Why is Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” Significant?



“This Is America” is at 214 million views as of the end of May.

Alyssa Pepito, Photojournalist

Donald Glover, or known by his rapper alter ego as Childish Gambino, came out with a new single called “This Is America” on May 5th. His music video was released on Youtube and he aimed to send an important and symbolic message to fans and viewers from around the world.

The music itself starts off with a cheery-toned chant along with catchy sing-along parts. After the gunshot is heard in the music video, the whole tone of the song shifts. Once the shot happens, a heavy bass beat enters the song. Phoebe Duong (12) admits that this song is good to dance to and is “very meaningful, but people should really watch the music video to get the full message and effect.”

When the music video begins, Gambino begins dancing. Then, he grabs a gun from his back pocket and shoots the man in the chair. The gun is then carefully taken away in a red cloth by someone, while the body of the black man is simply dragged away like a pile of trash. This scene is symbolic in which people treat the guns as they are more important than the human lives just killed. Within the first minute of the music video, while Gambino pulls a gun on the man playing guitar, many noticed his posture which he shot the man. They pointed out that it was symbolic of Thomas Rice when he used blackface to imitate a black man. Additionally, Gambino is seen entering what looks like a church and is given a gun and starts shooting the choir which this is symbolic of the Charleston Church Shooting. Through these scenes, he is literally saying that this is how America is and it needs to change. He is speaking up about the gun laws, for the Black Lives Matter Movement, police brutality, and other things as well.

Gambino is seen dancing with the black school children following behind him. They even follow through with choreography consisting of viral dances. For example, in the video, the background shows too much chaos happening and unfolding; yet, we know that viewers are paying more attention to the unique dancing of the school children and the artist himself. This is ironic in showing how we pay more attention to the entertainment such as music and movies, rather than trying to do something about the destructive changes happening in our world. The entertainment is used as a means of distraction to the serious issues and falling world behind them.

There is definitely room for more interpretation as other have pointed out more symbolic parts to this music video. On the other hand, it is nice to see that a musical artist understands these recurring problems in America and chooses to speak up about it in a simple music video. Childish Gambino was able to use his platform to use his creative ideas while also spreading an important, eye-opening message to viewers.