The Ballard Talisman

‘This Is America’ shows a dark and sinister take on the issues facing Black America

Childish Gambino crafts his darkest, most political video yet

Claude Brun, Staff Reporter

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After the detour from his usual pop-rap style that was “Awaken, My Love!” Childish Gambino, aka Donald Glover returns to his roots, while creating possibly his most attention grabbing audiovisual pairing yet. Drawing from a more experimental style than his previous rap songs, “This is America” is full of chopped up soul samples, abrupt beat switches and repetitive, tongue in cheek lyrics.

But the focus shouldn’t be on the song; it seems like it was created mainly to be a soundtrack for the accompanying video, which is where the real message is conveyed. The video follows Glover as he happily raps, dances and sings his way through a giant warehouse as burning cars and rioters fill the background. Glover even participates in some of these horrors, starting the video off by executing a man with a bag over his head.

As Glover witnesses and commits a series of atrocities such as mowing down a cheerful gospel choir with an assault rifle (a meme I’m sure you’ve seen), leagues of happy children join him in dance and celebration, ignoring the horror that surrounds them. This reflects the place Glover sees black America is in today. He suggests that black lives are being traded for popularity and a place in the spotlight, with rappers glorifying murder and drugs, two things that in reality are tearing apart black communities across the country. Just because people who are talking about this, even glorifying it are now being hailed as celebrities does not mean that African-Americans have finally escaped racism.

If anything, this shows a whole new level of systematic racism: we expect our black celebrities to glorify gang violence, drugs and all sorts of debauchery. Why does Schoolboy Q need to rap about drugs and murder in order to be successful while G-Eazy can rap about love and heartbreak and still go platinum?

This double standard is what characterizes racism in the entertainment industry today, the idea that black people are inherently violent is not something that most of us in the liberal bubble of Seattle would admit to subscribing to, but the entertainment we consume reinforces this idea and creates a subconscious association, whether we can admit it or not.

While he doesn’t explicitly state this in the video, it’s the conversation Glover hopes to open up. The dancing children, disregarding, even celebrating the senseless violence around them and dancing alongside the killer represent the masses of teens that eat up these damaging stereotypes about the black community.

Of course, we can just let these metaphors fly right over our heads and view this video as more senseless entertainment and the basis for a bunch of funny memes, but that’s adding to the problem. Messages like this need to be taken to heart and discussed. In a time when most are so unaware of this subtle racism in the entertainment industry, it’s good to see Glover making such a blunt statement about it, especially when most rappers would just go with it, knowing that the systematic racism doesn’t directly affect them in an adverse way.

It does however effect their listeners, who are unknowingly becoming victims of a system that sees the struggles black people deal with every day as little more than a product to be sold. While the music industry may not be responsible for this violence, they knowingly support and profit off of it.

It takes brave, outspoken artists like Glover to spread awareness of these problem. As the current #1 song in the country, “This is America” will hopefully inspire other artists to speak out and alert their millions of listeners of this problem with the entertainment industry.

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‘This Is America’ shows a dark and sinister take on the issues facing Black America