Childish Gambino’s new thought-provoking video “This is America” amassed 65 million views on Youtube in four days and has sparked much conversation and think-pieces.
There has been mostly praise for Gambino’s video especially from other influential entertainers in the Black community.
I have seen some comments that have made me think a little deeper about the implications of Gambino’s video under the “white gaze.”
“He’s never been here for us. He’s only ever satirized us, distanced himself and participates as if he isn’t Black. Like he ain’t Koonye but he is 100% addicted to the white gaze. Now the white gaze is on Black pain: so he followed suit.”
I thought the video was an artistic expression of the madness that is currently happening in America. To me, this video was a particular message to Black people. When we consider these messages and their implications under the “white gaze,” I think it will be very interesting to hear from Gambino and the director personally, on what their intended message was with the video.
As he dances with young, Black teens within the backdrop of chaos happening around them this represented to me how a large majority of Black youth–either as a coping mechanism or because they are desensitized–are consumed with the latest trends and dances on social media although the world and their communities are in a state of turmoil.
Cries of “get yo money Black man” can be heard while Gambino dances like James Brown on top of a car surrounded by chaos. This illustrated to me how a lot of Black men are distracted by either trying to survive, or their own capitalistic aspirations, that they also pay no mind to the upheaval around them.
In addition, much of Gambino’s movements are being compared to a Jim Crow style of dancing–which speaks to how Black entertainers may be seen as cooning for profit under the white gaze.
Jim Crow was a song and dance performed by a white man in Black face in the late 1800’s that was inspired by a physically disabled black man.
The shot of a pale horse in the background definitely illustrated to me how Gambino wanted to represent the violence on earth. Revelation 6:8 “And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.”
Gambino being chased at the end of the video by what appears to be white folks, illustrated to me how Black men are being hunted in America from the police, to scared neighbors.
Gambino has been criticized recently for having a white wife, just like Oscar-winning Jordan Peele, while making art that is specific to the Black community. Interracial couples are still heavily criticized in the Black community, especially on social media platforms.
Panama Jackson, Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas, writes in his article “Black life, white wife and the art caught in the middle” that:
“There are many ways to be black. Glover, from Atlanta (well, Stone Mountain; my zone folks know what I’m talkin’ ’bout), has a version of his experience that he’s familiar with, and he’s creative enough and has the outlet to share it in a very expansive way.
Also, he’s black in America. White partner or not, he has to deal with the same shit everybody else does.”
….But there is a question that nags at me when it comes to dating and marrying outside your race (I’m not opposed to this, by the way; I’m the product of one of those unions): How much influence and impact does your spouse have on your work, especially when it’s couched in extreme racial observation and display?
Glover (and we can even throw Jordan Peele in here for now) work in a space that is heavily inspired by the world around him. It’s not a bird’s-eye view or navel-gazing; he’s doing very nuanced, informed and intentionally complex work about black culture. “
I will say that the video should have had a warning due to the random shootings that happen in the video; especially of Black bodies who were the only ones represented and killed in the video. I worry about this video triggering more PTSD like symptoms for our community, who already deal with enough videos concerning the destruction and disdain of Black bodies.