If you haven’t seen Donald Glover’s new music video, under the stage name Childish Gambino, “This is America,” I highly recommend it. Whether or not you like rap or hip-hop it’s more than just another music video.
For starters, it’s loaded with symbolism. I won’t even attempt to explain all of it, people more qualified already have. However, there is one thing I want to say about this video.
Glover is right. The America he showed in his video is the America we are living in right now.
Throughout the video, Glover dances and acts in ways, at times, reminiscent of racist caricatures prevalent during the Jim Crow era. Yet the dancing represents something else: how easily we get distracted from the real problems our society faces.
While Glover is dancing, there is chaos behind him. Cars are on fire. People are rioting, fighting and dying. There are only a few times when Glover is not dancing. Two of those times are when his character fires a gun at people.
The first time is in the beginning when he shoots another man, who has a bag over his head — execution style. The second time is when he guns down a church choir, a reference to the Charleston shooting where a white supremacist killed nine people in a church in order to start a race war.
That is a very brief summary of a very jarring video. When I first saw it, I was shocked. It is definitely not for everyone. The subtle and not-so-subtle messages about gun violence and modern-day racism raise some important points about our society.
Racism is still prevalent, and gun violence is not going away.
For proof of this, you don’t need to look any further than this month’s headlines. In the past few weeks alone, people of color have had the cops called on them for golfing too slow, leaving an Airbnb, being “too quiet” during a college tour in Colorado, waiting for a friend at Starbucks, napping in the lounge of their college dorm and the list goes on.
Many in our nation have become numb to gun violence. In Glover’s video, when his character uses a gun to kill someone, he passes the gun off to someone else who carefully carries it away with a red cloth, while the bodies get dragged away without care.
Many Americans feel that we as a nation care more about guns than the lives of citizens. During the protests after the Parkland school shooting, many students had signs asking, “Are we next?”
I know there is no one answer to gun violence. The topic is more complicated than that. However, the reality is that gun violence is a huge problem in the U.S., and it’s not going anywhere. This is America, where acts of racism and gun violence occur every day regardless of how hard we try to ignore it.
Some students here argue that racism is mostly dead and would never be found here. Yet people here in Rexburg have told me, “Trump is coming to deport you and your family,” or “You’re too brown for this school/town.”
I know I’m not the only minority student to experience racism here. In comparison I’ve gotten off easy. I’ve heard dozens of stories from different students across campus. I’ve had conversations with other students explaining when minorities have interactions with cops some of us wonder if we will become another statistic, or if we will walk away uninjured. That’s our reality, that ’s our America.
I’m not saying America is all bad; I know there is good here. But we get distracted way too easily. Just as Glover’s dance distracted the viewer from the chaos in the background, we get so distracted by celebrities, sports teams and Facebook memes that we fail to pay attention to what is going on.
The U.S. is a mix of good things and bad things, and we shouldn’t try to separate them. We can still be proud of this country while accepting its faults. I know I am. I love this country, but we have to do better. If we don’t, then this is the America we’re stuck with.