missing thing.

  1. Guitar player looks like Trayvon Martin’s father

The first person we see in the video is a Black man who walks up. grabs a guitar that’s placed on a chair and starts to strum it. The man is bearded, looks middle-aged and frankly seems to be a doppelganger of Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father. I stopped the video the second time to get real close to see if it was him, but it doesn’t even matter if he was. That casting had to be deliberate. Because that man is the one whose head is covered, and then is shot from the back, by Childish Gambino, serving as the first fatality in this video.

Having a lookalike of the father of the boy who started the new movement, being the victim of sanctioned gun violence is kinda poetic. Trayvon’s death was the catalyst of many people’s WOKEness because It was the first version of the Emmett Till Story that had been amplified for this generation, in this new age that was supposed to be America’s post-racial time. It was the first time many became aware that the deaths of Black and brown people at the hands of vigilantes who are given authority or the ultimate state-sanctioned killing machines (cops), was real and happening. Trayvon’s death happened as Barack Obama sat in the White House, so it wasn’t a new day, afterall. It was more like… dusk of the same day. A look alike of his father was the first life taken in this video. Wow.

Update: confirmed it wasn’t Tracy Martin. It was an artist named Calvin The Second.

  1. The Jim Crow Poster Child

Right before Gambino shot the hooded man, he struck a pose with his gun. It was reminiscent of posters and illustrations from Jim Crow south, showing a man in blackface, dressed up, in that same still mode. Jim Crow was created by and often played by a white man.

This is America Donald Glover Jim Crow

Thomas Rice as Jim Crow

Essentially, Donald is playing the character of a minstrel, throughout this video. The one people accuse of “shucking and jiving” is the one whose perspective carries us through this video. As we are mistreated, beaten and killed, we’re expected to just grin an bear it. Black people have been depicted as only good for song and dance, and it’s the commodification of that idea. It’s the “I know this is how you see me. Let me REALLY show you that.” America has allowed us to be defined in such shallow terms, and Gambino takes it on.

  1. All Guns Matter

There are two times in the video where Gambino uses a gun. The first one is a pistol, and the second one is a rifle. Both times he uses them to take lives, there is someone there to help him dispose the gun. The young boy in a polo shows up with a pink towel each time, and Gambino places the guns gingerly in them, handling them with care. Meanwhile, the bodies of the people whose lives he just took are strewn about. The guitar man is dragged away by 2 people. The church choir? Left there to bleed and die.

This is America, a country that will fight to the death to maintain people’s rights to own guns, rather than fight for people’s rights to live without constant threat of bullets ripping through their bodies and ending their lives. This is America, a country that treats guns with empathy, rather than give humans peace. This is America, in which the 2nd amendment is the most cherished law of the land.

  1. The Charleston Shooting

When Donald shows up and sees the choir singing, he basically sneaks in, like a thief in the night. In their joy and worship, they welcome him as he dances up. Quickly, a rifle gets thrown to him and he turns around and shoots them all dead. The 10 people in robes.

This is America Donald Glover 4

It is reminiscent of the shooting that happened at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston in 2015. The manner in which Susie Jackson, Reverent Clementa Pinkney, Cynthia Hurd, DePayne Middleton Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Daniel L. Simmons Sr., Ethel Lee Lance were killed by a white supremacist terrorist was just as callous. But we live in a country that allows it. We live in a place that almost encourages it, in its complete failure to even attempt to prevent it.

This scene certainly jarred me more than the rest.

  1. The kids are watching

As Donald goes through the scenes, kids in uniforms show up and dance with him on cue. They don’t miss a beat of his dancing, cuz they’ve been watching him and follow his every move. They know this better than they know anything else. They know exactly what he’s about to do, and they are in lockstep with him. Is he saying the current generation is unbothered with anything that isn’t this? Is he saying we are feeding them mostly junk and leaving them no room for the real?

In one of the scenes, we also see 4 kids watching the chaos unfold, recording with their phones. Basically, they are less citizens, more voyeurs. They aren’t part of the scene, simply reporting on it while doing nothing.

