A Student’s Perspective of “This Is America”


Screenshot taken by Maddy Fleury of "This is America" video scene on Youtube

Gambino runs from the police as he embodies an African American facing unreasonable treatment and punishment.

Maddy Fleury, Editor

It is not hard to come by an individual who has extensive knowledge on at least one of the hundreds of mass shootings and other violent attacks which have occurred in the United States over the past decade. Millions of lives have been lost at the hands of careless individuals, and even more lives have been left with permanent scars because of one instantaneous action. Childish Gambino, a famous actor and rap artist, recently released a song and music video that encapsulates the essence of America’s flaws as citizens handle the news of a tragedy. Within 48 hours of being posted, this unique video had over thirty million views. The catchy yet deep song has topped the charts over the last week, and fans everywhere are raving.

In “This Is America,” Gambino considers the racial stereotypes for minority groups in America and illustrates how colored individuals are often falsely prosecuted for crimes they did not commit. As he sings his song, which combines ethnic tones with typical rap bass, Gambino portrays a careless shooter who continuously murders people and feels no remorse.

After he brutally shoots multiple innocent individuals (all from minority groups), Gambino proceeds to walk away smiling and dancing as if nothing was wrong. This type of reaction is meant to symbolize the way the modern republic handles crime situations. Gambino’s portrayal of the typical American way can be seen in one of two ways: One being that people tend to feel shocked for a moment, but then soon forget about their actions or someone else’s actions and move on with life. The second way has to do with the historically repeated practice of minority groups being assumed criminals and receiving unfair treatment when they are in fact innocent human beings.

Maddy Fleury
Adams High Schools Students take action towards making positive changes with a new club called “Leaders For Change.”

“I think it is an accurate depiction of America because some people fail to acknowledge the ignorance of racial stereotypes and the violent actions people commit based on fallacies,” said junior Emma Curran.

According to Psychology Today, Gambino actually reenacts specific historical events within his scenes, including the Charleston church massacre. Critics have noticed that a particular scene in the video capture the details of the real Charleston church, and it is no coincidence the number of choir member used in the video is the same as those who were murdered in the real massacre. By mimicking the acts of some of the most well-known shooters in history, Gambino shows just how disturbing and absurd racial injustices can be.

“The whole purpose of the video is to exploit something that is normally shadowed, which is why it accurately represents America,” said junior Grace Kerr.

On a similar note, Doctor Sonia Rao at The Washington Post breaks down the video on a deeper level and depicts every background detail. From the young people being distracted by their phones to the police doing a poor job analyzing crime scenes, Gambino pretty much covers every issue America faces in terms of day to day faults. In her analysis, Rao also makes the observation that Gambino and his backup dancers illustrate the African art of dance as a distraction for pain, which the African culture has been historically known for. When bad things happen, it is a tradition in many native customs to distract people from hard times with art and dance so they can continue to see good over evil. In this video, Gambino attempts to distract his viewers from all the chaos taking place behind him by dancing and singing, when in reality he wants to show how easy it is to be shielded from and oblivious to what is really going on in the world.

For an average high school kid looking to catch up on the newest hit music, stumbling across a video like this is extremely atypical. Chart toppers these days rarely involve anything other than partying, so for Gambino to come out with a song that simultaneously brings up historical events while analyzing the flaws of modern society is a big deal.

Freshman Auben Nugent regularly listens to Gambino’s songs, and this one in particular was most definitely out of the ordinary.

“I think his dancing was exquisite, but it was really just meant to sort of mask what his lyrics were saying,” said Nugent.

It is easy to see that Gambino’s moves were just meant to act as a distraction, and because he chose to dance so viewers could better understand the truths of how the justice system works, Gambino’s brilliance is clearly evident.

“I like how he tries to distract people, but then he actually just ends up making people more observant of everything going on within one scene,” said junior Kevin Lopez.

Maddy Fleury
Teachers and students have class discussions about current events and the changes that need to be made in order to stop careless attacks and racial biases from constantly recurring.

At Adams High School, students are encouraged to stand up for what they believe in and fight to make changes as they see fit. In daily classes teachers frequently bring up current events, and unfortunately, these events are often gruesome. Students discuss these incidents, almost completely unaware of what it must be like to be in the shoes of the victims which they are discussing, and try to understand how such horrible things happen for such ridiculous reasons. In Gambino’s attempt to provide people with a visual of these injustices, kids are able to see what is and has been going on just beyond their communities.