The Deeper, Political Meaning Behind Childish Gambino’s “This is America”

Alexandra Marusko, Reporter

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Donald Glover, also known as Childish Gambino, recently released a new single titled “This is America.”

The single’s controversial music video, which now has 135 million views on youtube, has been torn apart by professors, fans and historians, all looking for the symbols and meanings in the video.

Here are some of the most important symbols:

 

Guns

The music video opens with musician Calvin the Second playing a guitar while Glover dances, then suddenly switches to the man being tied up and shot by Glover. Glover also guns down a choir later in the video, an action that is meant to resemble the Charleston church shooting from 2015. Both of the guns used are gently carried off by people carrying red cloth, weaving in and out of the violence as they run away. These servants of the gun are speculated to represent the U.S. government and how carefully guns are treated and protected.

Gambino’s pants have been identified as confederate soldier pants, and the choir in the back is referenced back to the Charleston shooting.

 

Gambino’s clothing

In the video, Glover wears two gold chains around his neck and a pair of pants. Many viewers have correlated Glover’s pants to pants worn by confederate soldiers in the Civil War due to the amount of buttons on the pants. His chains have been debated as to whether they were nods to the late Nigerian artist Fela Kuti or actor and comedian Richard Pryor.

 

The dancers

Glover walks around the warehouse that the video is set in with a small ensemble of dancers. Their dances have been related back to several dances originating in Africa, such as the gwara gwara and shoki. Glover himself also poses in several different ways that fans have drawn back to Jim Crow characters from the days of segregation. But what’s most important is that Glover and his dance ensemble seem to capture viewer’s eyes, distracting them from the panic happening in the background, from people being beaten, to cops attacking people, to a man committing suicide.

Gambino and the Dancers attempt to distract viewers from the chaos in the background throughout the video.

The prison cell

The setting of the video, at a first glance, seems to just be an empty warehouse. However, with all the violence appearing in the video, experts have said the warehouse symbolises a prison cell and how America is slowly becoming one from all the violence appearing today. In one frame, viewers see a second tier showing a group of people all following the violence on their phones. These people have been speculated to represent the public and how they hide behind technology, rather than actually stepping in to make change.

 

Gambino dancing on top of cars

Near the end of the video, Glover is seen dancing atop a car in a field of empty cars, while Calvin the Second reappears playing the guitar and artist Sza sits on a nearby car, meant to resemble a modern day Lady Liberty. The majority of the cars in the frame have their driver’s side doors open, which is believed to represent the innocent lives of black people that have been killed by police.

Gambino dances atop a car with Calvin the Second and Sza near him.

 

Gambino running for his life at the end

The music video ends with Glover seeming to run for his life from a group of people in what appears to be a darkened version of the warehouse. This scene has been deciphered as an ode to slaves who ran for freedom, as well as the struggle of blacks for equality.

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