The ones coming up after us are seeing this world, and what are we telling them about it? Is this normal? Is this what we’re leaving them? What are we expecting them to do when we sit by idly?

  1. Cops are bringers of chaos

Cops are supposed to serve and protect but they are also the catalysts of chaos. In the video, we see cop cars about, and cops chasing people, and the clashing of the “law” and the people. They aren’t protecting shit but they are terrorizing the very people they are supposed to serve, and that’s clear. They are the bringer of violence, and it is often towards black and brown people.

This video clearly criticizes gun violence but who is more guilty of it than the police? The people who use their guns with impunity, because the law literally tells them to, are a major part of the country’s gun culture. And with all ills of society, the most marginalized suffer the most, because of an issue that isn’t their own to fix.

  1. We dance and sing through it all

No matter what tragedies we go through, we dance through them. It’s both a coping mechanism and a shame. I think Donald is saying that the things we do to be able to deal with this world also don’t allow us to fully comprehend what is happening to and around us. Whether we’re doing the Gwara Gwara, the shoki, the wop or the Nae Nae, around the diaspora, we move because maybe we’re afraid that if we stop, so does our fight. Whether we’re in post-apartheid South Africa or Trump’s America, we are constantly presented with enemies we wanna A-town stomp away.

In what I see as an indictment to hip hop and new rap, Gambino dances with all the might he can muster, with a fake smile plastered to his face as he raps “Look how I’m geeking out/ I’m so fitted / I’m on Gucci / I’m so pretty.”

This is America Donald Glover 2

As he’s doing all of this, the place around him is literally burning in chaos. There’s a car on fire, there’s protests, there’s cops chasing people. And all he can muster in that moment is to talk about designers and what he looks like. DRAG FOLKS THEN, DONALD. DRAG US FOR FILTH!

Black joy is a form of resistance in a world that loves Black pain but where is the room for the fight if we want to see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil?

  1. The One Horseman of the Apocalypse

In a scene that could have been an intro to a film called “The Rapture” things are on fire, and Donald is dancing as kids circle him in unison. It’s easy to miss the white horse that gallops through, ridden by a hooded man. I certainly missed it on my first viewing but caught it on viewing 2. It could easily be one of the four horsemen apocalypse, doing their job of bringing in pestilence and death. It surely looks like the end of life for the figure who drops from the 2nd balcony unto the floor of the warehouse where Gambino is bodyrolling.

  1. The Old Cars

Towards the end, Gambino lights a joint and jumps on the top of an old car, rapping “Get your money, Black man.” It’s funny. You singing “get your money” in a lot full of old cars. I’m still stroking my chin but maybe it’s to say ain’t enough money for Black people in this country to repair what has been done. We’ll still end up with the broke down things of yesteryear. But we’ll sit on it proudly (hey Sza) because at least we have those.

  1. There is No Escape

Gambino is running with all his might through a dark hall, sweating. And what he is running for are white shadows. He is running with all his might but no matter how hard he runs, they are closing in on him. It doesn’t matter how hard we try, or how respectably we dress, or if we shuck or not or play their games.

Racism and white supremacy are inescapable in our lives and we feel the terror no matter what. Because THIS IS AMERICA. Land of the free, home of the brave. On opposite day.

Whew.

We are gonna be talking this through for a while, I think. For good reason. Anything that can touch on Gun violence. Apathy. Generational Gaps. Police Brutality. White Supremacy. Constitutional Unfairness. Evolution of Music. Materialism. Cultural ADD. Unattainable Wealth. in 4 minutes, is a worthwhile study. The themes ain’t new but this brings it into fresh (but dark) light. It turned the mirror on this country and said “see your life.” It is a read, an indictment and a challenge.

I’m glad for it.


Have you bought my NYTimes-bestselling debut book I’M JUDGING YOU: The Do-Better Manual? Haven’t ordered it yet? Now’s your chance. You’ll love it. Amazon. Barnes & Nobles. iBooks. Audible (I narrated the audiobook myself). Kobo. Books-A-Million.

