"This is America": an Analysis of Childish Gambino's Song

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Words: 972 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Updated: 8 November, 2023

Words: 972|Pages: 2|5 min read

Updated: 8 November, 2023

“This is America” tackles many prevalent political issues within American society. The song by Childish Gambino provides a multilayered "This is America" analysis through its striking visuals and poignant lyrics. The video conceptualizes oppression and gun violence all while cryptically portraying society’s obscure and detrimental relationship with media. The video itself is up to interpretation; however its message is clear. Arguably, the focus of the video is to illustrate the struggles faced by Americans specifically blacks and how easily the media diverts our attention from the abhorrent truths that partake in our society. Our attention dilutes when we are exposed to the spectacle that is pop culture, as Gambino manages to grasps our attention rather than the chaos unfolding behind him.

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In the video, a shirtless Donald Glover, the performer who uses “Childish Gambino” as his musical alter ego is featured as the main persona. Gambinos presence is a tactic to fully validate everything presented in the video. He is not only recognized as a well respected actor, musician and writer but is also a person of color. He has faced some of the hardships that come along with being black in America hence has an authentic perspective, allowing for the message to be successfully portrayed. He is a credible source to be speaking upon such issue, and so is the director of the video, Hiro Murai.

Gambino is a primary source in describing the harsh realities that come with being black in a white America, while Murai represents the poor conditions that come with being an immigrant. Both are credible sources for expressing all the scrutiny that comes with being a minority. This harsh reality is revealed through symbolism which is made very apparent from the beginning of the video, as Gambino is introduced as the embodiment of white America. Not only does his garment represent those worn by confederate soldiers, but he is also shown depicting a racist black stereotype that emerged in the 19th century whose sole intent was to ridicule blacks. And although the incorporation of these symbols have a very clear message, it may go unnoticed as the beginning of the video has a very upbeat mood to it. The very first scene of the video is of a man strumming on his guitar as Gambino slowly approaches while dancing in a particulate matter to a steady and serene beat.

The mood of this scene however quickly evolves as he pulls out a gun and shoots the hooded man who had recently been playing his guitar. The intent of this scene is to emotionally appeal to its audience which has been around 400M people. The video takes many emotional directions from joy, sadness and terror, therefore intensely engaging its audience. Pathos is a mechanism used through the entirety of the video from the very start, and each individual shooting, reference of the apocalypse, to the ending scene. One of the methods they utilized to induce emotion was by placing shootings at the most “feel good” moments of the video. The shootings were in attempts to alarm and shock the viewer therefore creating a sense of urgency to address our nation’s gun control policies. The guns were handled deliberately while the ones who had fallen victim to these weapons were dragged across the floor and out of the scenes, demonstrating the value and pedestal that guns are placed upon in our nation.

One of the shootings present in the videos seems to allude to the Charleston church shooting that occured in 2015, as the video demonstrates Gambino joyously dancing along to the choir which he then violently murders soon after. These scenes are utilized as logos to demonstrate the constant viciousness that guns impose on black Americans and the need to enact further gun policy. As the abrupt and horrifying gun scenes take place within the video, to only be preceded by more singing and dancing also is a reflection of our society. We as a nation tend to distract ourselves in order to avoid handling the issue at hand, only to have tragedy strike again soon after.

Society has a tendency to overlook major societal issues and focus on that trending in the media, which is reflected on various occasions throughout the video. A particular moment in which this is depicted is as Gambino and his young entourage serve as a major distraction with their constant dancing, and ultimately overshadow most of what occurs in the background. A lot of what occurs is discrete and goes on unnoticed, rewatching is crucial in order to fully comprehend the message and intention of the video. The background shows various forms of violence and apocalyptical societal issues ranging from police brutality to suicide. Gambino goes on to reinforce the impact of media on everyday life, and its unconscious purpose of acting as a diversion. Technology and media are shown to be mechanism of distraction as when the horrorenous and violent acts are occurring many are recording on their phones demonstrating that media will always be a tool of distraction. Gambinos aim with “This is America” is to redirect our focus to black violence, and entertainment and their juxtaposition in american society.

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American society praises black culture in terms of entertainment, music and television, yet they are marginalised members of society. Childish Gambino’s used this video to ultimately shed light on the issues our society tends to overlook and shy away from in fear of being reprimanded. In the ending of the video we are reminded that black men fear for their lives constantly as Childish Gambino is seen frantically running away from a white mob with a terrorizing look in his eyes, once again demonstrating that although America seems to have adopted black culture most of us will never truly understand what it means to be black in our society.

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“This is America”: an Analysis of Childish Gambino’s Song. (2019, August 27). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 2, 2023, from
““This is America”: an Analysis of Childish Gambino’s Song.” GradesFixer, 27 Aug. 2019,
“This is America”: an Analysis of Childish Gambino’s Song. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 2 Dec. 2023].
“This is America”: an Analysis of Childish Gambino’s Song [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 Aug 27 [cited 2023 Dec 2]. Available from:
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