Symbolic break down of This is America

Gabrielle Chambers

More stories from Gabrielle Chambers


Screenshot from Childish Gambino’s This is America music video.

  African American actor Donald Glover, well known in the music industry as Childish Gambino, released a song and corresponding music video titled “This is America” recently. It is currently number one on Billboard’s music chart.


The song itself is a satirical rap song that pokes fun at the current music culture. It is filled with basic beats and the lyrics lack meaning, at first glance. Lyrics include, “we just wanna party, party just for you, we just want the money, money just for you (yeah)”.  It doesn’t seem like a significant song at all. It is enjoyable, nonetheless, and initially feels like a guilty pleasure to like it.. However, the real reason behind it blowing up is the video itself.


Glover’s music video currently has over 100,000,000 views. It is layered with symbolism of gun violence and mistreatment towards blacks in America. The video starts off with Glover dancing towards a man sitting in a chair whose face is covered by a sack. Glover then takes out a pistol and shoots the unknown man. As soon as he pulls out the weapon,  he stands in a pose that looks very similar to a well renowned Jim Crow caricature.


Later on, there is a church choir of African Americans singing “get your money, black man (get your money)”. Childish Gambino then pulls out an assault rifle and guns down the choir. Blood splatters the wall behind them. This is thought to reference the 2015 Charleston church shooting. Therefore, gun violence in America is emphasized again.


Another symbol follows not long after this scene. As Glover dances with some school children, an unknown man wearing a black hood rides a white horse in the background. This is symbolic for the horseman of the apocalypse and the bible verse that states, “I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him”. Hades means hell, so the music video is inferring that hell is amongst us yet we are too focused on the current trends to even care.


Gambino then distracts the viewer with trendy dancing. This happens throughout the whole music video. However, in the background, you can see chaos occur. Examples include people jumping off from heights in attempts to kill themselves, police chases, and people running in fear. The theme of it all is to emphasize the fact that the world is too focused on current fads as opposed to important issues going on in the world.


Overall, Childish Gambino’s song itself is quite bland, but the visual is what really gets his political point across.