Previous post

Live Your Best Life (with Necole Kane) - Episode 6 of Rants and Randomness

Next post

Chadwick Boseman Showed Up to the Met Gala to Make Your Pastor Mad

82 Comments

  1. hrbm
    May 6, 2018 at 6:03 pm

    Love this. I also read the used cars at the end – abandoned, with their blinkers flashing – as a nod to targeted traffic stops, and the police violence that leaves these vehicles left behind without their owners.

    • Olivia
      May 6, 2018 at 9:49 pm

      I wonder if Sza represented black women in America. Always left at the end, with nothing but the old, basically all by herself. She’s Silent, alone, vibing to what’s left while surrounded by the old cars left behind. Not moving on to something better just sitting and complacent with what’s left behind.

      • Jen
        May 10, 2018 at 1:25 pm

        I thought of how cars have traditionally been a symbol of status, as have women, for black men. As in the way both have been represented in music videos, where black women have been represented as no more than decorations, commodities for men to judge and consume. In this readng, I see the age of the cars as a way of saying the cars are all just junk, objects that have been given far more attention than they deserve.

    • houston
      May 8, 2018 at 11:03 am

      I read another take where it discussed that the cars are symbolic of how most black people live, not with the luxury cars seen in typical music videos; it was another slap in the face of overwhelming materialism pushed by the hip hop community. Of course, it can mean more than one thing. It’s just been interesting to see so many PoC I respect offer different views.

    • Emma
      May 12, 2018 at 1:49 pm

      That’s exactly what I thought. Especially since most of the cars had the driver-side door left open (something I always notice in the dashcam videos of these wrongful arrests/violence).

  2. Christina
    May 6, 2018 at 6:11 pm

    Thank you for this. Some of the layers I saw but others I did not. My thoughts mirrored yours after my first viewing.

  3. Elizabeth DiAlto
    May 6, 2018 at 6:14 pm

    This sentence – so powerful: “This is America, a country that will fight to the death to maintain people’s rights to own guns, rather than fight for people’s rights to live without constant threat of bullets ripping through their bodies and ending their lives.”

    Loved this whole thing. Thank you for taking the time, Luvvie!

  4. LaurieO
    May 6, 2018 at 6:19 pm

    Thank you for your insight. Lots to think about, here.

  5. Carlos
    May 6, 2018 at 6:32 pm

    In that “I’m so pretty” moment. Look up and watch dude come flying down out of the rafters.

  6. M L K
    May 6, 2018 at 6:37 pm

    This video was so deep it moved me to tears! Thank you for your insight on it!

  7. TheItGyrl
    May 6, 2018 at 6:38 pm

    I literally had the same feeling when I first watched. I thought “I’m not woke enough for this.” Thank you for inspiring me to watch again, and to look more closely.

    • Denise
      May 7, 2018 at 9:43 pm

      Me too. Need to watch it for a fifth time. I’m loving all of the analysis ppl are giving. Luvvie broke it down great, as usual.

  8. Nae
    May 6, 2018 at 6:46 pm

    The kids in the school uniforms dancing reminds me of that video that went viral of the white principal dancing with his students. I think they were dancing to juju on that beat (idk if that’s the actual name of the song, I’m slightly out of touch lol). The moves Donald Glover did in this video are some of the same exact moves the principal did

    • Kari
      May 6, 2018 at 9:41 pm

      Yes! Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta. It can’t be a coincidence. That’s what I came here to comment. I think it’s definitely calling out that school.

    • Frances
      May 7, 2018 at 7:42 pm

      Same thought!

  9. GB
    May 6, 2018 at 6:53 pm

    One part that wasnt talked about was when he was in the circle of kids dancing and he went to lift his hands up without a gun, the kids screamed and ran, and everyone was gone, no background chaos. He then pulled a joint out and walked away.
    Just showing how a black man without a gun is more dangerous than men with guns. (Cops). Also making me think that once the kids idol became real (stopped dancing and smiling) they were scared of him. They were okay with him before but until he became human or a non entertainer, they ran. Didnt like seeing the real, enjoyed the fake dancing, happy go lucky man. Similar to the show Atlanta, only want to see Paperboi as Paperboi, not a real person (haircut episode – kids asking why his hair was all jacked up and Paperboi said he was a human and needed to get his hair cut like everyone else)

    • Daphne Gassett
      May 6, 2018 at 10:36 pm

      Very good perspective on this part of the video. It makes a lot of sense. Thank you!

