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Hidden messages in Childish Gambino’s This is America you might have missed

2018-05-07 13:53
 

Cape Town - “This is America.  Don't catch you slippin' up.”

Childish Gambino’s latest music video, This is America, has reached almost 12 million views on YouTube in just a little over 24 hours since it dropped, and there’s no doubt this is probably his greatest piece of art to date – it’s textured and filled with symbolism.

The music video shows Childish himself, dancing topless with a few schoolkids in uniforms following his every move in the foreground – completely oblivious to all the action in the background. And that’s the first symbolic act Childish is representing: that the black youth in America are carrying on with life and dancing it away, following celebrities’ every moves while the world around them is in utter chaos.

Here are a few others:

1.       Guns are more important than black bodies.

A couple of people are shot dead in the music video, which is a re-enactment of some major killings of black people in America recently. What is equally interesting, however, is each time someone is shot their body is either left unattended or dragged away while the gun is carefully wrapped up and taken away.

2.       The dancing is a distraction.

While on one hand the dance moves performed by Childish and the schoolkids could be regarded as the blissful ignorance of the youth, on the other hand the dancing could be a seen as a coping mechanism for the youth and black people in general.

3.       Trayvon Martin’s “father”

The first man we see in the video is a spitting image of Trayvon Martin’s dad. Trayvon was an unarmed 17-year-old black boy who was shot dead by a neighbourhood watch coordinator, George Zimmerman, in a gated community where Trayvon was visiting relatives.

The man who looks like Trayvon’s father is wearing a hoodie in the vid and is shot in the head.

4.       Jim Crow reference.

Right before Gambino shot the hooded man, he struck a pose with his gun. It was reminiscent of posters and illustrations from Jim Crow in the south of America – showing a man in blackface, dressed up, in that same still mode. Jim Crow was created by and often played by a white man, Thomas Dartmouth Rice. Thomas represents the general idea white people had in the slavery era that black people were only good for song and dance.

Read more on the Jim Crow era here.

5.       The Charleston shooting.

The next shooting is when Childish shoots and kills a group of black people worshipping in church. This is a re-enactment of the Charlesto, South Carolina, shooting where a “white supremacist”, Dylann Roof, murdered nine African-Americans at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on 17 June 2015.

6.       We watch and document, but don’t act.

In one of the scenes we also see four kids watching the chaos unfold, recording with their phones. The four kids just sit there and document life around them, without actively participating in any of it. Which could be a representation of what happens: we watch and record funny and even tragic moments, post them on social media, then move on swiftly until the next big thing happens.

7.       The white horse carrying death.

In another scene Childish is dancing with the uniformed dancers circling him, but when you look closely there’s a white horse being ridden by a figure dressed in black clothing. 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 second balcony onto the floor of the warehouse where Childish is still dancing.

8.       Confederate army pants.

In the entire music video Childish is topless but in a pants that looks exactly like confederate army trousers.


 

Childish is one of very few artists who has released a music video with so much symbolism this year, following Drake and Janelle Monáe.

Read more on:    donald glover  |  childish gambino  |  music

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