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Xavier Smith: This is America

Xavier Smith • Updated May 9, 2018 at 11:00 AM

Whenever I speak on a subject, I typically try to add to the conversation, but I’ll admit I don’t know how much I can add to the conversations that have already taken place about Childish Gambino’s “This is America” song and music video. 

I’ve probably viewed the video about 30 times in the last three days and every time I watch it, I find something new. 

The video shows Gambino, also known as Donald Glover, in constant motion through a warehouse. What starts off as a video and song with a catchy, melodic jingle quickly turns into a chaotic exhibit of America through Glover’s viewpoint – kicked off with the sound of a gunshot. 

 What follows is three minutes of various scenes highlighted by a dancing Gambino and children surrounded by chaos. On the first look, you’ll likely only see Gambino’s weird movements and facial expressions, as well as the shocking actions that take place at various times during the video. 

However, with each look and listen, you’ll see more symbolism than the time before, ultimately revealing a fascinating look into the Gambino’s perception and take on America’s pop culture, gun control, mental health and more. 

I’ll say up front, a lot of people won’t get the message, or will deny the message. 

I believe in order to understand art, you must have some understanding of the artist. In Gambino’s case, he’s a black man in America and the video is a high-powered, fast-paced look into his world. For obvious reasons, I can relate, but there are more than enough parallels for any person to relate to from the video.  

Some references, such as the Charleston church shooting, are easier to see and understand than others, such as the prominent role cellphones have in society. 

The video is also a mirror of how America responds to tragedies. In each sequence following a shooting, the attention turns from the tragedy to the next trendy topic, song or moment. 

At the same time, Gambino’s constant movement and dancing highlights how society often overlooks issues that are taking place everyday, such as death, crime, hunger, homelessness and other issues that aren’t on the forefront of people’s thoughts until a tragedy happens. 

Likewise, in the Charleston-related scene, we seemingly go about our lives without thinking about the potential dangers that may happen, such as the Waffle House shooting in Antioch. After chaos, we talk about what happened, offer prayer and thoughts and go back to normal life. 

The video is the cycle of America and the cycle we are stuck in as a society and individuals. It’s beautiful and refreshing, but a video I think will not do much to alter the actions and thoughts of people, which further ties into its theme. 

The last scene of the video is Gambino running from a gang of people, as if he’s trying to run from all the issues in society. 

This is America. 

Xavier Smith is a staff writer for The Democrat. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @wilsonnewswritr.

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