    • Dinora
      May 8, 2018 at 3:35 pm

      YES! Great points here, GB.

    • MNAL
      May 9, 2018 at 9:17 am

      Notice the exactly 17 seconds of silence after the kids ran away in terror (while he lights up)? 17 victims of the Parkland shooting.
      And, he’s shot 11 people in the video and seems to get away with it, spending the rest of the time dancing and singing about getting his money – up until he does something as benign as lighting up a joint and now he’s running for his life.

  10. Sally
    May 6, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    I guess that’s one of many interpretations. It is a brilliant video and song. Not sure I agree with a lot of the analysis. But everything is subjective.

  11. May 6, 2018 at 7:04 pm

    This video is inspiring work.

  12. Sabrina
    May 6, 2018 at 7:19 pm

    It may be just me, but the end of this video is very reminiscent to the end of Michael Jackson’s Black and White video. MJ stated he was smashing cars and dancing to fight against the current injustice. Perhaps Glover is using this type of artistic portrayal

    • DG
      May 7, 2018 at 7:33 pm

      YES! I immediately thought of that. That moment was so controversial in its day and I’m surprised it hasn’t come up more … thank you!

    • Ashley
      May 10, 2018 at 9:20 am

      Trained dancer here–yes! The entire video has references to Michael Jackson, right from the beginning with the altered Jim Crow pose with the foot down (that straight leg foot down pose is signature Michael Jackson). On the car he mixes James Brown, Michael Jackson, and I think Prince (?) Choreography with little pieces of minstrelry style dancing. The overall message I got was that past is present and black men are consumed as demeaning entertainment, while their vulnerable bodies are treated as more dangerous than guns. African dance and music was the one thing slavery couldn’t really take, but white supremacy continuously has commodified, limited and degraded that art and resistance.

      The kids also do the Cumbia, which is a dance that was created in shackles. One foot doesn’t move because it was chained.

      I only took one history of dance class so I am not an expert and I know I’m missing a lot. There’s enough there for a dissertation.

  13. Stacy
    May 6, 2018 at 7:44 pm

    It reminded me of the first time I watched the “Formation” video. When I first saw it I immediately thought I had to watch it again because 1. Did he really just do all that in four minutes? 2. I knew I had missed A LOT. After viewing four or five I thought I couldn’t wait to read your thoughts on it. Really enjoyed your take on it. And I agree 100% that we’ll be unpacking this one for a minute.

  14. May 6, 2018 at 7:59 pm

    Great review! I’ve only watched it a few times and plan on watching it a few times more. Just so much to take in; it’s so layered.

    I also looked at the cars as possibly representative of the cars of people who’ve been victims of police targeting/murder–like Sandra Bland and Philando Castile.

  15. May 6, 2018 at 8:03 pm

    I do see a lot of contemporary America there, but I also see a lot of imagery of apartheid-era South Africa (the dancing and singing school-children, the style of guitar played by the guy sitting among the cars.)

    Glover is too young to know about Sharepeville and other scenes first hand, but he may have known about their contemporary depictions of that period.

    • chyra harrell
      May 6, 2018 at 8:14 pm

      The school children did seem reminiscent of Sarafina.

  16. Kesha
    May 6, 2018 at 8:11 pm

    One of the scenes I caught was the men up in the rafters. They looked like they had on uniforms. I thought this was a nod to the school to prison pipeline and mass incarceration.

    • Sonia
      May 9, 2018 at 3:43 pm

      I agree, the whole upper set to me depicted the look and feel of prisons, with men running around going nowhere.

  17. Tania
    May 6, 2018 at 9:13 pm

    Thank you so much for your thoughts!

