Childish Gambino’s provocative This is America video tackles racism, gun violence

The latest video from rapper ​Childish Gambino, the Grammy-winning alter ego of actor and comedian Donald Glover, is getting massive attention online and prompting widespread debate for its unvarnished portrayal of racism and gun violence in the U.S.

The video for Gambino’s latest single, This is America, debuted on the weekend and has been making the rounds and prompting a lot of commentary on social media since then. It has been viewed more than 36 million times on YouTube.

A smiling, shirtless Gambino dances throughout most of the video, but the images of a grinning, carefree Gambino, backed by equally cheerful dancers, is juxtaposed against sudden flashes of violence — images of Gambino shooting a hooded black man in the head and gunning down what appears to be an all-black gospel choir.

WARNING: Video contains graphic material

He sings: “Yeah, this is America / Guns in my area / I got the strap / I gotta carry ’em.”

At other points in the song, he addresses a black man’s place in the world.

At the video’s end, he appears to be chased by a white mob.

Glover’s Emmy-winning FX show Atlanta has its Season 2 finale Thursday and he plays Lando Calrissian in Solo: A Star Wars Story, in theatres on May 25. He hosted Saturday Night Live last weekend.

Do violent scenes revictimize survivors of gun violence?

Some critics of the This is America video argued that scenes such as the mock shooting of the all-black choir risk traumatizing or angering victims of real gun violence, such as the 2015 shooting of nine people at a Charleston, S.C., church by a white supremacist.

“If it had been me, or my own mother, or someone I knew that had survived this massacre … what must it feel like for Donald Glover to take it upon himself to use it as an artistic cue,” Bedour Alagraa, a PhD candidate in African studies at Brown University in Providence, R.I., told CBC Radio’s The Current on Tuesday.

But fans of the work such as Ricky Jones, head of the Pan-African Studies Department at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, disagreed.

“We have, in effect, normalized black death in America,” he told The Current.

“You have some people who may have a strong reaction to this video, but they don’t have a strong reaction to a 12-year-old child being killed by police in a Cleveland park.”

Listen to the debate on The Current:

Speaking to The Current’s Anna Maria Tremonti, Bedour Alagraa and Ricky Jones debate the violence in Childish Gambino’s new video. 2:37


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