It has been over a week since the release of This is America by Childish Gambino. Like most internet sensations, the viral music video has reached its’ cool down phase. What also died down was the conversation the video created. This is what I find most interesting; the birth and death of conversation. We gravitate towards “what’s hot” especially if it involves something that is “woke.” We show passion, then we move on to something else. In this case, the conversation was shifted to Kanye’s interview with TMZ.
Back to Childish Gambino. The add-libs, catchy flow and rhythm all invited me to dance, or, at the very least, do a head bob. Hidden behind the antics, there was a cautionary undertone. The grimy back beat forced me to pause for a moment. In that moment, I noticed the words. My dancing then stopped. This is where the dilemma settles in all of us. We get distracted by the shiny objects around us and stay sedated until a big moment happens; like a mass shooting. These mass shootings are like a 15 lbs tumor in our bodies. By the time we notice it, it’s too late.
I assume you caught the gun violence references in the music video? That was the focal point in most conversations. Did you happen to notice the other problem areas that were highlighted? If not, let’s take a look at them now.
“We just wanna party
Party just for you”
“Girl, you got me dancin’ (yeah, girl, you got me dancin’)
Dance and shake the frame”
“Watch me move (blaow)
This a celly (ha)
That’s a tool (yeah)
On my Kodak (woo, Black)
Ooh, know that (yeah, know that, hold on)
Get it (get it, get it)
Ooh, work it (21)”
A Need for Entertainment
Google defines Escapism as:
“the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.”
Reality is different depending on the individual. For most, it holds a number of unsavory moments. We spend our days fulfilling our obligations or doing things we hate. This leaves little room for tackling society’s issues. How do you put forward enough time and energy to solve problems like gun violence, healthcare, poverty, food waste, global warming, and a failing educational system when time is limited? How do you balance the need for mental rest with the need for solving these issues? Is there a realistic balance? Some have shown the capacity to handle this. Unfortunately, most of us have not. We barely have enough time to watch a video on youtube and talk about it with our friends. Right? Besides, the Warriors are going against the Rockets this week and I have to show my support on twitter and Instagram.
“We just want the money
Money just for you”
“Don’t catch you slippin’ up
Look what I’m whippin’ up”
“Yeah, yeah, I’ma go get the bag
Yeah, yeah, or I’ma get the pad”
“Grandma told me
Get your money, Black man (get your money)”
“Look how I’m geekin’ out (hey)
I’m so fitted (I’m so fitted, woo)
I’m on Gucci (I’m on Gucci)
I’m so pretty (yeah, yeah)”
Pursuit for Money / Materialism
When asked, “What is the most important thing in life?” most will say God, family, love, service or some other selfless variant. That is all bullshit. The true answer is money. That sounds harsh, but set your emotions aside for a moment. Look beyond the words to see the actions. Regardless of your religious beliefs, money is a god in this world. It is referenced in every section of the song. Why? The combination of wealth and money is power. We spend most of our adult lives pursuing and storing it. When we don’t have it, we either idolize or hold hatred for the people who do. Even when we get enough, we want more. We want to show it off to either our peers, our haters, or to our parents. It influences most of our decisions. It gives us confidence, while at the same time, it makes us insecure. It is the difference between pleasure and pain. Life and Death. This is why we crave money and wealth. In the context of this song, it also acts as a distraction. The constant pursuit of money distracts us from the issues we have in society.
“You just a Black man in this world
You just a barcode, ayye”
“You just a big dawg, yeah
I kenneled him in the backyard
No proper life to a dog
For a big dog”
During the outro, the music video shows a scene of Childish Gambino running away from a mob. In an interview with Chris Van Vliet (Interview Link) Donald Glover was asked if he could explain the end of This is America. He answered,
“No… I feel like it’s not really my place to do that. I think it’s something that should be out there…for the people.”
He chose not to add context to any part of the video. To his point, most of it is up for interpretation.
So this is America..
This song boils down to societal problems being remedied by distractions and quick fixes. The constant need for entertainment and the growing problem of materialism are just side effects of our depressive state of mind. Life sucks, but what can we do about it? It’s harder to fight, so we escape into our pleasures and list reasons why we can’t do something. Like Gambino in the last scene, we run. We’ve been running for a long time. Our fears keep us going. Some would say the world’s problems are designed to be solved. It is designed to be survived. This constant survival mode decreases our capacity for rational thought. This helps explain the rise of Trump, our anger, our lack of social skills, our lack of empathy, our lack of self awareness, our lack of judgment skills in tight situations, and our growing dependence on escapisms. Some will fight, most will flight.
It has been my long belief that songs like these aren’t made for the general populous. They are seeds that are suppose to inspire the future heroes. Individuals who can endure hardships and struggles long enough to help the next person. In return, this chain reaction starts the revolution that will relieve the world for a time. We might not see this change now, but the winds are turning. Slowly, but surely, they are turning. Or not. After all, I’m just a nobody and this is just a theory.