  18. May 6, 2018 at 9:21 pm

    I really appreciate your analysis. Thank you.

  19. GoddessProfessor
    May 6, 2018 at 9:30 pm

    It could just be me, but his hair seems to be purposely styled like Frederick Douglas’ was in some of Douglas’ younger pictures–similar to the picture in this article: https://www.politico.com/story/2017/11/02/trump-frederick-douglass-anniversary-244480

    Either way, thanks for this breakdown! You rock.
    And Glover is amazing!

    • Naomi
      May 6, 2018 at 11:28 pm

      When I saw him, I thought he looked like Jesus. If you look at ancient reliefs of the Israelites, the men look very similar to black American men with their beards and cornrows. A quick Google search will reveal this.

      I thought the kids in uniform were showing black Americans’ influence on the continent. American kids, unless they’re in private school, do not wear uniforms that look like the ones the children are wearing. There are tons of videos of African schoolchildren doing dances that look like they were inspired by Americans.

      The joint. Black America (men in particular) are smoked out. Donald essentially made a video about his tribe (black Americans). The lost ones.

  20. Lisa
    May 6, 2018 at 9:40 pm

    Thanks Luvvie for your insight. One thing I would change about the dialog on race is the term used to identify white identity extremists. I think as long as we call it “supremacy” it inadvertently perpetuates a lie and probably tickles the fancy of those extremists. It makes allowance for the idea that one race is supreme over another and doesn’t convey the problem with their racial fanaticism. (On GP no one person or group is the best at everything) I’d like to see an end to that term throughout the media. Call them out for the extremists they are instead of “supremacists”. Thoughts?

    • Kim
      May 7, 2018 at 7:12 pm

      Oh, I like this (well, not like exactly).

  21. Barb
    May 6, 2018 at 9:41 pm

    The last scene where he’s running furiously, and it’s filmed in the dark so you can barely see him, but do see the whites of his eyes also seems like an echo of the imagery of the minstrel, which exaggerated white eyes and teeth in contrast to dark skin. Great analysis, thanks…. going back to watch again.

    • GB
      May 7, 2018 at 10:15 pm

      I also take it as he was running from slavery in the dark – underground railroad. When you see him first running, the lights on the ceiling are on only in front of him, as if he is running towards the light but not in the death sense but the light of knowledge/freedom/ North Star and those people behind him could be chasing him to stop him. The fear in his eyes show the chase. But he is the only one running… everyone else was still left in the sunken place or white warehouse…

    • Cwazytina
      May 8, 2018 at 3:34 am

      I thought this too. I was also reminded of Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and Daniel Kaluuya’s character literally running for his life. Whenever he is under hypnosis his eyes become huge, which against his dark complexion rings to the minstrel and Glover, to your point. Plus, Kaluuya introduced him and this song on SNL last night and I feel that was saying something.

  22. Spreeda
    May 6, 2018 at 9:50 pm

    When Gambino lit the joint and jumped on the old car, rapping “Get your money, Black man,” I connected it to the fact that in the past (perhaps when those cars were current) droves of Black men were being vilified and incarcerated for using and possessing marijuana. Now, that this same marijuana has now been legalized in the majority of US states, White men have cornered the market and capitalized on it to grow and build wealth; thus, Black men need to get their money, too.

  23. pd
    May 6, 2018 at 9:53 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. The pink towels remind me of the pink pussy hat brigade, and the violence of white feminism.

  24. Khalilah H
    May 6, 2018 at 10:02 pm

    I began to weep after reading this. I watched once, and you lifted out so much of what was racing in that single view. We are experiencing so much death in Baltimore right now. But some parts of the City wouldn’t know the difference. It doesn’t touch them. While others who look like us feign outrage, when the single “good kid” is taken. We’re in the midst of the election season, people are declaring how much they love incumbents who do very little for us, yet they look like us. Meanwhile, a new crop of candidates, myself included, are powering campaigns to wake the citizenry up. We can’t wait any longer for the minstrel to tire long enough to see the dumpster fire over his shoulder, for the cousin with the seat at the table to actually use it for the people they speak so eloquently about, for the good white liberal to inspect why they’re more centered on charity than they are justice. This art, he trusted us to pick up, is not only NOT subtle, but it taps our subconscious to see what’s in front of us when we want to remain blissfully ignorant. Whether we see a supremist interloper preparing to defile a church or the children of apartheid conveying struggles of our ancestors to break chains through a unified rhythm… Its all there…

  25. Harps
    May 6, 2018 at 10:36 pm

    After reading a comment, I realized no one really talks about SZA’s “random” role. Is there a message in that?

