Here’s a clear Breakdown of Childish Gambino’s This is America!

Childish Gambino’s This is America has climbed up to the top trending lists on all popular video streaming sites and already racked up hundreds of millions of views. However, some fans and viewers have been left confused by the music video. So we found an interesting and crystal clear breakdown of the events in the video.

  1. Pose before he shoots the first man, is a minstrel pose that mocked black Americans with racial stereotypes during Jim Crow Era
  2. Gun is carefully removed from scene while bodies dragged out = represents how America turns a blind out to shooting especially the killings of black people. Also references how black bodies are treated without regard. Michael Brown’s body was left in the street for hours after he was shot
  3. Donald Glover’s strange facial expressions = symbolic of black minstrel performances used to mock black americans during Jim Crow Era. Black Americans were seen (and are still seen as) just performers and entertainers
  4. Lyrics in the beginning, “We just wanna party, party just for you.” = Expection that black people are just supposed to entertain. This will make more sense later on in the film.
  5. School kids and Donald dancing = They are dancing to all the latest trends in America and Africa. If you watch carefully you will recognize popular moves such as the Shoki (nigeria) , Gwara Gwara (south africa), Bloc Boc BJ Shoot Challenge (America). While its fun, these seemingly positive trends are “distractions”from the truth of what’s happening in America. Gun violence and murder, especially towards black bodies, and utter chaos (watch the background).
  6. Dancing also represents how we are living in a time of black cultural vibrancy in the arts, yet also living in a dangerous time for black Americans. The Dancing could also represent how Black Americans use music to mitigate the pain and suffering of their existence as seen historically through music genres as the Blues.
  7. Donald is dressed as popular Nigerian musician, Fela who also used his music to criticize Nigeria’s corrupt government.
  8. Sudden switch from gospel music to trap music represents switch from the fake reality of the dancing and happiness to the real reality of the nature of America. Lyrics: “This is America, don’t catch you slipping up.” = don’t get caught sleeping. pay attention.
  9. Shooting of the Choir singers= represents the 2015 shooting in Charleston at a Church. Exactly 10 people were killed. There are 10 Choir members singing. 8. Blunt vs Gun = if you notice Donald is only chased by the police when he was a marijuana blunt but not gun. Represents they hypocrisy of America’s crooked social justice system. Young black men are imprisoned for carrying weed, an industry that is now becoming decriminalized and extremely profitable, yet no one pays attention to guns or murder.
  10. Mumble Rappers adlibs – Donald includes adlibs of popular rappers today (Kodak Black, 21 Savage, Migos) that control the American music market. The irony is that these rappers just rap about materialism, money, drugs. Nothing of substance. Yet Americans dance to this music being distracted by the reality of what is actually happening in this country. Also commentary that Black artists should use their platform to talk about these issues (Kendrick Lamar, JCole, Lauryn Hill, etc) instead of pretending it doesn’t exist. Notice that Glover mocks these artists by not only including their ad libs but also rapping like them, “I’m so fitted/I’m on Gucci.” Materialism.
  11. Shooting of the guitar player and gospel singers also represents how Trap music and mumble rap is taking over traditional black forms of music.
  12. Watch the background hahaha. We’re so distracted by the dancers and Donald that we don’t see the chaos unravelling in the background. Background represents Black Lives Matter, Police, Riots, Violence = basically everything that has happened in the country for the past 6 years.
  13. Kids in the background recording with cellphones = the voyeursim of the times. We are desensitized to violence, watching it on facebook, recording on our phones, but no one really does anything to stop it. Also references death of 22 year old Stephon Clark. As the video pans to the kids recording, Glover raps “This is a celly, this a tool.” Police Officers mistook Clark’s cellphone for a gun (SMH).
  14. Lyrics, “Black man, get your money. Black man, get your money.” Symbolisms how black Americans are encouraged to chase the “American Dream” and act like they live in a post racial society. “If you work hard enough, you can be successful.” This is also a distraction. The reality is that racism is very much present in this country. Regardless how how much money you have, it can be taken away from you in one instant. Black lives aren’t valued.
  15. Inclusion of African dancers that dance to both popular Black American and African viral dancers – perhaps that African Americans and Africans should work together?
  16. SZA cameo = lol maybe they future music coming out together. Could also represent how black women are often left out of the conversation about racism, gun violence, and murder yet also suffer from it.
  17. Pale horse in the background symbolizes biblical reference to Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. Pale Horse is horse of death followed by Hell (the police car)
  18. Last scene = notice how its not just white people in the background. Perhaps commentary that as a society we’re all running from something evil. Basically Donald is telling all of us as a society and world to WAKE UP!!! You’re welcome. If you have more symbolism, comment below so we can analyze and discuss. Also, kindly share this all over social media. This MV is so good. True art.


All credit to Chika Dunga