Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) has been busy of late — the Atlanta star and musician performed live on SNL on Saturday night, but what had the world paralyzed in front of their phones this weekend was his release of “This is America,” a video that juxtaposes a constant stream of gun violence with joyous, perfectly choreographed dancers oblivious to their unsettling surroundings. Whether that’s out of self-preservation, a chosen distraction, or utter blindness — that’s for you to decide. It’s a thought-provoking four minutes that requires multiple viewings in order to take it all in, and more time still to reflect, because we guarantee that on first watch your mind will be blown/distracted by the dance moves — and that’s exactly the point.
There’s a lot going on in the background, but very much in the foreground is the moment Glover carefully handles a rifle like it’s porcelain, steps in front of and shoots down a gospel choir, appearing to reference the 2015 Emanuel AME massacre in downtown Charleston. It’s a hard-to-stomach scene before the artist moves on to the next swirl of chaos, reminding us of today’s devastatingly fast-paced news cycle. Meanwhile, Glover asks the viewers to just “watch me move.”
It seems like a good idea to focus on the grooves, turning as quickly as possible from the ugliness all around, stressing how easy it is to look away every day. But we commend Glover on reminding us that this ugliness happened and similar ugliness continues to happen. And despite the beautiful distractions in life, it’s important to acknowledge and stay focused on the injustices that surround us at any given second. They’re everywhere if you simply take the time to look around and pay attention.
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