    • Adaobi
      May 8, 2018 at 5:50 am

      I read somewhere that Sza was supposed to be a representation of the Statue of Liberty. Her hair was in knots going across the top of her head like a crown.

  26. ryry
    May 6, 2018 at 11:03 pm

    Also, the entire building and the entire video is shot in a white space.

  27. Chris
    May 6, 2018 at 11:06 pm

    One more subtlety I noticed was the choir was the first to sing “get your money, black man” which reads to me as a jab at the prosperity gospel that’s been gaining popularity in recent decades.

  28. Samantha
    May 6, 2018 at 11:12 pm

    Hey Luvvie, did you catch the scene when the camera pans all the out when he’s dancing on the old cars? It shows him being lynched

    • Yonna
      May 8, 2018 at 11:37 am

      I went back and watched for this. He wasn’t lynched…there was a shadow of something behind him, but he never had a noose around his neck or anything. Maybe the shadow made it look that way?

      • Melody C Comrie Picou
        May 8, 2018 at 11:58 am

        To show that the traffic stops as maybe a modern form of lynching?

  29. Priya
    May 6, 2018 at 11:24 pm

    Amazing review. The video made me ashamed, hollow, and feel like crying all at he same time and I couldn’t figure out all the reasons why, so thank you for the review.

    Very real question: the pants he’s wearing are just slightly ill-fitting and even look somewhat colonial. Do you think there’s something to that? The button fly was the first thing I noticed as slightly out-of-place—a clue of dissonance which escalates dramatically as you have expertly written above.

  30. Blackpepper112
    May 7, 2018 at 6:56 pm

    I really enjoyed this video also. So far I have watched it twice. It’s also interesting to see that everyone gets something different out of it, or catches something that someone else may not have caught For example, under #8, you referred to the man being thrown down from the top. I actually saw that whole top row as a prison. They looked to be inmates, and if you’ve ever watched shows, like “Lock-up”, for example, they have those upper level cells, and many times men have gotten into fights and someone would be thrown over the banister during a riot. The prison guards let it go on sometimes, and ignore it until they can find a way to gain control back in the moment. Anyway, that’s what I interpreted. I’m about to enjoy reading the comments to see what others have caught.

  31. SamIAm
    May 7, 2018 at 8:54 pm

    The horseman reminded me of Birth of a Nation.

    The kids in uniform remind me if Sharpeville, Soweto, and Sarafina

  32. GB
    May 7, 2018 at 10:27 pm

    2 more observations. I noticed the kids with the cell phone on the rafters had not just a mask but the mask was specifically covering their mouths. it seemed as if they are recording but not choosing to say anything or stopping the actions that they are recording. Look at all of those fights recorded on YouTube and Instagram and Twitter and there’s more phones out to record the fights then people stopping the fights.
    Second observation. There is a group of children sitting and standing on a car and one child has a money gun spraying money into the air. These children were in uniforms, seemed very young in age and was delighted to throw money metaphorically in the air example brand name clothing brand name shoes Etc. This is what they see from their role models on TV, music and social media. Someone that young should not be focused on throwing money in the air but to be focused on making that money through education hard work and focus.

  33. Tennille
    May 8, 2018 at 12:16 am

    I might be reaching but while we kept our eye on “Donald” the rest of the world was in chaos. DONALD I SAID!!!!

