‘This is America’: The trending music video’s hidden meaning


Tribune Services

IS THIS AMERICA? Gambino’s music video sparks large-scale discussion on the Internet. Although fans are racking their brains for the meaning behind every symbol in the song, Gambino himself is keeping silent on the matter. “I just wanted to make, you know, a good song. Something people could play on Fourth of July,” said Gambino mysteriously when E! asked the artist about his thought when writing the song. After his comment, Gambino smiled and resisted further inquiry.

Rapper Childish Gambino, known as Donald Glover in the acting world, recently released a song called “This is America.”

Directed by Hiro Murai, the video features an eerie dance number accompanied by the the haunting chorus, “This is America. Don’t catch you slippin’ up.”

Since its release, fans have tried to decipher the meaning of the video. In essence, the lyrics and video reflect a social critique on racial injustices, guns, and how numb we Americans have become to horrific events.

The dancing, which apparently had references to popular dances such as South African Gwara Gwara and Blocboy JB’s dance flag, was meant to distract us from the rioting and destruction in the background.

Fans speculated the video also meant to criticize how many Americans are eager to appropriate black culture while ignoring racial violence.

Another hidden symbol is the police car trailing behind a figure on a white horse. Fans thought that this scene was an allusion to the Bible, which states, “And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and the name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.”

Even at the beginning of the video, where Gambino pulls out a gun and shoots a black man who was playing the guitar, the audience sees Gambino striking a peculiar pose. Twitter users were quick to point out that his posture was eerily similar to a cartoon drawing of Jim Crow.

At the video’s close, we see Gambino running in fear. “NPR’s” Rodney Carmichael sees it as Gambino being chased by a lynching mob, while fans online thought it was a reference to Jordan Peele’s movie “Get Out.”

In particular, they thought Gambino was trying to flee from “The Sunken Place,” which represents how blacks are powerless in America’s oppressive system.

“Either way, it is representative of this history of violent white supremacy,” Carmichael said in an “NPR” article.