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This Is America

posted by Jason Kottke   May 07, 2018

Over the weekend, Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover) released a video for his new song, This is America. If you watch it — and you should if you haven’t, even though it isn’t the most Monday morning thing in the world — please know there’s some upsetting scenes…which is the whole point. There’s a lot going on in the video (here’s one thread by LK that explains some of the imagery), but the aspect that jumped out to me is white America’s exuberant acceptance (and co-option) of African American culture and entertainment — hip hop, rap, NBA, movies, TV (like Glover’s own Atlanta), social media memetics — while turning a blind eye to racial injustice and violence inflicted upon black America. As Jon Spence succinctly noted on Twitter:

The fact that Childish Gambino’s “This is America” tackles police brutality, gun violence, media misdirection, and the use of African Americans as a brand shield, all while dancing in Jim Crow-style caricature, shows a transcendence of mere performance and demands attention.

Update: Nereyda wrote a short thread about why they didn’t like the video.

As someone very into Diasporic dance, which literally saved my life, Glover’s video misses its mark completely for me. Graphic images of mass Black murder layered over by Black dance as a minstrel distraction? That’s what y’all are getting from this? Issa no for me dawg.

(via @tsell89/status/993609185223938048)

Update: From Spencer Kornhaber’s take on This is America (italics mine):

The defining of a nation is the essential task of politics, and Glover’s definition has now been made clear. America is a place where black people are chased and gunned down, and it is a place where black people dance and sing to distract — themselves, maybe, but also the country at large — from that carnage. America is a room in which violence and celebration happen together, and the question of which one draws the eye is one of framing, and of what the viewer wants to see.