    • Adaobi
      May 8, 2018 at 5:48 am

      That was something I hadn’t thought of. Hmmm…

    • TxBirdy
      May 11, 2018 at 8:50 pm

      Brilliant observation

    • Kim
      May 14, 2018 at 1:17 pm

      WOW! Yes!!

  34. Toledo Boogz
    May 8, 2018 at 5:58 am

    Here is a buddy’s take on the vid: “Tell me if I’m reading too much into this but I saw something a little different. I saw the minstrel (Wayans/Perry) kill another Black Man-to take center stage, I saw a Black Man (killing off) a Religion that constantly tells us to forgive, and we shall overcome–to take center stage. I finally saw a Black Man get that center stage all by himself (the only shot with the stereotypical video vixen in the chair), move to a long pull-out camera angle (like he was losing himself, isolated, but got what he wanted) And then finally that same Black Man running in fear from that which he desired (White Famous?)–the center of our attention.

    While I agree completely with those who are pointing out the tom-foolery of the mindless in-your-face craze of pop culture distracting us all from the nuanced sub-text, I’m finding it hard to reconcile the preface that Glover representing the criminal justice system would be running in fear at the end, and this is how my crazy mind put it together.”

    • AJB
      May 8, 2018 at 6:43 am

      Great analysis, I think you got it right.

  35. Jyna Johnson
    May 8, 2018 at 7:22 am

    Hey, Luvvie. I think I figured out the SZA thing. Childish had just been shown smoking longingly on a joint. In the very next scene, he is clearly high, dancing on the car, and listening to music (SZA). This is why there are no other people in the scene, no distractions, nothing going on but Childish dancing and listening to music (SZA) because he has escaped through marijuana and is totally numb; he has totally escaped.

  36. Zach
    May 8, 2018 at 8:04 am

    There is no mention of the fact that they are clearly in a prison at one point, it’s on fire, only black men present, and they are going about their day as if this is the norm, unfazed by everything burning down around them. I thought this was one of the strongest scenes or messages.

  37. May 8, 2018 at 11:30 am

    Looking at the cars makes me think about how they are viewed as a reflection of a person’s wealth as perpetuated by rappers. They influence people to purchase the most expensive car they can (or rather, can’t) afford in order to display wealth, when actually those cars immediately depreciate in value when purchased, which destroys the wealth you could have built 20 years down the road (all of the cars in the video are at least 20 years old), leaving you with nothing but a worthless old junker that no one wants to dance triumphantly on top of.

  38. Kelley
    May 8, 2018 at 2:34 pm

    Fantastic analysis of the video. I noticed one more thing (as I’m sure we will continue to find amazing stuff in the video as it is rewatched). At the end of the car scene he pauses in a contorted position as the camera moves back. The lines on the wall made me think of a hanging. Like everything in the video, I’m sure it was well thought out.
    Also, I read somewhere else how Sza’s hair is obviously made to look like Lady Liberty. So that’s another layer to explore.

    • Sonia
      May 9, 2018 at 3:59 pm

      Yep I got that too, the very last movement in that scene is like his head is yanked back then forth…reminiscent of a hanging…

  39. si
    May 8, 2018 at 3:43 pm

    Your writing is impeccable luvvie

  40. Laurie
    May 8, 2018 at 7:14 pm

    This has been so powerful. I woke up thinking about it this morning and have watched it over and over processing a little bit more each time. I think it’s likely there are layers of meaning for much of the symbolism because much of what I read here and other articles fits.

    My general impression of him and the kids dancing in the foreground was that we like to focus on this pleasant, charming kind of image but we would really like to not see what is happening in the background.

    I just keep more and more messages here and I can’t stop thinking about it.

  41. […] This Is America: Donald Glover’s Video Is A Gripping Read […]

  42. […] Luvvie: She wrote a whole blog post about it. Before that though, she processed it with her followers on Facebook and I really […]

  43. Kristen
    May 9, 2018 at 3:33 am

    I agree that the choir being shot to death was calling out the 2015 church shooting, however I also looked at it as a way of expressing that White America always try to kill the faith and hope of the black community. Black people have only survived through the hard historic years by their stronghold to hope/faith to help them persevere, and White America is constantly trying to destroy their hope/faith (shoot it down as shown in the scene of this music video).

  44. Kristen
    May 9, 2018 at 3:35 am

    This was a really well written analysis of the video. I truly enjoyed reading it. Thank you SO much for taking the time to write about this!

  45. FunmiA
    May 9, 2018 at 4:23 am

    Great Insights Luvvie, its absolutely a sad situation and more so when there dosn’t seem to be an end in sight – every decade brings to light different shadows and faces of the same intrinsic issue of racism and White fanaticism – chucking out “white supremacy” from dictionary….thanks Lisa.

  46. […] a cantora SZA. A contradição do cenário, da letra da música e da postura do músicos foi interpretada nos Estados Unidos como uma mensagem de que não há dinheiro que repare os danos causados pelo racismo. Porém, […]

  47. […] Luvvie Ajayi’s article about “This is America” on Awesomely Luvvie is essential reading. She really breaks the video down piece by piece, summarizing it as “Anything that can touch on Gun violence. Apathy. Generational Gaps. Police Brutality. White Supremacy. Constitutional Unfairness. Evolution of Music. Materialism. Cultural ADD. Unattainable Wealth. in 4 minutes, is a worthwhile study.” […]

  48. […] you seen his new video yet? Writer Awesomely Luvvie wrote a great analysis on Childish Gambino’s video. She breaks it down into ten points and it really helped me better understand the song and the […]

  49. TxBirdy
    May 11, 2018 at 9:02 pm

    My thoughts on the first guy that was shot– he was an older man playing a guitar. To me this symbolizes how we don’t value elderly wisdom and simplicity anymore.

    With the cars at the end– I couldn’t tell if they are all American cars but i think they are. The cars are old and raggedy. There was a time in which auto manufacturing was a major industry in America and it provided a lot of jobs and financial opportunities for black folks and other minorities. Now that industry is dead and has led to increased poverty and the decay of largely black populated cities like Detroit.

    One thing i didn’t get was the choir shooting– no doubt it’s symbolic of the Charleston shooting but in Charleston there were 9 victims. In this video there are 10. Any theories on why there is an extra victim.

    • TxBirdy
      May 11, 2018 at 9:05 pm

      Watched it again for the 20th time. Lol now i notice that the first guy that was shot doesn’t look very old at all.

  50. […] a cantora SZA. A contradição do cenário, da letra da música e da postura do músicos foi interpretada nos Estados Unidos como uma mensagem de que não há dinheiro que repare os danos causados pelo racismo. Porém, […]

  51. Cerebral
    May 13, 2018 at 8:24 am

    These old cars remind me of the ones driven by Sandra Bland and others before their demise. They may not be the exact models but seeing those doors open on them makes them appear like they do after cops get the occupant out

  52. tony
    May 13, 2018 at 8:32 am

    “Gambino is running with all his might through a dark hall, sweating. And what he is running for are white shadows. He is running with all his might but no matter how hard he runs, they are closing in on him. It doesn’t matter how hard we try, or how respectably we dress, or if we shuck or not or play their games.”

    even black people chasing gambino are characterized as white shadows by this author – lol, maybe he’s running from what he sees as african american cultural complacency. kanye was wrong about 400 yrs being a choice but maybe in this context, gambino is not – there are decisions to be made & actions to be taken. fyi to the author:
    victimization & perpetual oppression is not en vogue.

  53. Kesha
    May 16, 2018 at 12:52 pm

    This was just awesome from start to finish! One of the many things that caught my eye was when the camera was soley on his back and he was rapping, look what I’m whipping on and he was jerking like he was being whipped. Pure genius!

  54. Elizabeth
    May 29, 2018 at 5:47 pm

    Luvvie, I have to say thank you (again) for this breakdown. When my teen mentioned this video, I was so grateful to be able to hand him your post to read along with it. I want him to get it. Thank you for helping us with the understanding and the words.

  55. […] and necessary, a perfect example of art as searing social commentary. While you’re at it, read this and watch this […]